Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Jane Cooke Wright: Pioneering oncologist

Jane Cooke Wright (November 20, 1919 – February 19, 2013) was born in New York City. Before turning to medicine, Dr. Wright graduated from Smith College in 1942 with a degree in art. She soon enrolled in New York Medical College on a full scholarship and graduated with honors in 1945.

After interned at Bellevue Hospital and completing her residency at Harlem Hospital, she took a position with New York City Public Schools as a staff physician, but she maintained her relationship with Harlem Hospital by working as a visiting physician.

In 1949, she began working full time with her father, who had founded the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Foundation a year earlier. She and her father pioneered combination chemotherapy and conducted some of the first research on the administration of a series of chemotherapeutic drugs in a specific order.

Dr Wright was one of the first scientists to test anti-cancer drugs on humans rather than solely on mice, discovering the use of the popular antimetabolite drug methotrexate on solid tumors.

From her study and observation, she was able to conclude which specific anti-cancer agents would have the greatest lethal effect on a patient’s certain cancer type. In 1964, she published the results of her research describing new methods of drug administration which suggested chemotherapy could be infused through major blood vessels. Wright developed a non-surgical procedure using a catheter to deliver chemotherapy drugs to previously inaccessible tumors in the kidneys and spleen.

She treated patients that other physicians had given up on, and she was among the first small cadre of researchers to carefully test the effects of drugs against cancer in a clinical trial setting.

In 1955 she joined the faculty of New York University, as an associate professor of surgical research and director of cancer chemotherapy research.

Always seeking opportunities to share knowledge with her peers, she was among the seven founders of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the only woman.

From 1966 to 1970, Dr. Wright served on the U.S. National Cancer Institute's National Cancer Advisory Committee, which became elevated to a Presidentially appointed advisory board under the National Cancer Act of1971.
Jane Cooke Wright: Pioneering oncologist

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