What I’m going to share with you is a revolutionary approach that may cure cancer. We’ll find out as testing continues. And if it is the cure mankind has been seeking through the ages, it will be far less toxic and a much more pleasant treatment than chemo and radiation therapies.
Its premise: cutoff the blood supply to cancerous tumors thus starving them to death. Developed by renowned physician, Dr. Judah Folkman, it may replace the brutal and sickening conventional therapies that can destroy one’s body before destroying the cancer.
Dr. Folkman was remarkable from the start of his career, and so brilliant, at age 20; he enrolled at Harvard Medical School. Soon his research helped create time released implants of a wide range of medications and also preventatives such as the Norplant birth control devices.
But he was just getting started. Dr. Folkman, who became a Harvard professor and director of the vascular biology program at Children’s Hospital in Boston, pioneered this revolutionary approach to cancer treatments.
After considerable laboratory research, in 1971 Dr. Folkman stunned the medical world when in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine he published what became a controversial idea. Cut off the blood supply to cancerous tumors with new drugs and you will kill the tumors.
But as happens with most new ideas, critics soon abound. In this case critics, of whom there were many, claimed the research was inadequate and they were skeptical of the results. So skeptical, that they made it hard for him to receive federal funds to continue his research.
But Dr. Folkman refused to quit and pursued his research by obtaining corporate grants from drug firms such as Monsanto and Entremed. By the mid-1990s, he and his research team had isolated two very strong cancer inhibitors, which stopped the tumor growth in mice.
Then in 1998 The New York Times published a front-page story quoting Nobel laureate James D. Watson, saying “Judah is going to cure cancer in two years.” Dr. Folkman was inundated by the media for interviews and by thousands of cancer patients hoping to use his new drugs.
Unfortunately, it was too soon and considerably more testing and scientific confirmation needed to take place. Dr. Folkman tried to humbly put it in perspective, saying, “If you have cancer and you are a mouse, we can take good care of you.”
As of the date of this story, the research and experimentation actively continue, but without Dr. Folkman who recently passed away from a heart attack at the age of 74, leaving his wife of 47-years, two-daughters and a granddaughter.
But before ending this article, I’d like to tell you a little bit about the personal side of Dr. Folkman. The son of a Rabbi, he was deeply influenced by his father’s compassion for others and became widely known for returning patients’ and students’ phone calls, even when he was traveling.
Despite the intense demands on his schedule, he made time to help others. The story is told of a man in 2005, whose little girl fought for her life and successfully survived a rare childhood cancer. Father and daughter came to Dr. Folkman’s office with no appointment, desperate and fearful her cancer could reoccur.*
After learning they were waiting for him, Dr. Folkman greeted them and spent the next two hours listening to and speaking with them. As they spoke, he played with the little girl. Shortly afterward Dr. Folkman prepared a proposal for his lab to research potential tell-tale signs of this childhood cancer recurring so it could be promptly treated.
This proposal was accepted by Dr. Folkman’s lab which funded the cost of the research because as he said it’s “too important to wait.”
Another example of Dr. Folkman’s caring came from Dr. Steven Brem, director of neurosurgery at Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida and a former student of Dr. Folkman’s. **
“I remember one of the things he said,” Dr. Brem remarked. “’When you talk to a bereaved family who has just lost a loved one, talk to them as if the person is still alive, because the family has not absorbed the impact of his death.’” This is a wise and compassionate approach.
Thanks to Dr. Folkman, there are 10 cancer drugs, such as Avastin and Thalomid on the market based on his ideas, treating millions of patients. Also, there are over 50 more drugs being tested and similar drugs are now used to treat diseases such as macular degeneration and arthritis.
But the best may be yet to come. The concept of what Dr. Folkman and his team worked on could revolutionize cancer treatments.