The most important consequence of using chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease was its cure.
—Vincent T. DeVita, Jr, MD
My Presidency was the first year that the Annual Meeting hit 10,000 attendees, which at the time we thought was a huge number—it seemed that we’d hit the ceiling. It was about 9 years after we published the results from our study of combination chemotherapy (MOPP) in the treatment of advanced Hodgkin’s disease, which was the first example of the ability to cure advanced cancer in adults with drugs. So I titled my Presidential speech “The Consequences of the Chemotherapy of Hodgkin’s Disease.” Given the use of the word “consequences,” everyone in the audience assumed that I was going to speak about the bad effects of the chemotherapy. Remember, at that time most people were still skeptical about the curative value of chemotherapy.
The title turned out to be an interesting play on words, because the central point of the speech was that the most important consequence of using chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease was its cure. To give the speech’s meaning historical perspective, the original paper we published in 1970 on MOPP was the most cited paper in the history of the Annals of Internal Medicine. It took another 11 years for MOPP to fully diffuse into the practice of oncology, so when I gave my Presidential speech it was not fully out there. Nevertheless, it remained the standard of care for 25 years. ■
The last 50 years have been marked by significant advances in cancer research and in more effective therapy for patients. Once viewed as a largely untreatable, fatal disease, today a number of cancers are being converted into chronic diseases that can be managed for long periods of time. The result ...