“If You Do No Harm, Then You Do No Harm to the Cancer, Either”

(p. B16) James F. Holland, a founding father of chemotherapy who helped pioneer a lifesaving drug treatment for pediatric leukemia patients, died on Thursday [March 22, 2018] at his home in Scarsdale, N.Y.

. . .

“Patients have to be subsidiaries of the trial,” he told The New York Times in 1986. “I’m not interested in holding patients’ hands. I’m interested in curing cancer.”

He acknowledged that some patients become guinea pigs, and that they sometimes suffer discomfort in the effort to eradicate tumors, but he said that even those who die provide lessons for others who will survive.

“If you do no harm,” Dr. Holland said, “then you do no harm to the cancer, either.”

. . .

Dr. Holland acknowledged that while experimenting with drug treatment sometimes amounts to trial and error, the primary killer is typically the disease itself.

“The thing to remember,” he said, “is that the deadliest thing about cancer chemotherapy is not the chemotherapy.”

. . .

Because his father had heart disease, Dr. Holland originally gravitated toward a career in cardiology. But what he thought would be an interim job at Columbia University’s newly opened Francis Delafield Hospital, which originally specialized in oncology, proved to be a perfect fit — especially after he met a 4-year-old leukemia patient, an only child named Josephine.

“I had come to love this child, and she loved me,” he recalled in Dr. John Laszlo’s “The Cure of Childhood Leukemia: Into the Age of Miracles” (1995). “Her remission was extremely meaningful to me, but by the same token, it was tragic when she relapsed and died.”

“She was only a child,” he said. “A crying child.”

For the full obituary, see:

Sam Roberts. “James F. Holland, 92, Pioneer in Cancer Research, Dies.” The New York Times (Wednesday, March 30, 2018): B16.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date March 27, 2018, and has the title “James F. Holland, Trailblazing Cancer Researcher, Dies at 92.”)

The Laszlo book quoted above, is:

Laszlo, John. The Cure of Childhood Leukemia: Into the Age of Miracles. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

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