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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

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January 16, 2008

Judah Folkman

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Posted by Derek

So Judah Folkman is no longer with us. He's considered to be the father of the idea that many tumors help to make their own blood supply, through angiogenesis, and that this could be a way to impede their growth. Since his first papers on the topic were published back in 1971, I think he does indeed get the credit. And he should not only get the credit for having the idea, but for publishing it and sticking with it. (Here's an interview with Folkman where he talks about this and much more).

Interestingly, it had been noted as long ago as 1941 that transplanted tumors in animals managed to link in to the existing blood supply through the formation of new vessels, but no one knew what to do with this result. (Here's a history of the field from a few years ago). It's not surprising that it took so long for the idea to catch on, though. It was by no means clear back in 1971, much less 1941, how blood vessels could be raised up by signaling from their target tissue. It wasn't until much later that the signaling pathways for blood vessel growth were discovered. Vascular endothelial growth factor, for example, was only found in 1983, and its functions didn't become clear until 1989 (timeline).

Folkman's death (which took place in the Denver airport, of all places) has brought back memories of the (in)famous Gina Kolata article on Folkman's work in the New York Times from 1998, a front-pager which featured James Watson's notorious quote about how Folkman was going to cure cancer in two years. I wrote about that one in the early days of my blog, and again here when Entremed finally gave up on the compounds that Kolata and the Times had hyped to the skies. The year 2000 came and went without a cancer cure, and many more years are going to go by as well. That's because, as I and many others never tire of pointing out, cancer isn't a single disease, and will never have a single cure. It's like looking for a cure for bad writing - it comes in so many different varieties, for so many different reasons, and therefore needs many different fixes.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Cancer | Current Events | Drug Industry History


COMMENTS

1. MBryant on January 16, 2008 2:28 PM writes...

Such sad news! His work really has saved many lives - so unfortunate that his ended so early.
The life of my wife was saved by Avastin (in combination with 2 more traditional oncology drugs) after she was diagnosed with a huge inoperable liver tumor & given only a couple months to live. The anti-VEGF therapy shrunk her tumor to less than 1/10 its original size and allowed her to be put onto the liver transplant list. She is 6 months post-transplant and doing fine! All because of Dr. Folkman's pioneering work on role of VEGF and tumor growth.

There is much more work to be done in this area, and am glad to see so many pharma companies have programs in this field. Makes me proud to be a part of this!

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2. TNC on January 17, 2008 9:23 AM writes...

I heard him speak a few months ago. It was quite a wonderful talk, if a bit of a victory lap. He deserved one.

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3. Mike_1126 on January 17, 2008 2:23 PM writes...

Derek, in your 2002 post "Hype and Glory" you presciently observed that orally active small molecule anti-angiogenic drugs are the way to go. You also mentioned Entremed in passing as a casualty of those early R&D days. In case you and In-The-Pipeline readers aren't aware, Entremed is currently in early and mid-stage cancer trials with several small molecule angiogenesis inhibitors that are building up an impressive clinical dossier. Foremost among them is 2-methoxyestradiol (2ME2, or Panzem NCD), an endogenous metabolite of estrogen.

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4. Stephanie on January 24, 2008 12:16 AM writes...

My 6 year old son has tumors in his liver, diagnosed as Angiosarcoma. He is taking Avastin and I hope like MBryant's wife, Avastin will buy us the time we need for a liver transplant. Thank you Dr. Folkman, from the bottom of my heart.

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5. Mbert on March 7, 2008 3:27 PM writes...

What a shame. I guess this will help with the coverup. Such a shame that billion dollar companies will NEVER allow a cure for cancer to be released.

To the author: There will one day be a singular cure for cancer. To say it is impossible would be like saying there is no one way to melt all types of ice (since you seem to like silly anecdotes).

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6. Alison Scattergood on March 1, 2012 2:33 PM writes...

Also I believe that mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer malignancy that is commonly found in all those previously exposed to asbestos. Cancerous cells form from the mesothelium, which is a protecting lining which covers many of the body's body organs. These cells ordinarily form inside the lining with the lungs, belly, or the sac that really encircles the heart. Thanks for expressing your ideas.

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