Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A rabbi-like doctor!

Dr. Judah Folkman, a path-breaking cancer researcher who faced years of skepticism before his ideas led to successful treatments, died Monday in Denver. He was 74...

Dr. Folkman, a professor at Harvard and director of the vascular biology program at Children’s Hospital Boston, is considered the father of the idea that tumors can be kept in check by choking off the supply of blood they need to grow....

Moses Judah Folkman was born in Cleveland on Feb. 24, 1933, the son of a rabbi, and was raised in various places in the Midwest. He often told of how when he was about 7 he would sometimes accompany his father on visits to hospital patients.

The excitement of those visits one day emboldened young Judah to tell his father that he wanted to be a doctor instead of a rabbi. “So,” his father replied, “you can be a rabbi-like doctor.”

Many of his colleagues say that the charismatic Dr. Folkman achieved that, with legions of devoted students and patients...

Dr. Folkman attended Ohio State University and then Harvard Medical School. Trained as a surgeon, he was chosen to be surgeon in chief at Children’s Hospital Boston in 1967, when he was 34. But he devoted much of his time to research.

While working for the Navy in 1960 on blood substitutes, Dr. Folkman began experimenting with tumors and found that all grew to the same size. He hypothesized that the tumors could not grow beyond a certain size without a blood supply and that tumors must have some mechanism to induce the formation of blood vessels. He published his research in 1971.

At first, Dr. Folkman was largely ignored by other researchers who focused on directly killing cancer cells.

But Dr. Folkman persisted and his ideas gradually gained support. A crucial moment came in the late 1980s when a scientist at the biotechnology company Genentech reported the discovery of vascular endothelial growth factor, a protein that spurs the formation of new blood vessels.

-Judah Folkman, Researcher, Dies at 74

Here's a lecture by Dr. Folkman on Angiogenesis-Dependent Disease (Watch the ending of the lecture- 1 hr 13min to 1 hr 16min)

Cancer without disease
by Judah Folkman and Raghu Kallur
Do inhibitors of blood-vessel growth found naturally in our bodies defend most of us against progression of cancer to a lethal stage?
Many of us may have tiny tumours without knowing it. In fact, autopsies of individuals who died of trauma often reveal microscopic colonies of cancer cells, also known as in situ tumours. It has been estimated that more than one-third of women aged 40 to 50, who did not have cancer-related disease in their life-time, were found at autopsy with in situ tumours in their breast. But breast cancer is diagnosed in only 1% of women in this age range. Similar observations are also reported for prostate cancer in men. Virtually all autopsied individuals aged 50 to 70 have in situ carcinomas in their thyroid gland, whereas only 0.1% of individuals in this age group are diagnosed with thyroid cancer during this period of their life. Therefore, it has long puzzled physicians and scientists why cancer develops and progresses to be lethal only in a very small percentage of people. The realization that a lot of us carry in situ tumours, but do not develop the disease, suggests that these microscopic tumours are mostly dormant and need additional signals to grow and become lethal tumours. So, what are these additional signals, and why are most of us protected from them?

Phantoms in the Mind

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