About this Author
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: Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
Not Voodoo

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
Realizations in Biostatistics
ChemSpider Blog
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa

Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net

Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine

Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem

Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus

Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
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

« Vytorin, Holed Under the Waterline | Main | The EU Suspects No One, And Suspects Everyone »

January 16, 2008

Judah Folkman

Email This Entry

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


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!

Permalink to Comment

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.

Permalink to Comment

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.

Permalink to Comment

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.

Permalink to Comment

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).

Permalink to Comment

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.

Permalink to Comment


Remember Me?


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

The Last Post
The GSK Layoffs Continue, By Proxy
The Move is Nigh
Another Alzheimer's IPO
Cutbacks at C&E News
Sanofi Pays to Get Back Into Oncology
An Irresponsible Statement About Curing Cancer
Oliver Sacks on Turning Back to Chemistry