THERAPEUTIC REVOLUTION The History of Medical Oncology from Early Days to the Creation of the Subspecialty

World War II’s Legacy to Cancer

Author(s): Pierre R. Band

Pp: 25-31 (7)

DOI: 10.2174/9781608058143114010007

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


Medical research carried out during World War II influenced the development of cancer medicine. First, classified research on mustard gas led to the discovery that nitrogen mustard produced tumor regressions in advanced lymphomas. This event marked the dawn of modern cancer chemotherapy. Secondly, the supply of quinine, virtually the sole treatment for malaria, came to a halt after the conquest of Indonesia. As a result, there were more casualties caused by malaria than by combat among American troops fighting in areas where malaria was endemic. To address this critical situation, an extensive cooperative program involving outstanding experimental and clinical investigators was undertaken in the United States to find drugs other than quinine that would be active against malaria. Within a short time, the problem was solved. After the war, several members of the antimalarial program joined the National Institutes of Health. One of them, Dr. Charles Gordon Zubrod, would bring to medical oncology the same vision and organization that made the antimalarial war program a unique success.

Keywords: Mustard gas, mechloretamine, lymphomas, malaria.

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