T H E   N I H    C A T A L Y S T     N O V E M B E R   – D E C E M B E R  2003


Back in the Day: Former NCI director Vince DeVita displays the senior faculty of the NCI Medicine Branch, circa 1975: (left to right) George Canellos (now at Harvard), Bruce Chabner (Massachusetts General Hospital), Phil Schein (University of Pennsylvania), DeVita ("with more hair and polyester"), and Bob Young (Fox-Chase Cancer Center). DeVita’s talk not only tracked the rise of chemotherapy and the decline in cancer mortality, it was a paean to dozens of his NCI colleagues and the Friday afternoon Society of Jabbering Idiots

CC Director John Gallin salutes former and current NIH scientists and a half-century of transforming research

CC Celebrates 50th at Research Festival



text by Fran Pollner
photos by Bill Branson

Vince DeVita put it this way: "It’s nice to come home."

And in one way or another, each of the speakers who took the stage to commemorate the CC’s 50th anniversary expressed an affection for the daily working environment at NIH and its research hospital that conjured up the image of home:

The collaborative and feisty spirit among colleagues reminiscent of the best kind of sibling camaraderie—and squabbling

The perseverance, warmth, and mutual regard that characterized the relationships between the physician-researchers and the patients undergoing experimental treatments, sometimes extending through decades of follow-up

The culture of NIH, like that in a nurturing family, that supported the pursuit of new ideas and personal intellectual expansion

They all saw the past—studded with the gems of biomedical research that contributed enormously to science and human health—as prologue to the future.

Francis Collins, director, NHGRI (at NIH since 1993): What’s next after you’ve mapped the human genome?—a human haplotype map to chart the variants that contribute to common diseases–an international project involving six countries and support from 18 NIH institutes
Harvey Alter, chief, CC Infectious Diseases Section (at NIH since 1969); Co-discoverer of the Australia antigen, eradicator of posttransfusion hepatitis, and poet: "When I came to NIH as a lowly fellow, I saw that patients were turning yellow . . ."
Elizabeth Neufeld, professor and chairman, biological chemistry, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine (at NIH 1963–1984)) devoted to the study of lysosomal enzyme deficiencies, recalled the "inadvertent mix in the Petri dish of Hurler and Hunter cells, which together produced a normal pattern—proving that two wrongs can make a right"
Tony Fauci, NIAID director (at NIH since 1968): Seeing AIDS patients for the first time on the CC’s 11th floor, "I didn’t fully appreciate this was a new disease, but I was anxious because I couldn’t understand it. . . . I turned over my (host immune defense) lab to the study of HIV"
Dennis Charney, chief, Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Program, NIMH (at NIH since 2000): Collaborative proof-of-concept trials are underway that aim at new targets to fight depression, an underappreciated, crippling disorder that can potentiate conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis
Allen Spiegel, NIDDK director (at NIH since 1973), world-renowned for his research in G-protein dynamics and hormone disorders, paid homage to his NIH mentor G.D. Aurbach, who purified parathyroid hormone and launched the study of signal transduction disorders
Henry McFarland, director, Clinical Neurosciences Program, NINDS (at NIH since 1976): "[Early on], multiple sclerosis is inflammatory; later it’s degenerative. . . . There are both upregulated and downregulated genes. . . . The key is to conduct small trials of innovative therapies"
French Anderson, director, Gene Therapy Laboratories, USC Keck School of Medicine (at NIH 1965–1992), shown with the first gene therapy patient—age 4 in 1990—whose adenosine deaminase levels are still normal. He asks: "Why is it that she has been able to develop a T-cell response to new antigens? Did some stem cells get in there? Can T cells de-differentiate and be reeducated?"



Eugene Braunwald, Hersey distinguished professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School (NIH: 1955–1968; hangout: CC, 7th floor, cardiovascular physiology lab): Thanks to the disobedience of a patient on self-activated carotid sinus nerve stimulation, it was learned that ST segment elevation decreases in the midst of an ongoing infarct—and the concept of myocardial salvage was born. With b-blockade and fibrinolysis, acute MI mortality dropped from 18 to 7 percent
Elizabeth Nabel, scientific director for clinical research, NHLBI (at NIH since 1999): Genomics and stem cells are involved in much of cardiovascular disease research at the CC today. Researchers are correlating gene polymorphisms with drug sensitivity and with the propensity for restenosis, and injecting endothelial progenitor cells into ischemic scar tissue to repair vascular damage
Vincent DeVita, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and public health, Yale University (at NIH 1963–1988, as NCI director from 1980): Lead author of the 1970 Annals of Internal Medicine report establishing that some advanced cancers could be cured by combination chemotherapy, a strategy that launched the era of cancer survival, with rates going from 0 to 80 percent today for some cancers
Thomas Waldmann, chief, Metabolism Branch, NCI (at NIH since 1956, when, according to the textbook in the background, "the function of the lymphocyte [was] still obscure"): Developer of anti-TAC, the first antibody to a cytokine receptor (IL-2Ra)—used clinically in the management of cancer, transplant rejection, and autoimmune disease and in studies underway at six NIH institutes. The IL-2/IL-15 interface now commands much of his attention. The T cell, Waldmann says, "is the sun of the immunological system"
Steven Rosenberg, chief, Surgery Branch, NCI (at NIH at this post since 1974): A 30-year odyssey to develop cancer immunotherapy has established that this approach can achieve cures; tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and tumor-specific antigens are central to a strategy whose latest development involves nonmyeloablative conditioning followed by adoptive transfer of antitumor lymphocytes targeting specific tumor antigens




































































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