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Cancer treatment trailblazer Emil Frei passes away

Cancer treatment trailblazer Emil Frei passes away

THE death has taken place in the United States of Dr. Emil Frei whose trailblazing work on cancer treatment is credited with helping save millions of lives across the world. He was 89.

It  was in the 1950s and 1960s that Dr. Frei began to experiment with different ways of using cancer drugs while working at the National Cancer Institute and then at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston with Dr. Emil Freireich. At the time, it was normal to administer each drug treatment on its own, but Dr. Frei and his colleague decided to combine treatments which were then given to patients. The combined chemotherapy was to have some remarkable results.

The work was to bring about the first complete cures for paediatric leukaemia patients and led to more effective treatments for adult malignancies ranging from breast cancer to bone cancer. Today, combination chemotherapy is used in the treatment of many cancers around the world. Childhood leukaemia now has a long-term survival rate of more than 80 per cent.

Among those to pay tribute was Edward J. Benz, president of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston where Dr. Frei had also worked and where he had been, in recent years, emeritus director and emeritus physician-in-chief. 

Dr. Benz said: “Dr. Frei and his colleagues saved the lives of literally millions of cancer patients by championing the then novel idea of combination regimens for previously incurable cancers. This approach has led to cures in many patients with cancer. The majority of patients with certain forms of childhood leukaemia, Hodgkin disease, testicular cancer and some other cancers can now expect to live long and high-quality lives because of his contributions.”

Over the years, Dr. Frei received a number of awards and honours for his work.

He is survived by his five children and 10 grandchildren.

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