Chemotherapy was understood to be a word representing the fundamental historical roots in the field of oncology when Ezra Greenspan created the Foundation in 1968. It was Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915), targeting diseases being identified through scientific study, who developed the chemical concepts underlying the biological processes of infection, cancer and yes, immunology. An early leader in the search for a magic bullet (before oncology was a recognized specialty), his concepts became the basis for systemic treatments of cancer, documented by Ezra Greenspan and other cancer specialists and forerunner to the development of targeted therapies, genomics and other cancer medicines not yet on the therapeutic scene.
Major principles developed by Ehrlich have resulted in a broader therapeutic index of drugs, fostered insights into causes of drug resistance and supported the rationale for the single and multiple agent combinations that became Greenspan’s legacy when he demonstrated its efficacy in treatment of breast and ovarian cancers. His championship of new drug development evolved into a grand design for bringing emerging therapies to oncologists through presentations by thought leaders at multispecialty Continuing Medical Education conferences. The annual Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium on Innovative Cancer Therapy for Tomorrow he organized in 1972 is one such example. (see History).
A global audience at the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago, June 2017 heard evidence of progress in ‘preventive oncology’ - a specialty with promise of impressive therapeutic gains in the near future that is based on the concept enunciated by Brian Drucker. In a discussion of State of the Science he recounted his steps in developing imatinib mesylate for treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia.
At this year's meeting I reminisced about the same event taking place in Atlantic City 50 years ago while attending it with my mentor John Ultmann (a Past President of ASCO) with fellow 50-year ASCO members Joseph Bertino (first Editor of the Journal of Clinical Oncology) and George Canellos (second Editor of the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Past President of ASCO). We marveled at the unexpected and unprecedented successes that took place in our chosen specialty from those early days: academia, ASCO, and the National Cancer Institute inspired the initial generation of oncologists (such as Ezra Greenspan) and eventually fueled biotech and pharmaceutical industries the potential of integrating new agents into multi-modality therapy to bring about cures and better quality of life for cancer patients. Chemotherapy Foundation Symposia that have taken place every November during the past three decades are, since 2015, now under the able management of Physicians' Education Resources (PER) and continue to play a major role in bringing these therapeutic advances to audiences of oncologits from the US and abroad. Faculty members and trainees from the Greater New York area contribute and greatly benefit from this event.
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