VII. Breaking away from interferon
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Breaking away from interferon 73  Chapter VII Breaking away from interferon Fashions in science are as influential and nearly as mercurial as styles in dress. — Arthur Kornberg A molecule for all seasons Could viruses cause cancer? The theory received a lot of credence in the early seventies and was a forceful driver for research in antiviral therapies and interferon in particular. The new focus on interferon as an antiviral , acting as an anti-cancer agent, was mainly the work of one woman. Mathilde Galland, a Swiss scientist, almost singlehandedly put interferon on the radar screens of both the NIH and the pharmaceutical industry. Wherever she went, she was preceded by a legendary reputation. Her support for Jews in Palestine immediately after World War II led her as a young girl to ride her bicycle and collect guns in French villages to benefit the Irgun Underground. She converted to Judaism, married a Jewish scientist and moved to the newly created state of Israel in the 1950s. Their marriage, however, did not last. As a single mother and researcher at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Mathilde caught the eye of an Institute’s trustee, Arthur Krim, an American lawyer and president of United Artists, a leading film production studio. He was also involved in fundraising for the Democratic Party. Her second marriage brought her to New York City in the whirlwind of Krim’s world. It was populated with actors, movie stars, advertising icons as well as prominent politicians from the Democratic party. The famous birthday serenade from Marilyn Monroe for President John F. Kennedy in Madison Square Garden and the after-party in Krim’s East Sixty-ninth Street townhouse placed her at the top of America’s social circuit. Despite her new life as a leading society matron, Mathilde Krim remained faithful 74 Cold War Triangle to her scientific interests and joined the research team of Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. She naturally gravitated into the orbit of another socialite and philanthropist ,MaryLasker.Herhusbandwastheheadofanadvertisingbureau and one of his ideas, the LSMFT Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco slogan had earned him millions of dollars. His vast wealth, acquired by promoting one of the greatest causes of cancer, now became instrumental in the fight against cancer. Mary Lasker and her husband created a philantropic foundation to support medical research. It became an essential base for the development of the National Cancer Institute within the NIH. With her full-page advertisements in the New York Times, Lasker prodded President Nixon into action and was at the origin of his appeal for “a war on cancer.” Lasker taught Krim how to successfully lobby the US Congress. Without hesitation, Krim branded the specter of viruses as a possible cause of cancer and greatly influenced the content of the National Cancer Act of 1971. Funding for cancer research was made a national priority. A closer investigation of interferon as a potential anti-tumor agent was part of the deal. A three-day international workshop on Interferon in the Treatment of Cancer, organized by Krim at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 1975, was memorable for many reasons. The interferon field until then was a rather fledgling community of scientists. She managed to bring together for the first time more than two hundred scientists, administrators from the NIH and representatives from the pharma industry. Together with her husband, Mathilde Krim invited the core of interferon researchers and her business connections into their historical home in Manhattan. Erik De Clercq was among the invitees, they were all overwhelmed by the lavish hospitality of the Krims.1 The participants were even more impressed when they witnessed how Mathilde Krim staged the scientific meeting as a media event. The conference was an important turning point whereby interferon was no longer considered solely for its antiviral properties but also for its tumor-fighting capacities. De Clercq lectured on the use of interferon in mice with cancer . He built on earlier studies done in France and contributed in his own way to Mathilde Krim’s cancer awareness campaign. The popularity of interferon received a temporary setback at another Breaking away from interferon 75  international conference at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot in 1977.2 The meeting with over two hundred participants was disrupted by some comments by one of the participants, Piet De Somer. He expressed his concern about side effects that had been observed following the injection of interferon in a Belgian patient; he did not mention his own...


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