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First treatment leading to a complete cure for childhood Leukemia

American Association For Cancer Research (AACR) : 28 March, 2004  (Company News)
Emil Frei III, M.D., who revolutionized chemotherapy and advanced the treatment of cancer worldwide, has received the inaugural American Association for Cancer Research Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research.
Frei is director- and physician-in-chief emeritus of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the first Richard and Susan Smith Distinguished Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. Together with Emil Freireich, M.D., he developed the first treatment leading to a complete cure for childhood leukemia. The two, working together with James F. Holland, M.D., were the first to devise combination chemotherapy: using several drugs simultaneously to treat patients. This novel approach quickly gained widespread acceptance among cancer clinicians.

The AACR Lifetime Achievement Award was established this year to acknowledge an individual who has made significant, fundamental contributions to cancer research, either through a single scientific discovery or a body of work. Those contributions, whether they have been in research, leadership, or mentorship, must have had a lasting impact on the cancer field and must have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to progress against cancer. The award joins the Landon Prizes, Pezcoller Foundation Award and numerous other scientific honors conferred annually by the AACR to recognize world-class accomplishments in basic research, clinical care, therapeutics and prevention.

'Dr. Frei is the personification of all the attributes and achievements envisioned by the AACR Board of Directors when its members set out to create an award celebrating a decades-long career,' said Karen S. H. Antman, M.D., president of the AACR.

'The name Emil Frei will figure prominently when the story of conquering cancer finally is told. Specialists regard combination chemotherapy as the single most important advance in cancer treatment in the last quarter-century,' Antman said, adding, 'In cases of childhood leukemia alone, the cure rate has risen from zero in 1955 to 80 percent today, thanks to Dr. Frei's innovative method. In more recent years, it has proved to have a curative effect in Hodgkin's disease, as well.'

The ongoing work of Frei and his colleagues brings the disciplines of biostatistics, chemotherapy, pharmacology and tumor cytokinetics to bear on choriocarcinoma and Hodgkin's disease, where cure has occurred. They have had less success using their approach on solid tumors, due to the heterogeneity of solid tumor systems. Improved chemotherapeutics have enabled them to contain the ascendancy of drug-resistant cells and increase the complete remission rate in metastatic breast cancer.

A native of St. Louis, Frei's early undergraduate education was interrupted by service in World War II. Subsequently, the U.S. Navy sent him to Colgate University in Hamilton , N.Y., for premedical studies. He entered Yale Medical School in 1944, received his M.D. in 1948, and interned at St. Louis University Hospital. He was commissioned an officer in the Navy Medical Corps, serving in Korea from 1950 to 1952.

In 1955, Frei joined the National Cancer Institute, rising to the position of chief of the Leukemia Section within a year, and later becoming chief of medicine. He moved to the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in 1965, where he remained until going to Dana-Farber as Physician-in-Chief in 1972. He fulfilled that role actively until 1991.

He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences; serves as a consultant to the National Cancer Institute; and is on the editorial boards of several medical journals. His previous honors include the Charles E. Kettering Prize for Cancer Research, shared with Freireich; the Albert Lasker Award; the Hamao Umezawa Award; The Armand Hammer Cancer Prize, shared with Vincent T. DeVita; and the first NIH Distinguished Alumni Award, also shared with Freireich. Frei has been a member of the AACR for 45 years and he was a past president of AACR.
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