Author: Pierre R. Band

Therapeutic Revolution The History of Medical Oncology from Early Days to the Creation of the Subspecialty

eBook: US $39 Special Offer (PDF + Printed Copy): US $136
Printed Copy: US $117
Library License: US $156
ISBN: 978-1-60805-815-0 (Print)
ISBN: 978-1-60805-814-3 (Online)
Year of Publication: 2014
DOI: 10.2174/97816080581431140101


Cancer is a disease responsible for several million annual deaths among humans, worldwide. However, advances in healthcare - which include breakthroughs in science and medicine as well as access to medical treatment - have improved the survival rate of cancer patients over the last few decades.

Therapeutic Revolution relates the story of one of the great scientific tales of the twentieth century: how the field of medical oncology was created and its subsequent development owing to medical and scientific breakthroughs. The book unfolds the pre-clinical and clinical concepts and innovations that led to the creation of the medical subspecialty now known as oncology.

Therapeutic Revolution is the first book ever written on the events that led to this subspecialty of internal medicine. It relates the recollection of key events obtained from interviews of the pioneers who laid the foundations of medical oncology, as well as the author’s own experience of the pre-specialty era of medical practice.

The book is essential reading for all readers interested in the history of cancer treatment and also serves as a historical primer for medical students learning oncology.


History is written by the victors. Although the vanquished may offer explanations, excuses or speculative essays on what it would have been like had they won, such efforts rarely depict reality. Often a victory is described by someone who was remote from the battle, a historian distant in time, with no passion and scars from the conflict. Pierre Band is not that kind of historian. He was fully engaged in the extraordinary turbulence that permeated the early years of medical oncology.

Surgery for cancer had existed for many hundreds of years, although anesthesia only appeared in the 1840s. Ovariectomy was introduced for breast cancer in the 1890s and castration for prostate cancer in the 1940s. Radiotherapy for cancer began in the early 1900s. Nitrogen mustards were explored as cancer drugs in the 1940s, under cover of wartime secrecy. The excitement really began in the late 1940s, when aminopterin was shown to induce temporary remissions in children with acute leukemia. Acute leukemia of children then became the first target of opportunity for scientists and doctors who were not surgeons. Principles of cancer chemotherapy were unraveled and chemotherapy began to be used in solid tumors immediately post-surgery and then before surgery, within the setting of rigorous clinical trials.

Dr. Band unfolds this fascinating story with the familiarly of a participant, drawing upon his correspondence and interviews with most of the main characters, and imbued with the excitement of this dynamic and revolutionary tale. The story of how a new discipline in medicine came about, bringing the promise of eventual triumph over cancer is among the great tales of the twentieth century.

This book tells that story. It is a record of struggle and triumph that sets the record straight. May it inspire young minds to pursue new quests to finish the task and open new vistas for improving the human condition.

James F. Holland, MD
Distinguished Professor of Neoplastic Diseases
The Derald H Ruttenberg Cancer Center
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
New York