Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, April 28, 2015



In this second installment we will take a closer look at just how revolutionary Farber’s treatment was and how quickly it offered relief to the children in his care.  One case, as outlined by the New England Journal of Medicine (click here to read the article: http://bit.ly/1DIjw5x) of a boy referred to simply as W.G., is particularly instructive.  The boy was seven and a half years old when he was admitted to the hospital in 1947.  He presented with complaints of joint pain and fever, and subsequent bone marrow biopsy confirmed that the child had leukemia.  Within weeks the boy was started on a regiment of pteroylaspartic acid administered daily.  This continued for about a month, in which time the child was active, but tests continued to show high white blood cell counts.  A short while later he was started on a treatment consisting of daily doses of diopterin.  Over the month-long course of this treatment the child’s condition gradually declined.  His liver and spleen, which had been only mildly enlarged at the time of his admission, had become quite enlarged, and he became very anemic.  Other medications and blood transfusions were administered, but eight months after his initial admission into the hospital, the child’s condition had seriously deteriorated.
It was at this point, in late 1947, that aminopterin began to be administered on a daily basis.  After only two weeks the boy’s white-cell count had fallen from 60,000 to an astonishing 19,000.  His condition again worsened as a result of his leaving the hospital and not receiving the same regiment of aminopterin, but after returning to the hospital the treatment again proved efficacious, reducing a white-cell count now at 78,000 all the way down to 5,000 after only ten days.  While the child took some time to fully recover, he did again regain his strength and appetite, and the report concludes by saying that the boy – now man – is still alive today.

In the third and final installment we will delve back into the life of Sydney Farber, and see that his work for the fight against cancer continued in different ways throughout his life.  If you haven’t watched the Ken Burn’s doc Cancer: Emperor of all Maladies yet, here’s the link again: http://bit.ly/1EffZz7.

1 comment:

  1. Let me add my endorsement, again, of this documentary/book. Everyone in the health professions should see/read it, it so humanizes both the malady of cancer and the quest to conquer it. Medical science must never forget its personal human dimension.