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article imageThe father of chemotherapy has died

By Tim Sandle     May 11, 2013 in Science
Scientist Emil Frei III, who the 1950s combined multiple chemotherapy drugs to treat childhood leukemia, has died at the age of 89.
As an oncologist, Emil Frei III, who was one of the first scientists to use combination chemotherapy to treat cancer. When he first started his career during the 1950s, the New York Times recounts, chemotherapy drugs (mostly derived from mustard gas), were seen as a last resort, a final ditch treatment.
It was during the 1950s that Frei began to explore the possibility of combining these cell-killing chemotherapy drugs for the treatment of childhood leukemia, the St. Baldrick's Association notes. He, along with a Dr. Freireich, and their research team achieved this by using each drug in smaller quantities. In doing so, they found that this mitigated the toxic effects without reducing their combined potency on cancer cells.
The combination effect had some success, at a time when childhood leukemia was almost always fatal. A decade on and Frei had achieved a 5-year survival rate to around 40 percent. The approach was then applied to Hodgkin’s disease, also rendering it curable in many cases.
During his career Frei held leadership positions at the NCI in Maryland, the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
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