Chapter 10: R. Lee Clark, Charles LeMaistre, and Philanthropic Houston Oilmen

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Chapter 10: R. Lee Clark, Charles LeMaistre, and Philanthropic Houston Oilmen

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Description

In this chapter, Dr. Gutterman shares memories and observations about Dr. R. Lee Clark and Dr. Charles LeMaistre. This includes a narrative of how Dr. Clark worked with Mary Lasker to support Dr. Gutterman's work on chronic myeloid leukemia, resulting in the use of interferon to suppress malignant clones while normal cells return. Dr. Gutterman provides many examples of challenges that arose within the institution to hold back his work. At the close of the session, Dr. Gutterman sketches the formation of the Interferon Foundation by several Houston oilmen, several of whom visited Charles LeMaistre to insist he remove obstacles to Dr. Gutterman's work.

Identifier

GuttermanJ_02_20120413_C10

Publication Date

4-13-2012

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 - Key MD Anderson Figures; The Researcher; Portraits; On Philanthropy and Volunteerism; On Research and Researchers; Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research; The History of Health Care, Patient Care; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Personal Background; Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson; MD Anderson History; Experiences re: Gender, Race, Ethnicity; Critical Perspectives; Obstacles, Challenges; Discovery and Success

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

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Are we at the point where—in terms of you talking about your research—where we can talk about you moving away into the area of Avicins, or are there more pieces to put together?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

There may be, but maybe it would be after I have a chance—it’s going to be a lot of stuff to read.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

At some point maybe tap into my own oral history where I will fill in blanks. I know I will. I’ve left out probably some things that may be important both in terms of MD Anderson, and I am quite aware that this is an MD Anderson history. It’s not just about me, but how I did it within the confines. I think one of the things that I have a gap in right now, and I probably will introduce this topic without getting into it, is what have I missed about MD Anderson? I think a lot. I think I need to talk more about that, but it may not be today.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

I’ll think about that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

How all this stuff I’m talking about—as I reflect on what I’ve talked about—meanwhile, I’m here. I’m a professor, and I’m doing stuff. So how does this relate to the political, sociological environment and so forth and so on? The changes from one president to another president—from one department to another department—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, actually, you are being very prescient, because I just pulled out that whole roster of presidents that you’ve worked under, and you’ve worked under four of them now.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Four now.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Three and half, but that is beside the—well, DePinho just started.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. So I was wondering if you could kind of describe the marks they each left on the institution—you know—maybe if you had personal interactions with you dealing with an issue, how that worked out, your impression of their working styles. And every lead has both strengths and weaknesses, so what did they bring, really, to the institution?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Well, I’ll talk about Clark. I’ll say something—some things about Dr. [Charles] LeMaistre, not necessarily particularly favorable, in terms of my interaction with him. There was one thing that I probably will describe, but I’ll have a chance to see this before—?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yes, absolutely.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Dr. [John] Mendelsohn came at a different time. And some of this may be better when I describe what I—because Mendelsohn came exactly the same year that I changed into a laboratory person and kind of went underground. I’m serious now. I’ve gone underground for, gosh, sixteen years.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Wow.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

I haven’t talked to anybody about it much. We’ve published a lot of papers. So during the whole Mendelsohn era—he came in ’96—that’s when I started with the Avicins—we discovered the Avicins. Mendelsohn left in 2011—you know—2012, and so that would be much less. And I kind of—I went underground. I just became—I became a recluse. People ask me, “Well, why did you give up all that blah, blah, blah? Everybody knew you. Why would you take a chance and start something brand new?” It was completely abstract. The Clayton Foundation deserves a lot of credit. We will talk about that. So Mendelsohn—there won’t be a lot, but we will talk a little bit about that because he and I crisscrossed way back in the interferon days. DePinho, it’s too early. So I will talk a little bit about Clark and LeMaistre and also this transition. First Clark, because it does deal with interferon, and then LeMaistre was interferon. Then Mendelsohn came, ironically, as I think about it, exactly when I changed fields. Clark—well, I was very young when I came here, but I always found him to be just a wonderful, wonderful gentleman. He was just a gracious, gracious man. I came here in ‘71, and in ‘78 when all this burst open, he was on the original cancer panel when— Mary Lasker, in ’71—it turns out, the year I came here, Mary Lasker pushed Nixon’s administration through a guy named Bobst—Elmer Bobst—to pass his national cancer plan. She was convinced that if we put in enough resources we can—and even though people have highly criticized the nature of it, because she thought we could have cancer cured in five years, ten years, twenty years. It’s much too complex, if we can ever really cure the disease. Cancer is always going to be with us, every time a cell divides. But what she did, I think, was quite visionary. She worked with Clark quite a bit because Clark, at that time—see, don’t forget now, this is the part about Anderson—and we may not finish all this today—is to go back in time when I’m doing all this stuff. What was the nature of society and MD Anderson cancer research? So in ’71, the year I came here, was the time the national cancer plan started. And again, a lot of this was because of—I could see how well trained Victorio Rodriguez was in clinical cancer, and that was what I wanted to do. Again, I’m not sure why exactly. I thought about this last night. [redacted] I became a hematologist. I wanted to do blood diseases, but he introduced me to solid tumors more. And in fact, there was no profession—no specialty called oncology when I first came here. It was just started the year I came. So a lot happened the year I came here. But I knew this was a place—I could see this was a place I could do stuff. I’m not dreaming about any of this stuff. When I came here, I thought MD Anderson was already massive. I thought Houston was massive. And—but I met him pretty early, and he was such a gracious man. He was originally, I think, from Georgia, but—you know—he embraced the Texas culture. He had a ranch, and it was a small place. Almost everybody knew everybody else. I mean, our HR department was just down in the main campus. You would just go down there—if you wanted an employee, you just go down there and talk to Ruth and say, “You know, I need someone who is this and this and this and this,” and they would find the person for you. And that is—because he retired in ‘78. It’s funny; these presidents have come in—I’m forgetting DePinho, which I would like to do. Jesus, is that—that goes nowhere. I came here in ‘71, the interferon broke in ‘78, and that was the year Clark retired. I switched fields in ’96, the year LeMaistre retired and Mendelsohn came in. And I’m starting a company here in Houston in 2012 when DePinho comes, which keeps me somewhat independent of this place. So I think—I always have kind of a—maybe it’s, again, like my father. When you’re in that situation with the czars and all this type of thing, you’ve got to always be ready to go. It could be my background of being Jewish—always have your suitcase packed. When is the time you push your sons out to go to America because I don’t know if we are going to make it? I wonder. I’m not—I mean—I’ve been here forty years, and I’m going to be here another—whatever. But you have to have backup plans in life, I think. I don’t know if I’m making sense here, but strategies. So with Clark I never felt that. I was young. But what I really loved about him personally was in—he knew Mary Lasker. Mary Lasker would praise me to him, and she had dealt with him with the National Cancer Plan and became one of the three advisors to President Nixon on the National Cancer Plan. There are wonderful pictures around here. So he and Mary were very tight. She was very close to people like this. So I was—when she met me in ‘73, ’74, I was kind of someone he knew and supported immensely. And then in ’78, as he was leaving—before he left—he really was excited about this—about the interferon and Mary Lasker’s involvement. It was quite a story even then, before we had done too much. But he went to Cuba. He got Castro to start making—in the seventies, everybody was trying to make interferon because nobody believed it could be synthetically made—that is, by cloning. So there were companies all over the place with blood banks trying to make all this precious stuff. I’m not sure I’ve talked about that, but we won’t talk about it today. I could review my notes on that. It’s been a long time. But Clark was very involved with Cuba.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So what was he doing there?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Well, to get Castro—he had some relationship with Castro, but I think he was trying to get Cuba to start making interferon, maybe to commercialize it and stuff. I don’t know. I have to go back to his history to find out. But I remember the year that he retired, in ’78—Mary Lasker and Ann Landers—Eppie Lederer—came down to visit DeBakey and Clark as he was leaving. I gave a little talk up in the conference room that still exists upstairs, over the main campus. Mary was there, Eppie was there, Clark came, and LeMaistre came. LeMaistre was just coming in and was introduced to this whole thing. I love Clark. I mean, I just—and then it was interesting. I was living in the high-rise after he—many, many years later—he had already retired, of course, for many years. [redacted] I had a very, very warm, very fun relationship with him. He was a real person of—he cared about people, and he was a visionary, just an amazing visionary. Those were much simpler times, though. Now, LeMaistre—we may say more about Clark, but LeMaistre, I think he was concerned about all the publicity. I think he heard bad things about me. He was a different man from Clark. I think he—I can’t—I don’t know this for a fact, but I think he was concerned whether we were too far over the top. I mean, there was the press here all the time. These were heavy days with cloning. NBC and CBS and—you know—all this stuff was happening all the time—local news and papers. It was hard to avoid that. And then we were getting these results—tumors were shrinking, hairy cell leukemia, CML. We were reporting this stuff, and people were picking up on it. I mean, it was real, and it is real.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Were there ways in which he overtly demonstrated support or concern about that?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Yeah. Well, what happened was—now, this is where women are interesting. When I met with Elaine Davis—and we’ve got about ten to fifteen minutes. We will probably just get to this. We’re not going to get to the transition today.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s fine. Next time. [redacted]

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I’ll just pause this.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Okay. Sorry. I should have shut that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s okay.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Ready?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yes, we’re ready. We’re good.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

“I don’t want this place getting a penny of it.” In fact, when Mary gave a million dollars to the Finnish Red Cross to buy interferon, she just sent the money directly to Finland. But she sent it in ’78, just as LeMaistre was getting here, and that doesn’t go well with administrators. So we got a million dollars, which economically was an amazing thing because we were getting people—in ’78, when the publicity came—we were getting more people than we could possibly handle. And we weren’t charging for the drugs, and they were paying to be patients here. But I’m guessing now that administrators in general, not all, don’t like that loss of control, because the money never went through here. She said, “I’m not sending it there. If I send a million out there, I might get a half million back out. They’ll have some rule or make up some rule and take it.” This was Mary. Elaine Davis, not knowing that, said the same thing. Women—intuition. It wasn’t a trust factor; it was just knowing how the world works. And she said, “We’re going to have not one penny go for anybody. We’ll pay for a secretary, whatever it takes, but we’re going to buy material for you—frozen energies—so you can treat patients.” They didn’t care about the research aspects. They just wanted to treat patients. They were rather naïve about things, but—you know—they are not scientists. So that is how they started the Interferon Foundation. And they brought in a guy named Roy Huffington from Huffco Oil—a billionaire oilman—independent oil dealer who had mostly his oil in Indonesia. That was my first exposure to the oil people. I went over to see Roy Huffington and his wife. He gave recently—before he died at the age of ninety—two or three years ago—he gave a big amount of money for an aging institute over at Baylor—Roy Huffington. [redacted] He was the—Leon did kind of the legwork on it. He was the soul behind it among the men in this foundation. But the entrée was Roy Huffington. He knew everybody. And he was a Texan. He had all the entrée to everybody. We started then going first to Shell Oil. We met with John Bookout, who was then the CEO of Shell. Leon and, again, Elaine were so smart about it. They said, “We’re not going to bureaucrats.” You know, it is kind of what I said about the downside of big pharma. “We’re not going to the head of the foundation. We’re going to the CEO. We don’t want to have to work through all that. We don’t have time. People are dying.” And this was in ’79, ‘80. The foundation, I think, was incorporated in early 1980, which, by the way, was exactly the same year that interferon was cloned—not producing the full-length drug—and I’m thinking we’re screwed. We’re not going to raise anything with all this PR going on at the same time with interferon. But we did. We got it done before it became a drug. It took a year, but in that year we raised all the money we needed to eventually translate it into all these saved lives. I didn’t know all that. So the timing of everything was amazing. So we went to John Bookout. Now, I had been on McNeil/Lehrer, as I indicated, the year before when it was first cloned. And Leon was smart. We’d go down to the Petroleum Club, usually, which was an interesting experience for me—a five-foot-six Jew with the six- and seven-foot Texans coming in in their boots and all. I felt so out of place. I really did. I mean, I’m not saying there was any anti-Semitism, but it was just—I felt uncomfortable. First, I was a doctor. I don’t think I’m a nerd, but to them, maybe. And all these rich oil people with their—and they were smoking in those days, and I will come back to the smoking—the cigars and stuff—and, “How you doing?” and all that stuff. But we had had a private room, and Leon would set up this TV set, and he had the cassette that I don’t know where it is today, of the first McNeil/Lehrer of interferon being cloned and me being on there. You know, TV has a big impact, and that’s what sold it. It was that TV show. After a while, I would start coming in late because I was busy, because I knew they were going to show the tape, and I didn’t want to watch that thing again—time and time again. It was kind of an interesting entrance. About halfway through, the man shows up, so to speak. I never thought of it that way. So John Bookout committed two million to me, and it just rolled from there. I’m not going to go through all of them because I probably can’t remember right now, but we became—so they put together, on this board, some of the really leading people of Houston—Davis, Huffington, Bob Lanier— [redacted] So Lanier was at the thing. Ken Jamieson, who was CEO of Exxon at the time, Baine Kerr, who would president of Pennzoil, and a few other—quite a board. We would meet from time to time, but it would be Leon, me, and Roy who would go to Pennzoil, who gave a million, Atlantic Richfield in Dallas that would give a million, Cheney’s company—what’s the name of that one? It’s a drilling company, but it’s—forget it. I’ll think of it. I think almost everybody but one or two companies gave us either a half a million—and as Leon would repeatedly say in every single meeting, “We’re not here to raise—to sell Girl Scout cookies. We can’t do it at five dollar donations. We really want—we need a significant—.” But in those days—’78, ’79, ’80, ’81—the oil industry was rolling in profits as they are today. And philanthropy, I think, was easier then because there weren’t as many people doing it. Like I was probably—because I had this new idea, and this was sexy—genetically engineered protein. I mean, my God, I had a—you know. So it was highly successful, and we took that money. Literally not a penny went to anything but to buy interferon. They wouldn’t even pay for my nurses and stuff. Then in 1980 a very important event happened. Leon took me over to a thing called—a foundation called the Clayton Foundation. I’m not going to have time today to talk about them, but they started giving me money for nurses and stuff. So I had a staff, because we couldn’t handle what was going on. I might just tell you that in 1995, after Mary died, I went to them with the idea I wanted to change fields. I had an abstract idea that plants a lot to offer, and we were missing big things in cancer. I thought there was going to be a revolution of how we understood cancer, and could I start working on a completely different—? It was an abstract—it was just like that paper there. It was just—I had no picture. I didn’t know what I was going to paint. I didn’t know what I was going to paint when I did that. I just let the emotions go. And they said, “Go for it. You did it before. We didn’t make any money. You didn’t make any money. Maybe this time we’ll get a patent. We’ll see.” We’ll talk about that story. But the Clayton people really helped me. So Leon played—and his wife played—a critical role here. Now, I was having more and more—the last five minutes—more and more trouble here, though. There was a lot of backlash about all the publicity. I told you there was this thing about the hairy cell leukemia wasn’t real. And I had it up to here. So I got Huffington and Lanier, who hadn’t been mayor yet, but two very big, powerful Texans—I’m going to tell this story; it’s the way it happened—and Leon Davis. I set up a meeting with Dr. LeMaistre. And I didn’t blame him. I’m just saying that there are just too many roadblocks. Now, all of the sudden, people are stopping me. I’m going to sidetrack for a second and give you the thing that just went over the edge. I got a memo around this time from the institutional review board saying, “Your original protocol where you had what is called Phase I interferon—you have now put five hundred and fifty patients on, and you cannot do that. You have to separate this out into disease types. The rules have changed. We’re going to stop you from ever treating another interferon patient with your natural interferon until you change the protocol.” I said, “We’ve already cured one disease with it. What are you talking about? What difference does it make if it is, on paper, five hundred patients or each is separate? You can’t stop me.” “Yes, we can.” That was it for me. I mean, that is what—I was—this was probably punitive, and it wasn’t fun. So the three of us—the three of them plus me went to see Dr. LeMaistre. And it was mainly Lanier who was the outspoken one saying, “Dr. Gutterman keeps saying there are roadblocks, and he just can’t seem to get the work done. It looks like he’s got the support of the administration.” All the right things were said. “What about this business of telling him not to go on McNeil/Lehrer, telling him because someone said it was fraudulent? What about that?” Well, finally, after about thirty minutes of this hemming and hawing, Lanier got up. He was so impatient with this because he was a business guy—he was—he’d do it. He stands up. He’s about six-foot-four. He smoked big cigars in those days. He goes right over to LeMaistre, who is sitting on this couch, and there was an ashtray there. He takes a deep breath—a big deep breathe—and he lets the smoke out. And he said, “Mickey, I just want a simple answer from you. Are you going to allow Dr. Gutterman to do his work or not? A simple yes or no is all I need.” “Yes, sir.” And he takes his cigar and—swoosh—all this smoke comes out. He said, “Gentlemen, have a good day,” and he just walks right out, all this smoking going—sort of like Woody Allen when he sneezed and all this cocaine was at a party and all this—I don’t know if you saw Annie Hall?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I did. Yes.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

He sneezed all the—a million dollars in cocaine goes up in smoke. So I saw through the haze LeMaistre was just kind of like—and I didn’t have a whole lot of problems after that. But it was near the end. It was near the end because it got approved and then Mendelsohn came in. And there were some other stories. I’m not going to get into them. One that—well, I know you’re interviewing LeMaistre, and I still—when he sees me, it’s very friendly. I think there is some admiration on both sides. I think he’s done a lot—he did a lot of good things. He had a tough time in accounting—we had some tough times here. I would say he always said the right thing, but I didn’t always feel I had the backing of the president’s office then. I did with Clark. But—you know—who knows? He was under some—perhaps a lot—of pressures and stuff. But when I see him, I have warm feelings about him. I think he was a good president. I mean, Clark was a great man. I think LeMaistre for the—he was here eighteen years. He did good things. I mean, we flourished. I did, for sure. And again, he kept the place such that—and Freireich had problems with him too. I don’t know if you asked Freireich that thing. Freireich probably told you a lot. Did he? I’m not getting into some stuff like Freireich got into. Yeah, that’s some tricky stuff. I’ve got to think about that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure. Yeah, it is. It is.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

I don’t like to get into certain things, but it’s part of the history.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Well, I’m not necessarily looking for dirt and opening the closets, but an evaluation of how someone has operated in an institution—I mean—that’s really what—you know—the baseline of what I’m interested in.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Well, Freireich—I mean—LeMaistre hired this guy, [Irwin] Krakoff, and Freireich had a heart attack he was raging so much back in ’85, I think it was. He had big problems, but he was more confrontational than I am. I tend to work around a problem. That’s a good character—I mean—I tend not to be as confrontational, but he likes the controversy. I think Freireich thrives on that type of stuff. He likes chaos. He likes the confrontation more than I do. I admire that. I don’t like that. In fact, I’m just the opposite. I tend to find my solutions in working around the problems in a positive way rather than—I would never have—but I kept complaining to Leon about I couldn’t get my work done. It was somebody else you’re interviewing that created a real problem for me. And I—whether I tell you about the story or not—but he blocked a grant to Clayton. And this somebody blocked the grant that you are interviewing—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. You spoke about it in one of your—

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Oh, did I?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, with Lesley.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Did I mention who it was?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative).

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Okay. I’m going to keep that. I mean, he would deny it. Every time he sees me, because—you know—he is over in this building. He can’t gush enough about seeing me. He loves to talk, and so he loves the old days. There’s selective memory. He would probably never remember it, but he did hold that up. But that is kind of par for the course. Anybody who has done anything has had people who get in the way.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure. Sure.

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

I actually like the guy. After a while, he became a great supporter. Once the stuff really proved that it worked, he became a great supporter. So I don’t have any ill feelings. I don’t have anything for LeMaistre either. Freireich probably does, but this is not about Freireich; this is about me.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

We’re at 3:20, so I want to make sure—

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

Yeah, we better go.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Why don’t we close off the interview for today?

Jordan Gutterman, MD:

So—and the way—yeah—and I think we can talk about it or take it off either way. (End of Audio Session 2)

Chapter 10: R. Lee Clark, Charles LeMaistre, and Philanthropic Houston Oilmen

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