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Cancer Researcher Folkman Dies

This article is more than 13 years old.

Celebrated cancer researcher Judah Folkman died Monday night of an apparent heart attack. He was 74.

Folkman was serving as the director of the vascular biology program at Children's Hospital in Boston. Among the research that made him famous was his discovery that cancer tumors could be stopped from growing by cutting off their supply of blood.

Folkman's range of medical research had his laboratory focus on the development of diagnostic tests and therapeutic drugs for conditions ranging from obesity to eye diseases to cancer.

Biography of Judah Folkman from Children's Hospital
Folkman was a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated cum laude from The Ohio State University in 1953. He continued his education at Harvard Medical School, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1957. Folkman began his surgical residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital and served as chief resident in surgery from 1964-1965.

As a student, Folkman co-authored papers describing a new method of hepatectomy for liver cancer and developed the first atrio-ventricular implantable pacemaker for which he received the Boylston Medical Prize, Soma Weiss Award and Borden Undergraduate Award in Medicine.

While serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1960-1962, Folkman and a colleague at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD, first reported the use of silicone rubber implantable polymers for the sustained release of drugs. Their findings became the basis for development of Norplant, the contraceptive used internationally, and initiated the field of controlled release technology. At this time, Folkman also began growing tumors in isolated perfused organs, which led to the idea that tumors are angiogenesis-dependent.

In 1971 Folkman published a seminal paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, proposing the hypothesis that all tumor growth is angiogenesis-dependent. This founded the field of angiogenesis research and opened a field of investigation now pursued by scientists in many fields worldwide. Folkman's laboratory purified the first angiogenic protein from a tumor, discovered the first angiogenesis inhibitors and initiated clinical trials of antiangiogenic therapy. Today, angiogenesis inhibitors have received FDA approval in the U.S. for cancer and for the treatment of macular degeneration and are also approved in 27 other countries. Largely because of Folkman's research, the possibility of antiangiogenic therapy is now on a firm scientific foundation, not only in the treatment of cancer, but of many non-neoplastic diseases as well.

Folkman is the author of 389 original peer-reviewed papers and 106 book chapters and monographs. He also holds honorary degrees from fifteen universities and is the recipient of numerous national and international awards. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition to his distinguished accomplishments in research, Folkman has served as a surgeon and teacher. He began his career as an instructor in surgery for Harvard's Surgical Service at Boston City Hospital Boston, was promoted to Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, and became the Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor of Pediatric Surgery in 1968. From 1967 he served as Surgeon-in-Chief at the Children's Hospital Boston for 14 years. Dr. Folkman is also a Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School and is currently Director of the Vascular Biology Program at Children's Hospital Boston.Research Overview
Angiogenesis inhibitors are now approved by the FDA in the U.S., for cancer and for macular degeneration and have received approval in 27 other countries. We have developed specific and sensitive angiogenesis-based biomarkers in blood and urine capable of detecting microscopic human cancers in mice. In pre-clinical studies, antiangiogenic therapy of these mice is guided by biomarkers until the biomarkers decline to normal levels. These results suggest the possibility of treating human cancer years before it becomes symptomatic, and before it can be anatomically located.

This program aired on January 15, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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