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An Important Interview

Posted 12/1/2015

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  Some of you may know of Dr. Vincent DeVita. He is a very big name in cancer, was the director of the NCI and the physician in chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering. He is now a Professor of Medicine at Yale Medical School and has just released a book called The Death of Cancer. Dr. DeVita is one of the oncologists who developed combination chemotherapy regimens, and his particular expertise has helped cure many people who were diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease, a kind of lymphoma.

  This is an excellent interview from NPR; Dr. Devita, talking with Terry Gross, discusses his long career, the many advances that have been made in cancer research and treatment, and the many challenges that lie ahead. Here is the start and a link to read more. This is well worth a few minutes of your time.

Oncologist Discusses Advancements In Treatment And The Ongoing War On Cancer

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest, Dr. Vincent DeVita, is a pioneer in the
field of oncology and the author of the new book, "The Death Of Cancer." He started
his career in 1963, as a member of the team that developed the combination
chemotherapy that led to curing most childhood leukemia. Then he developed the
combination chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin's disease, which cures most people with
advanced disease. He went on to become the director of the National Cancer Institute
and the physician in chief at a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He's now a
professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. Dr. DeVita was diagnosed with
cancer in 2009 but now appears to be cancer-free. He learned firsthand what it's like
to have a family member whose disease has no cure. His son Ted had a disorder of the
bone marrow that left him without a functioning immune system, vulnerable to all
germs. For eight years, until Ted's death at the age of 17, he lived at the National
Cancer Institute in a special bubble-like hospital room designed to prevent a patient
from coming in contact with germs. Dr. DeVita, welcome to FRESH AIR. Your
breakthroughs in terms of chemotherapy research have been in the area of
combination chemotherapy. So before we talk specifically about your research, what's
the principle behind combination chemotherapy?
VINCENT DEVITA: Well, cancer cells are very wily little beasts. And we have learned
that in order to destroy them, you have to hit them in multiple different places at
different times to overcome resistance to the chemotherapeutic agents. So the
principles are to use drugs that have a different mechanism of action and don't have
overlapping toxicity so that you can give them in full doses. That was the background
of the work that was done with our patients with Hodgkin's disease and with
childhood leukemia.


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