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Conversations With the Pioneers of Oncology: Emil J Freireich, MD, FASCO


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To hear an interview with Dr. Freireich by Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FASCO, of the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center and Past President of ASCO, visit the Journal of Clinical Oncology’s podcast, Cancer Stories, wherever you get your podcasts.

In this episode, the Cancer Stories podcast reflects on the vision of Emil J “Jay” Freireich, MD, FASCO, one of the oncologists who laid the foundation for modern care. As Dr. Hayes says at the start of each interview, “Over the past 40 years, I’ve been fortunate to have been trained, mentored, and inspired by these pioneers. In fact, it’s my hope that, through these conversations, we can all be equally inspired by gaining an appreciation of the courage, the vision, and the scientific understanding that led these men and women to establish the field of clinical cancer care over the last 70 years.”

In 2019, Dr. Hayes interviewed Dr. Freireich, considered one of the pioneers of combination chemotherapy. In the episode, Dr. Freireich recounts his upbringing in Chicago during the Great Depression as the son of Hungarian immigrants. He matriculated at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, unbelievably, at age 16.

Dr. Freireich shares the fascinating story of his work at the National Cancer Institute, where he; James F. Holland, MD, FASCO; and Emil “Tom” Frei III, MD, were the first to demonstrate that administering concurrent combination chemotherapy, rather than giving it sequentially with each episode of disease progression, resulted in complete responses in pediatric patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia.

In the mid-1960s, they developed the VAMP regimen (vincristine, doxorubicin, methotrexate, and prednisone). “That was reported in 1965, and represents the first cures that we’d seen with chemotherapy in an advanced cancer of any sort,” said Dr. Hayes. “This work was the groundbreaking basis for the subsequent cures of advanced Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphomas, adult leukemias, testicular cancer, and, in my opinion, the striking results of adjuvant combination chemotherapy in breast and many other cancers.”

 


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During a career that spanned more than 6 decades, Dr. Freireich was relentless in pursuing cures...

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