Emil J. Freireich

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Emil J. Freireich
Born1927 (age 91–92)
Alma mater
Known forcombination chemotherapy
Scientific career

Emil J Freireich (born 1927)[1] is a cancer biologist recognized as a pioneer in the treatment of cancer and use of chemotherapy.

In 2014, he was honored as a Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research. He is currently employed as the Ruth Harriet Ainsworth Chair, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Director of Adult Leukemia Research Program, and Director of Special Medical Education Programs, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He has been at MD Anderson since 1965.[2]

He earned his M.D. from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1949.

Early life[edit]

Freireich grew up in poverty during the Great Depression. His parents were Hungarian immigrants. His father died when he was 2 years old, and his mother worked in a factory to support Emil and his elder sister.[3] After winning a science fair, a teacher recommended that he consider going to college. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign at the age of 16 with the help of donations from neighbors, and later from scholarships. He was medically excused from being drafted into World War II because of a broken leg. After graduation from medical school, he did an internship at Cook County Hospital, where he was fired due to disputes with administrators. As a result, he moved to Presbyterian Hospital of Chicago where he studied internal medicine under Howard Armstrong. He then studied hematology under Joe Ross at Mass Memorial Hospital in Boston. In 1955, he moved to the National Institutes of Health to avoid being drafted into the war as a doctor by joining the Public Health Service.[1]

Combination chemotherapy[edit]

In 1965, Emil Freireich, Emil Frei, and James F. Holland hypothesized that cancer could best be treated by combinations of drugs, each with a different mechanism of action. Cancer cells could conceivably mutate to become resistant to a single agent, but by using different drugs concurrently it would be more difficult for the tumor to develop resistance to the combination. After many experimental challenges, Holland, Freireich, and Frei simultaneously administered methotrexate, vincristine, 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) and prednisone, together referred to as the VAMP regimen, and induced long-term remissions in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).[2][4] With incremental refinements of original regimens, using randomized clinical studies by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Medical Research Council in the UK (UKALL protocols) and German Berlin-Frankfurt-Münster clinical trials group (ALL-BFM protocols), ALL in children has become a largely curable disease. This approach was extended to the lymphomas in 1963 by physicians at NCI, who ultimately proved that nitrogen mustard, vincristine, procarbazine and prednisone, known as the MOPP regimen, could cure patients with Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Currently, nearly all successful cancer chemotherapy regimens use this paradigm of multiple drugs given simultaneously, called combination chemotherapy or polychemotherapy.


He has been a recipient of numerous awards for his research, including;

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b https://history.nih.gov/archives/downloads/freireich.pdf
  2. ^ a b "Legendary oncologist returns to the limelight". Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  3. ^ "A Lasting Legacy - The ASCO Post". Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  4. ^ Mukherjee, Siddhartha (2011). The Emperor of All Maladies. NY: Scribbler. pp. 139–142.