Chapter 06: The Department of Developmental Therapeutics; Personal Stories and Reflections

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Chapter 06: The Department of Developmental Therapeutics; Personal Stories and Reflections

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In this chapter, Dr. Gutterman talks about MD Anderson and the Department of Developmental Therapeutics, which he joined as a Senior Fellow in 1971. He first explains that his participation in the Berry Plan brought him to MD Anderson. He talks about immediately sensing the spirit of freedom and possibility, the availability of money to support research, and the presence of many accomplished people, such as Dr. Emil J Freireich, who influenced him with his passion and intellect. Dr. Gutterman speaks about his brother and father as inspirations as well as his own artwork, his paintings. The session comes to a close with two personal stories that demonstrate that angiogenesis can both kill and heal.

Identifier

GuttermanJ_01_20120412_C06

Publication Date

4-12-2012

Publisher

The Historical Resources Center, The Research Medical Library, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - An Institutional Unit; Professional Path; Personal Background; Joining MD Anderson; Personal Reflections, Memories of MD Anderson; MD Anderson Past; Portraits; Formative Experiences; Discovery, Creativity and Innovation; Faith, Values, Beliefs; Evolution of Career; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Well, that, but let’s talk a little bit—because you brought it up earlier—at least start the dialogue about MD Anderson.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure. Sure.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

I don’t think, for many reasons, I could have done this, let alone what I am doing now—but let’s just stick to the interferon—without being here, which is bizarre in itself. And here again, let me just tell you a quick thing. I was at Duke in training, and I was chief resident of Medicine. There were two of us down at Hematology. I kept going to Washington and getting deferments to go—and I was on what is called the Berry Program. That is how I got to Texas.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s right.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

That was a serendipitous thing too—how I got to Texas from the Midwest or the east coast. I did go twice to meet a guy named Colonel Hill who made the assignments. I wanted to go to a teaching hospital. There was about six of them—Walter Reed—I learned immediately that no one gets into Walter Reed unless you are full-time army. Nobody gets into Letterman in San Francisco, and no one gets into the old one in Honolulu—I forget the name—in Hawaii because the permanent guys take those jobs. So there was San Antonio at Brooke Army Hospital. There was Madigan in Tacoma, Washington, and maybe one or two others. I always wanted to go to the west coast. I was just intrigued by Washington. So I was all set to go to Madigan, which thank God I didn’t. I remember walking from the VA to the university hospital in the middle of the week for a conference. I was a resident. AI got a page, and it was my wife. She said, “You got your assignment from the army.” I said, “Well, open it up.” And she said, “San Antonio, Texas.” I said, “Texas? Oh my God. Texas. Oh God. Okay.” So I was there for two years as chief of Hematology—great experience—great experience. They had us consult—first of all, the guy who was—I was a hematologist, but they had an oncologist who was from Bogota. Because he was in this country, he had to serve two years. I was in the Berry Plan, and so—and he was my assistant. But he trained here at MD Anderson. He had just come in himself.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And this is—? Is this Victorio Rodriguez?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Rodriguez, in ‘69. And because he had been there earlier, he got his professors, Freireich particularly, to come as consultants. Freireich came and changed my whole world, once I met him. And he took me to Houston—Victorio did. It was a huge city.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So when did you meet Dr. Freireich?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

It was ‘69 or ’70, in the army. But I knew then—Victorio took me over here. I saw MD Anderson, and I could just see possibilities. I could see—and that is what I am talking about Anderson. I could see that Texas, Houston specifically, and then MD Anderson—that maybe I could do things that I couldn’t do in a more restricted, older—in terms of like Duke. I could go back to Duke, which is very conservative. I didn’t have the—well, maybe I had some aspects of his personality, but you don’t know what drives—you know—in retrospect, why did I make this decision? I really liked the idea of the freedom and the openness. I could see that there was money here, and I was impressed with the various buildings with names on them and so forth. It just felt good, you know? But that first summer, as I said, I remember I had been in San Antonio, but it is much cooler—somewhat cooler there. But in ’71, when I came, which was forty years ago—will be forty-one years already, and I am just starting. This is a whole new thing I am working on. This is going to go on for a long time now. The best is yet to come. Who was it? Moss Hart, Act Two or Act Three or something—what is it? You know, there is a play called Act Two. I will call this act two. So this is act one. But that summer, I said, “Oh my God. I will stay a year or two, get my feet on the ground, and then go out to Washington or someplace.” I never left.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What did you think Washington held for you? I mean, why was—?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Just the weather, just the physical beauty.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, okay.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

It was a dream. I had never been there.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, Washington, meaning the state?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Not Washington DC.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

No. I don’t want to go to Washington DC. Not then and certainly not now.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I see. Okay.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

I don’t like Washington.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It was interesting; I was talking to Dr. [George] Stancel [Oral History Interview], and he was talking about how he was recruited in part because of his sort of pioneering spirit. I mean, he was recruited to help establish the new medical school. He talked about that same sort of a special time at—you know—feeling freedom. A lot of people have mentioned that, so it is interesting that you picked up on that right away and it intrigued you and made you feel like this would be a good home for your style of working.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Yes. I don’t think—I must have at some level knew it was there—at some level—but it came out—as I got here, exposed to Freireich, and I just developed sort of the way art did and the way Freireich maybe was the one most able to bring out this kind of possibilities and potential, but fully there and the same thing with art, with Mary Lasker, and—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So how did that happen with J Freireich? I mean, what was it that he brought out? And how did that happen?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Passion, determination, intelligence, no compromise, take no prisoners, never—I mean—just thinking, thinking, thinking, being unsatisfied, very, very exact thinking, and being prepared. Again, it lies with Mary Lasker and the Bay Area’s great people I have met, and there are many, many, many of them. I could tell you many stories in many different fields. I always try to learn from these people—anybody. Again, that’s sort of an I/thou relationship is that these highly accomplished—I mean, I learn a lot just watching a great golfer like Tiger Woods or something, just the determination and the tenacity of their art and so forth, you know? Or a great sporting event—I am not obsessed with sports, but I do love to watch certain highly accomplished athletes because they practice and they practice their thing. Sure, they are gifted. So you can learn from almost anybody. I mean, I learn from both—I learn from anybody. But I regret, for example, as a freshman in college, my brother (???) (inaudible), did a year’s residence in Charlottesville, and he used to pass our dorm every morning. We would see him in the library with his pipe. God, I wish I had talked to him some, but—you know—you are a freshman in college (???) (inaudible), you know? But today I wouldn’t hesitate, you know? I will tell you some funny stories about—I mean—interesting stories about going up to—I mean—famous artists that I noticed, because when I am traveling, I am always watching things. Now back to Texas, though. But I could feel it. First of all, Mary Lasker, she was very closely tied in with Texas, with Houston, because of a very close relationship with Mike DeBakey. So she and Ann Landers, Eppie Lederer, came down here in ‘74 and visited. I was asked by Lee Clark, the president—well, he asked Freireich, actually, to select two or three people in those departments. They had seven or eight people. We probably—it’s on the transcript. That would not have happened if I hadn’t been here in Texas—not in Seattle or Tacoma, you know? So that was a huge, huge thing. Was it preordained? Was it—? I don’t know. And she liked the spirit of Texas. In fact—well, Joe Goldstein, I was the one that got him to be chairman. Two of the three chairman of the jury since the thing was started in the ‘40s have been Texans. So I think the opportunity to do that—to do clinical work again—a lot is framed by Freireich. And he is open to any new idea as long as it makes sense, and of course you have to go through the right approvals and stuff. He gave me the courage to be aggressive, to have a new idea, to challenge—goodness knows—a lot of things, but certainly cancer. We need new ideas, new thoughts, or we are never—yeah, we can pat ourselves on the back for certain things. That is great. Let’s move on because we are—and so that environment existed here. You can find it—I don’t know if it would have existed too many other places. Would I have succeeded like this anyplace else? I don’t know. I’m not so sure. Not because—I don’t know.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So it was a unique intellectual environment?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

With just—?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Emotionally, and what I mean by emotional is that the drive and all that was not just intellectual, you know?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. Right.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Well, again, find a way to do it.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

The committee turned it down? Find a way to get around it if you are passionate. You can’t—you know—and do it.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Can you talk a bit about Developmental Therapeutics when you came? Because that is—you came as a fellow?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Yeah, well, that was the environment—that was the environment.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. I mean, can you—it is—that department was created in 1965 by J Freireich and Emil Frei, and it was pretty controversial. He talks about that in his interview. And so you walk into this environment. The department is kind of controversial. What were you picking up about that? Did you—?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

There isn’t enough—I just—I swear to God, you are a Terry Gross. You are. Listen to her. Go listen to her. I don’t know if you can hear it.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I don’t. I probably couldn’t. I mean, I have heard her interviews.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

I love listening to her. But you were asking the same—just the way—I don’t know—your mannerisms. Everything about you is Terry Gross. I’m sorry. I’m probably embarrassing you.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

No, I know. I’m just—nobody has ever said that. I guess I’m flattered. I am flattered.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

No, you are Tacey. You are Tacey. You are not Terry. Okay. So I got distracted again because I swear to God I am on a radio show here. Anyway, humor is very important to keep all the time.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

No. It is. It is.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Yeah, so I—that is one thing I always keep. So what? Describe the environment?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Well, no. I mean, the story of it first being out in these mobile homes—you know—it is kind of incredible. And people have commented on the controversy of using the very aggressive treatments that they used and that there was this tension between an old guard that—

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Correct.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And so you’re coming in and the whole idea—they came up with this name, Developmental Therapeutics, to name what they were doing, whatever that was. I mean, it was sort of a new thing. And obviously you’ve got this freedom of—spirit of freedom and you’re kind of fitting in. So I’m wondering, what was that like? I mean, this is institution building. It was institution building, creating this new department or a certain kind of activity—intellectual, emotional, clinical—was going to take place. And so I guess I am just asking, what was it like? What do you feel you offered? What did you get in those early years?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Well, it was exciting because, again, I am not sure exactly when that developed, but certainly I was evolving into someone who was an independent thinker who wanted some new things. When I was—and I am going to tell you an emotional story about this briefly. When I was eleven, my uncle who lived with us—he was the one that came with my dad—well, he came right before my dad, but he was a little older than my dad. He lived with us in South Dakota. He never got married, as many immigrants did not. And one day he came down with what I was told was tuberculosis—the cough. He went to Mayo Clinic, he had his lung removed, and he died May 5, 1949, of lung cancer. I mean, he had cancer. He was a Lucky smoker. Not a very creative title, but I wrote a piece about that called Unlucky Strikes. What was interesting in that piece was—and this deals with Developmental Therapeutics—but in that piece is that—and still pretty right field, but new blood vessels and nutrition is so critical—angiogenesis. Although it is not the greatest, it is a long story about the therapeutics aspect. My father had had a near-fatal heart attack around the same time my uncle was dying. And in those days he kept talking, “The doctor says the collateral circulation is coming back,” and he lived another thirty-five years. It was interesting how the same process healed my father and killed my uncle. So I wrote this piece—the paradox. It is called The Paradox of Angiogenesis. One heals, and the other kills. That was an interesting piece. And so—I was eleven. And my father—it was his only living relative in terms of blood because his older brother had died of some liver cancer or something way before I was born. So I think I was always driven in seeing these other people. And my mother taught me—Rounds with Mom and so forth and aging and all that—to do something different. So Freireich’s personality just appealed to me, and that whole environment that you are just free to take your ideas and go with them. No one is going to laugh at you. No one is going to say, “Don’t.” I saw the other guys around here—oh my God—you know—Neanderthal-type—I’m sorry. I mean in terms of thinking. “No, give single drugs. Please be careful.” “But these patients are dying with what you do.” “I know, but we don’t want problems. Life is simpler.” That just wasn’t me. And so this whole environment—and we were all imbued with that philosophy. I could just—I would have to think back to, again—I probably will about how it affected me. But it was so exciting to be in an environment where you could do new things and be free to do it. And so when Mary Lasker and I started talking about interferon—and it was only three years after I got here, and I went to a meeting on interferon in 1975. I was only—a little less than four years—which is another interesting story. My father died on the first night of Passover. Have you ever been to a Seder—a Jewish Seder?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yes.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

He died on the first night of Passover—first day of Passover—April 7, 1974. The first day of Passover this year was also on April 7. It changes every year, which is interesting. You know, I remember he died of heart failure. And in the Jewish religion, often there is an unveiling of the tombstone the year afterwards, which is a very important, I think, mourning process because of the rawness of the death is not so evident. You have had time then to reflect. So frequently families will come together, and the tombstone is laid and so forth there. You have another service. It turns out, because it was the Passover time, my family and I, we went to Norfolk, Virginia. My mother was still alive. We were there for Passover and—but we went because of the unveiling. I get a call from somebody saying that there is a meeting on interferon up in New York and no one wants to go here. It was Freireich. Actually, Freireich did come for half a day. He said, “I talked to this person who was more senior, and nobody wants to go. Everybody thinks it is nothing.” I said, “Oh my God,” because I had been already talking to Mary Lasker. So I just flew up on Piedmont Airlines to New York, and there I met all these people, Mathilde Krim included, who was a great advocate of AIDS. Mary was there, and it sealed the deal with her and me. We both got the lay of the land. People were saying gene cloning will never happen in our lifetime. She would look at me, and she said, “Do you believe that?” I said, “No, not with the way science is going, unless I get caught by the cream color here with the pink in contrast to the red.” That is a Richard DeManincor poster. And so, again, it was just—it was like my father’s death led to my being at the right place at the right time. Would I have gone to that meeting if I had been here? I don’t know. I don’t know. I just don’t know. But this is an opportunity to jump in. Freireich actually came to that even though it wasn’t his field. He showed up for one night, and then he left. I still remember that, because he sort of recognized the potential importance of it. And so that is the type of thing that just—it was so exciting. And we had been bothered by all the conservative nature—Lee Clark deserves a lot of credit for bringing these two guys here, particularly Freireich, because—you know—Frei was a gentleman. Freireich—you know—really antagonizes people. I mean, I idolize the man. We could talk about him for another tape. We could talk about Mary Lasker for a tape. But these great people—and they are great people, not only with what they accomplished but how they bring other people alive. It’s being alive, you know? So I will think a little bit more about it, but then all my colleagues were equally—they wouldn’t be in this competitive, chaotic—kind of chaotic—thing, which I like. You know, everything—the reason things happen is because collisions happen, and there is some chaos involved. It’s still organized chaos, but you got to have that. Today it’s if you don’t do this and this and this, you are never going to accomplish anything. Life is dull. Life is dull that way. I mean, I just cannot imagine going through life doing that. And of course the more I got into it the more—you know—you get older and you understand things better.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I was going to say you sound like you have an artistic temperament, and now you are releasing it with your paintings.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, these colors just—if I didn’t have all this up—I just had them stacked up here because—I have a large art collection. I mean, I collect real art, not posters. And that was Mary Lasker too. She gave me the courage to put what I—to take $5000 for a Sam Francis work on paper, which today is probably—it’s not the money involved—but to start buying art because I saw that her Rothko she bought for $10,000—this particular one—I mean—not this piece, but this poster, of course—for $10,000. She sold it for $400,000, and today it is worth $40 million.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Is there something that—? You were talking a moment ago about the large stature of personalities that you moved with here, and you are one of them too. Is there something of that kind of personality you see behind that Mark Rothko or—? (knocking on the door). Yeah, come in. Female Speaker I’m sorry. There is some wiring going on in this conference room, so you’re going to the conference room on the second floor.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Second floor.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Let me just—

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Sorry about that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s okay.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Erase that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It’s back on. Yeah, they’ll take it out.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

And what did you ask now?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I was asking if you saw a similarity between sort of heroic stature of the people that you work with here and the artists that are behind these works.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Can you talk about that a little bit?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Well, I think—I mean, that red is like this—you know—the heroic nature of the painting, opening up new fields. For example, Pollock and Rothko—these people that did abstract art and, again, they thought they were crazy, pouring paint on and there is no real image and all this stuff. But they are trying to express the truth, you know? And it’s also what’s inside of that—this idea of producing an image that you respond to emotionally. Sam was that way with color. I mean, he was a great colorist. I think they’re being courageous. I think they are expressing themselves with little restraint. Some of them—Sam unfortunately begins to get somewhat commercial and is aware of it. And people can change. I mean, they are all different. Pollock was an alcoholic and killed himself in an accident. Rothko was an alcoholic. He also killed himself. I mean real suicide. Rothko said in the play, “Pollock committed suicide, but it was an auto accident. When I commit suicide, I’m going to do it, and nobody has any question about it.” It is really a great line. I doubt he ever said—the kids say they don’t think he ever said that. But let me think about that. That is a great question. I’m sure there is a parallel, for sure, of freeing up their inner life, their emotions, and doing kind of courageous things and producing things of beauty—in this case, art. Whether it is music or art or literature or science and stuff, I think it is all part of the same complex. But I’ve got to think about that a little. I’m not expressing it real well. That probably means I’ve got to go.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, why don’t we—we will close off for today. It is just a couple minutes after 3:00. And thanks very much. I look forward to our next conversation.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Okay. I hope that is what— (End of Audio Session 1)

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Session 2: April 13, 2012

Chapter 06: The Department of Developmental Therapeutics; Personal Stories and Reflections

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