To mark World Cancer Day (February 4th) our image of the month shows Professor Sir Kenneth Calman. Sir Kenneth was Professor of Oncology at the University of Glasgow from 1974 to 1984, and was appointed Chair of the National Cancer Research Institute in 2008. As Chair of our Wellcome Witness Seminar on 'The Discovery, Use and Impact of Platinum Salts as Chemotherapy Agents for Cancer' he presided over a wide-ranging meeting, featuring accounts of the science labs in Michigan State University which were investigating the chemical properties of platinum, through microbiology and cell biology labs, into experimental oncology and pharmacology facilities, and finally into drug production, clinical trials, and effective therapy. Although providing treatment for previously untreatable cancers, these platinum compounds produced such violent sickness and nausea that patients often refused the drugs because of the severity of the side-effects. In turn these stimulated the pharmaceutical development of effective anti-nausea compounds, now routinely used to treat or prevent sickness associated with a wide range of chemo- and radio-therapies. This particular Witness volume hears from the pioneering scientists who developed the compounds, the doctors who first tried them in patients for whom they had no other treatment to offer, and from an early patient (and her mother) who survived childhood cancer because of cisplatin.
The Witness seminar is available as a free .pdf download here: