Hodgkin Lymphoma Pioneer Saul A. Rosenberg, MD, FASCO, Dies at 95

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Saul A. Rosenberg, MD, FASCO, the Maureen Lyles D’Ambrogio Professor Emeritus at Stanford School of Medicine and the 2019 Giants of Cancer Care® award winner for Lymphoma, died at the age of 95.

Saul A. Rosenberg, MD, FASCO

Saul A. Rosenberg, MD, FASCO

Saul A. Rosenberg, MD, FASCO, the Maureen Lyles D’Ambrogio Professor Emeritus at Stanford School of Medicine and the 2019 Giants of Cancer Care® award winner for Lymphoma, died on September 5, 2022, at the age of 95.

Dr Rosenberg was a pioneer in his field, developing the use of curative chemoradiation to treat patients with Hodgkin lymphoma. Research led by Dr Rosenberg showed that the addition of chemotherapy to radiation could allow patients to reduce exposure to radiation without losing the efficacy of treatment.

In conducting some of the first clinical trials in cancer, findings from Dr Rosenberg and Henry Kaplan, MD, showed that treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma could be curative, rather than strictly palliative. The L-1 and L-2 studies at Stanford served as some of the earliest randomized clinic trials in cancer, and showed that higher doses of radiation administered to a wider field improved survival rates for patients with localized Hodgkin disease.1 With these data Dr Rosenberg and colleagues altered the treatment paradigm for Hodgkin lymphoma. Their work established total lymphoid irradiation as the standard of care in early-stage disease for decades.

Those 2 trials “still rank among the classics of study design,” wrote Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, DPhil, in his Pulitzer Prize–winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

Additionally, Dr Rosenberg was a trailblazer who helped establish medical oncology as a discipline. After Stanford became one of the first institutions to feature a division of medical oncology, he served as the program’s chief from 1965 to 1993.

In 1984, Dr Rosenberg received the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award from ASCO, and was named an ASCO fellow in 2007.

Dr Rosenberg grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He took college-level courses while in high school, and at the age of 17, he was rejected from the School of Medicine of Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University). He put his education on hold before resuming night classes while working as a chemist at a smelting plant. He was admitted to the School of Medicine of Western Reserve University after completing a stint in a laboratory, where he was introduced to radiation and radioactive isotopes.

After being accepted for a junior residency at what was then called the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr Rosenberg was drafted to serve in the Korean War, where he served as a battalion surgeon in a Marine tent camp during the winter of 1954-1955.

Following a return to Brigham, Dr Rosenberg received a fellowship to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in medical neoplasia. Though he later hoped to transition to University Hospitals Cleveland, the institution had no openings, prompting Dr Rosenberg to reach out to Dr Kaplan at Stanford, where he worked for nearly 6 decades.

Reference

Kaplan HS, Rosenberg SA. Extended-field radical radiotherapy in advanced Hodgkin’s disease: short-term results of 2 randomized clinical trials. Cancer Res. 1966;26(6):1268-1276.

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