Finding a Cure for Childhood Leukemia |
Farber (1903-1973) and the Jimmy Fund
the mid-1940s the prognosis for leukemia was the same as it had been when the
disease was first identified in 1845. Death, often painful, usually came within
weeks of diagnosis.
In the June 1948 New England Journal of Medicine,
a young pathologist published the results of a new drug tested on 16 children
suffering from leukemia. Ten of the 16 had achieved remission from the disease
with chemotherapy. Sidney Farber knew that folic acid stimulates the growth of
bone marrow. He thought that if a drug could block folic acid, the production
of the abnormal marrow of leukemia could also be stopped.
findings were met with skepticism by the medical research community. The current
thinking was that kids with cancer were going to die and should be made as comfortable
After all, how could a young pathologist, an outsider in
the medical research community, with little funds, staff, or scientific equipment,
discover such a new treatment? But questions and interest poured in from practicing
Again, the exact moment in history plays a role. The war
had ended; the movie industry was prospering. When the leaders of a charitable
organization formed by the entertainment community, Variety Club of New England,
were looking for a local scientist to support, Farber's name came up.
club established the Children's Cancer Research Foundation to fund the small outpatient
clinic Farber had opened at Children's Hospital. On May 22, 1948, a national radio
show introduced a young cancer patient named "Jimmy" to the audience. From this
broadcast, enough funds came in to start construction of the Jimmy Fund Building,
which later became the home of the Sidney Farber Cancer Institute.
the rest of his life, Sidney Farber led the fight to find a cure for cancer for
children and adults.
Dr. Farber's research laid the foundation for dramatic
improvements in cure rates for childhood leukemia. Five-year cure rates for childhood
leukemia were about 50% in 1970 and are more than 80% today. In 1983 the Cancer
Institute was renamed the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in recognition of Dr. Sidney
Farber and philanthropist Charles A. Dana. Today, Dana-Farber, in the Longwood
Medical Area, is renowned for using basic and clinical research to improve the
treatment of adults and children with cancer.
Jimmy Fund of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute by Saul Wisnia, 2002|