History of Chemotherapy
“WE MUST SEARCH for magic bullets. We must strike the parasites, and the parasites only, if possible, and to do this, we must learn to aim with chemical substances!”
Paul Ehrlich – Father of Chemotherapy
Much of the original work leading to the ‘magic bullets’ is credited to a German bacteriologist from Frankfurt - Paul Ehrlich. He was awarded a Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1908 for some of his pioneering work and is considered the ‘father of modern Immunology and Chemotherapy’
After Ehrlich laid down the principles, the treatment of cancer cells using chemotherapeutic agents was first carried out in the 1950s. The first drug used in treating cancer is an accidental discovery. During the World War II, mustard gas was used as a warfare agent. It was discovered that individuals who were accidentally exposed to mustard gas had low WBC counts. It was reasoned that an agent with such an effect on the rapidly-dividing WBC could have the same effect on cancer cells too. As a result, the drug was intravenously used to treat individuals with late-stage lymphomas with dramatic early results. Back then, the result of this treatment did not last long; nevertheless the effect it had on the patients was remarkable and as a result they improved considerably.
Later on, research has helped to discover many more chemotherapeutic agents to treat cancer. Several drugs that have been researched and tested have entered the fray. Treatment is far more focused and effective than it has ever been but the basic principles and limitations of the therapy still remain.
Today it can be unquestionably said that with the help off these drugs, cancer patients are able to lead a better quality life.
Chemotherapy - References:
- MacDiarmid J.A. et al. (2007)
- "Bacterially Derived 400 nm Particles for Encapsulation and Cancer Cell Targeting of Chemotherapeutics" Cancer Cell 11, 431-445, May 2007