Freireich's Fight: Making Progress Against All Odds

Andrew D. Smith
Published: Thursday, May 04, 2017
Emil J. Freireich, MD, DSc

Emil J. Freireich, MD, DSc

Emil J. Freireich, MD, DSc, was the originator of combination chemotherapy, the primary architect of the first cure for a systemic cancer, a major contributor to the cures for half a dozen other systemic cancers and, quite possibly, the man who did the most to transform MD Anderson from a minor facility to one of the world’s leading cancer centers.

Actually, Freireich would welcome the insults of 20-somethings, if they were mocking an old man’s conservatism. Science, he believes, progresses when the daring ideas of each new generation unseat the ossified convictions of its elders. What terrifies him is that an overly conservative system has so neutered younger scientists that they are more timid than researchers who supplement their salaries with Social Security.

Blood Transfusion Breakthroughs

Things were very different in 1955, when a 27-year-old Freireich took a job with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to escape the draft and, on the strength of a hematology residency, ended up in charge of the pediatric leukemia ward, free to give children nearly any treatment he found promising. The resources at the brand-new facility were unbelievably plentiful. Staff outnumbered patients. Labs stocked every conceivable new technology. Researchers received whatever funding they needed.
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Community Practice Connections™: New Directions in Advanced Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Emerging Evidence of ImmunotherapyAug 13, 20191.5
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