Judah Folkman: Wikis


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Moses Judah Folkman, M.D. (February 24, 1933 – 14 January 2008) was an American medical scientist best known for his research on angiogenesis, the process by which a tumor attracts blood vessels to nourish itself and sustain its existence. His work founded the branch of cancer research known as anti-angiogenesis therapy.


Early life

Born in 1933 in Cleveland, Ohio, Judah Folkman accompanied his father, a rabbi, on visits to hospital patients. By age seven, he knew he wanted to be a doctor rather than follow in his father's footsteps, so he could offer cures in addition to comfort. His father replied, "In that case, you can be a rabbi-like doctor," words his son took to heart.[1]

Dr. Folkman graduated Ohio State University in 1953, and then Harvard Medical School[2] in 1957. While still a student at Harvard Medical School, he developed one of the first pacemakers[3]. After his graduation, he did his surgical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he rose to the rank of chief resident in surgery. During this time, Folkman worked on liver cancer and atrio-pacemakers.

Between 1960 and 1962, Folkman served in the United States Navy as a lieutenant, where he studied blood vessel growth at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. During his service in the U.S. Navy, Folkman created an implantable device for timed drug release and donated it patent-free to the World Population Council. It is now known as Norplant. [3]

Work on angiogenesis

In 1971, he wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that all cancer tumors were angiogenesis-dependent. If a tumor could be stopped from growing its own blood supply, he surmised, it would wither and die. Though his hypothesis was initially disregarded by most experts in the field, Folkman persisted with his research.

After more than a decade, his theory became widely accepted. He was considered the founder of the angiogenesis field of study, which now focuses on many problems, including blindness caused by macular degeneration[4]. He trained numerous leaders in medicine and biomedical engineering, including Donald Ingber, Robert Langer, and Bruce Zetter.

Dr. Folkman pioneered the use of interferon to heal hemangiomas, growths that often threaten the life of infants. His research has led to the development of progressively more potent compounds, such as angiostatin, endostatin, and vasculostatin, that have successfully halted the growth of tumors in laboratory mice[5].

In 2000, a pharmaceutical company sued Dr. Folkman, contending that he and Children's Hospital of Boston stole the credit for developing a promising drug that cuts off the blood supply to tumors[6][7], and he countersued to defend his reputation[8].

At least 50 angiogenesis inhibitors—including endostatin, angiostatin, 2ME2 (Panzem), and a thrombospondin analogue—are in clinical trials today for cancer treatment, including a number with unanticipated anti-angiogenic effects. These include the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib (Celebrex); rosiglitazone (Avandia), a drug commonly used to treat Type 2 diabetes; doxycycline, a common antibiotic; and some cancer drugs that also have other mechanisms of action, including Erbitux, Herceptin, Velcade and Tarceva. Even some conventional chemotherapy drugs have demonstrated anti-angiogenic effects when given frequently in smaller doses (see Anti-Angiogenic Chemotherapy below). Folkman envisioned that someday, angiogenesis inhibitors would be used together or in combination with conventional anticancer therapies such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, gene therapy, or vaccine therapy.[9]

Scientific Legacy

Folkman was appointed the Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor of Pediatric Surgery at Harvard Medical School in 1968, where he was also professor of cell biology. In addition to directing the Children's Hospital Boston Surgical Research Laboratories, which grew to become the Vascular Biology Program, for nearly four decades he was the scientific director of the hospital's Vascular Anomalies center. A revered figure at the hospital, Folkman's insights informed many active research efforts outside the field of vascular biology and he forged new collaborations at the hospital to study a number of varied disorders, including hydrocephalus and hemorrhages in the brains and eyes of premature infants. His presentations consistently drew standing-room-only audiences.

Folkman was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, among others. He was the author of some 400 papers and more than 100 book chapters and monographs and received scores of United States awards and honors for his research as well as numerous international awards, including Canada's Gairdner Foundation International Award, Israel's Wolf Foundation Prize in Medicine, Germany's Ernst Schering Prize, the Italian Association of Cancer Research in Rome's Gold Medal, the United Kingdom Society for Endocrinology's Dale Medal, and Switzerland's Dr. Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award. In 2006, Folkman was one of seven people appointed by President Bush to the National Cancer Advisory Board of the National Institutes of Health.

One of the significant discoveries that he made with his collaborators late in his life was that the biochemical promoters and suppressors of angiogenesis are segregated into different alpha granules within platelets[10]]. This raises the possibility of therapies targeted to these segregated platelet subcomponents. This is hardly straightforward, since wound healing also requires angiogenesis and platelets are critical to this process, but is an intriguing prospect nonetheless.

Folkman's scientific accomplishments were rare among biomedical researchers of his time; he founded a new field of biology and devised a novel approach to understanding and treating many diseases, including cancer. He mentored and collaborated with hundreds of colleagues at Children's Hospital Boston and around the world. Yet Folkman's greatest legacy may yet be the lesson of his professional life: heal with compassion—a lesson he learned as the son of a rabbi in Columbus, Ohio.


Dr. Folkman died in Denver[11] of a heart attack[12]. At the time of his death, Dr. Folkman was Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School and was also director of the Vascular Biology Program at Children's Hospital Boston[13].

He is survived by his wife, Paula, two daughters, and a granddaughter.[14]


His work at Massachusetts General Hospital, earned him the Boylston Medical Prize, Soma Weiss Award and the Borden Undergraduate Award in Medicine.

Honorary doctor at University of Gothenburg, Sweden in 2000.

2006 Jacobson Innovation Award from the American College of Surgeons in honor of living surgeons who have been innovators of a new development or technique in any field of surgery.[1] In 2005, Dr. Folkman was invited to be the main speaker at the "Presidential Science Symposium" at the "ASCO Annual Meeting 2005". The "ASCO Annual Meetings" are the most influential clinical oncology meetings worldwide. In 2003, The Angiogenesis Foundation awarded Dr. Folkman a "Distinguished Achievement Award". [2]


  1. ^ http://www.childrenshospital.org/cfapps/research/data_admin/Site2580/mainpageS2580P1.html Remembering Judah Folkman: Biography
  2. ^ http://www.hno.harvard.edu/multimedia/folkman.html Harvard Medical School
  3. ^ a b http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/fol0bio-1 Judah Folkman Biography, Foundations for Cancer Therapy
  4. ^ Judah Folkman on angiogenesis
  5. ^ http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_23/b3936016.htm| title=Inside Judah Folkman's Lab
  6. ^ http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9500E0D6153CF932A35755C0A9669C8B63 Drugmaker Sues a Cancer Researcher
  7. ^ http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/073003100750036726 Biotechnology Law Report Patent Litigation
  8. ^ Brower V (October 2000). "Fight for reputation. Judah Folkman counter-sued Abbott in the legal battle over kringle 5". EMBO Rep. 1 (4): 301–2. doi:10.1093/embo-reports/kvd080. PMID 11269492.  
  9. ^ http://www.childrenshospital.org/cfapps/research/data_admin/Site2580/mainpageS2580P4.html Remembering Judah Folkman: Angiogenesis - Blood Vessel Growth and the Treatment of Disease
  10. ^ Italiano JE, Richardson JL, Patel-Hett S, et al. (February 2008). "Angiogenesis is regulated by a novel mechanism: pro- and antiangiogenic proteins are organized into separate platelet alpha granules and differentially released". Blood 111 (3): 1227–33. doi:10.1182/blood-2007-09-113837. PMID 17962514.  
  11. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/16/us/16folkman.html Judah Folkman, Researcher, Died at 74 on January 15, 2008
  12. ^ Remembering Cancer Researcher Judah Folkman | Newsweek Health | Newsweek.com
  13. ^ http://www.childrenshospital.org/cfapps/research/data_admin/Site336/mainpageS336P0.html Folkman Laboratory
  14. ^ Judah Folkman, cancer's innovative enemy, dies at 74 - The Boston Globe

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dr. Moses Judah Folkman (February 24, 1933January 14, 2008) was an American medical scientist best known for his research on angiogenesis and vasculogenesis, that is to say, he discovered that tumours generate tiny blood vessels to nourish themselves.


  • The importance of a hypothesis is measured not by how long it lives; but by how much good it generates.

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