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August 18, 2005

You Learn Something New Everyday

Mark & Maricar from Step For Life (they're also doing TNT, and doing the Nike Womens Marathon) put on an excerpt from a newsletter they received:

The exciting new treatments being developed for blood cancers are a perfect example of just how our fundraising efforts are helping others. Back in 1865 the first effective use of chemotherapy to treat a malignant disease was recorded. It was used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).

Notice the date...1865. At first, I thought it was a typo, that they had meant to write 1965. Chemotherapy, I thought, was advanced medicine, and I thought that it was discovered in the 20th century.

So, I called them on it, and it turns it wasn't a misprint, that leukemia was known since 1845, and that the forerunner of modern chemotherapy was...are you sitting down?...arsenic. Yes, arsenic. Rat poison. And apparently it worked well enough that it was used for many years, until advances in modern medicine rendered it unnecessary.

From what I understand, though, chemotherapy is pretty toxic in itself, so I can see how arsenic could have done its thing...killing the cancer cells (and some healthy cells as well).

Like I said, you learn something new everyday. And it makes you think about how much medical research has improved the treatment of cancer in general and leukemia in particular.

Posted by Keith at August 18, 2005 09:21 PM

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