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Freireich (Emil J): The History of MD Anderson Cancer Center, July 12, 2004 by Emil J Freireich, MD: Home


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The History of MD Anderson Cancer Center, July 12, 2004 by Emil J Freireich, MD

Interview Processed by: 

Jim Thompson, HRC Volunteer, April 2, 2009


Chapter 01  (Overview)
M.D. Anderson Fellows Core Curriculum Information and Introduction of Dr. Freireich   (listen/read)

Start of video: Explanation of M. D. Anderson Fellows Core Curriculum purpose, overview and procedural information, as well introduction of speaker Dr. Freireich by Dr. David S. Hong, MD.

Chapter 02  (Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research)
Cancer Research History Prior to M.D. Anderson Cancer Research and Treatment Hospital   (listen/read)


  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care

Dr. Freireich states talk's purpose is to "put oncology in perspective …how contemporary our knowledge is." Milestones in cancer treatment and US cancer treatment & education, beginning with first cancer surgery in 1809.

Chapter 03  (M.D. Anderson Past)
M.D. Anderson Cancer Research and Treatment Hospital Origins   (listen/read)

Beginning of M. D. Anderson Cancer Hospital history with the 47th Texas Legislature's appropriation on $250,000 for a cancer hospital in Texas, and the M. D. Anderson Foundation match of $250,000 for naming rights of the hospital and its location in Houston.Houston real estate developers <not Jesse H. Jones> purchased land adjacent to Hermann Hospital for what is now known as The Texas Medical Center and roughly half of the Baylor Medical School <not "lock, stock and barrel">, located in Dallas, was purchased and brought to Houston.

Chapter 04  (Building the Institution)
Dr. Freireich’s Early Career and US Cancer Research Evolution   (listen/read)


  • Evolution of Career
  • Discovery, Creativity, Innovation
  • Personal Reflections, Memories of M.D. Anderson
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care

First reference to Dr. Freireich's career via discussion of US Congress's creation (appropriation of money to build) in 1947 of the clinical center (hospital) on the campus at the National Institute of Health. It was the first major, full-time, clinical research institution on the US. Background given on the revolutionary cancer research work done at the NIH clinical center (e.g. combination therapy regimens based on those used for infectious diseases) from 1955 to 1965 when Dr. Freireich worked there under Medical Director Gordon Zubrod.
In 1965 Director Dr. R. Lee Clark recruited Dr. Emil Frei, which Dr. Freireich followed, to create a clinical research institute at M. D. Anderson.
"How contemporary our knowledge is" and reference to pioneering work by Dr. George R. Minot, among others, on liver ingestion as a cure for pernicious anemia, first Blood journal editor Dr. William Dameshek, and the American Society of Hematology origin in 1958.
Necessity and establishment of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in 1964, first Examination for Boards in Medical Oncology in 1973, and overview of rapid growth of field of study.

Chapter 05  (Devices, Drugs, Procedures)
Dr. Freireich’s Research on the Use of Chemotherapy for Cancer Treatment   (listen/read)


  • Obstacles and Challenges
  • Research
  • Controversy
  • Discovery and Success
  • Technology and R&D

Dr. Freireich's research on the successful use of chemotherapy for treatment of leukemia which ran counter to research community thinking at the time, and its reluctant acceptance of the treatment over time.

Work by Dr. Freireich and associates to mitigate risk of infection with chemotherapy via developing granulocyte recovery and germ-free environment technology.
The logistical difficulties of the new, higher-performance continuous-flow blood cell separator equipment and germ-free "life island" isolation units, along with facilities implementation, are discussed.
Doctor Gerald Bodey's leadership in creating sterile environments at the Lutheran Pavilion, and later creation of the Alkek building at MD Anderson are referenced.
Research success at M.D. Anderson with POMP (Purinethol Ocovin Methotrexate Prednisone) combination chemotherapy with Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia and paper authored by Dr. Michael J. Keating.

Chapter 06  (Global Issues – Cancer, Health, Medicine)
General and Cancer Life Expectancy Statistics, and the Future of Cancer Research   (listen/read)


  • MDACC in the Future

Discussion of heart disease versus cancer mortality rate statistics, infant and elderly mortality, life expectancy improvement since 1900 and from Ancient Rome to time of this presentation.
"Pet theory" of Dr. Freireich that there is no finite lifespan.
Discussion of "#1 cancer problem" of lung cancer, Increase in incidence of lung cancer with smoking, history of cigarette smoking and efforts to reduce it. "All the things we call knowledge is very contemporary.
Everything I learned in my 50 year career is contemporary knowledge." Dr. Freireich emphasizes the exponential pace of knowledge and predicts eventual of control of cancer.

Chapter 06  (Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research)
Question and Answer   (listen/read)


  • On Research and Researchers
  • MDACC in the Future

Questions and Answers covering "systemic" cancer, cancer biology, the future of cancer occurrence and control, and the dynamic nature of cancer treatment and research.