Judah Folkman

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Dr. Judah Folkman "was first inspired to become a surgeon at the age of seven, when he accompanied his rabbi father visiting sick members of his congregation in the hospital. While still a student at Harvard Medical School, he developed one of the first pacemakers. During his service in the U.S. Navy, Folkman created an implantable device for timed drug-release, and donated it patent-free to the World Population Council. It is now known as Norplant.

"At age 34, he became chief of surgery at Boston's Children's Hospital. As he observed hundreds of bloody tumors in juvenile cancer patients, he began to wonder if there was a way to stop the growth of tumors by blocking the process, called angiogenesis, by which new blood vessels develop to feed the cancerous growth.

"Folkman's hypothesis met indifference and ridicule for 20 years, but in 1983, his laboratory identified a substance that stimulates the growth of capillaries. Within two years, he had discovered a substance that inhibited this growth, and soon found dozens more.

"He pioneered the use of interferon in cancer therapy, healing hemangiomas, growths that often threaten the life of infants. His research has led to the development of progressively more potent compounds, such as angiostatin, endostatin and vasculostatin, which have successfully halted the growth of tumors in laboratory mice. They also show promise for more accurate diagnosis of human cancers. These promising compounds are now being prepared for human testing.

"Skeptics charged that Folkman's test results could not be duplicated in other labs, but in 1999 the National Cancer Institute successfully repeated Folkman's experiments with Endostatin, and the compound is now being studied not only for cancer treatment, but for the prevention of stroke and heart disease. Many scientists predict that when a pharmaceutical treatment for human cancer is perfected, it will be built on the work of Dr. Judah Folkman." [1]

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  1. Judah Folkman Biography, Academy of Acheivement, accessed November 12, 2007.