Chapter 01: Early MD Anderson Pioneers

Title

Chapter 01: Early MD Anderson Pioneers

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Identifier

GuttermanJ_01_20041201_RD_C01

Publication Date

12-1-2004

Publisher

The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Building the Institution; MD Anderson Past; Building/Transforming the Institution; Portraits

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

Lesley W. Brunet

-- W. Brunet and James S. Olson, PhD, about to record an oral history interview with Jordan U. Gutterman, MD. The date is December 1st, 2004. This interview is being recorded in Dr. Gutterman's office at the Smith Research Building at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. This interview is being recorded for the UT -- did I already say that? MD Anderson Cancer Center oral history project. (break in audio)

Lesley W. Brunet

-- sort of be the [bloodiest?].

James S. Olson PhD

Great. What do you like to do?

Jordan Gutterman, MD

What do I like to do?

James S. Olson PhD

Well, I'll step back one question. Two more difficulties about the book that I'm just going to share with you.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

You probably don't need that.

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh, we can edit it out. (inaudible)

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Oh, OK. Your choice.

James S. Olson PhD

This is not going to be the typical kind of sort of hospital history, you know, where every department and sort of every person gets named in a paragraph, at least one paragraph kind of thing, you know. And it's a hard thing, because I kind of, when we deal with people here on the project, they sort of -- when they think of a book about a hospital, they think that of that other kind of book. So I'm kind of interested, really, primarily in kind of the players here. The people at MD Anderson that not just exercise influence here at the hospital, but also in oncology. When someone writes a history of oncology 50 years from now, which people at MD Anderson will they be, are certain to be in there. So, there's a selection process going on all the time about who's going to be in the book. We had a complaint from -- was it someone down in veterinary medicine that I hadn't come by to get the history of their lab down there yet. And it's probably not going to get in there, because it's just not that kind of a story. (laughter) So I wanted to make -- and that's kind of a hard thing, because I was just, confidentially now. We had a nice interview out, we were just talk -- we had a nice interview with Joseph Sinkovics here. Now, did you...

Jordan Gutterman, MD

He was here when I came. And I still see him, run into him now and then in the library.

James S. Olson PhD

Right. OK. Yeah.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

He comes from Tampa. I don't know if he's still got a home here, or exactly why he comes here.

Lesley W. Brunet

He's coming for the ovarian conferences.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Oh, OK. Yeah.

James S. Olson PhD

And it's really wonderful couple of hours we spent with him, enjoyed him very, very much. And...

Jordan Gutterman, MD

He came close to making -- winning a Nobel Prize. He was on the verge of making monoclonal antibodies. So the prize that went, in the '80s, for Köhler and Milstein, he was kind of -- he was on the verge there, but nobody would know outside of MD Anderson, very few people would remember who he is, more or less. But a very creative and ineccentric guy.

Lesley W. Brunet

Ineccentric?

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Yeah. Oh yeah. I don't think he was a -- yeah. I mean, I always liked Joe. But he was here when I came, I forget.

James S. Olson PhD

Yeah. So where would he fit into the -- if you're writing a history of the MD Anderson hospital, you know, where would Sinkovics be in there? You talked some, he's a great guy, and some interesting stories. But then, I still got to sort of step back here in telling the story of the institution, you know, does he have a prominent role to play in the institution, or -- you know, story, but that's not going to be kind of what the heart and soul of things, you know. So the other thing I have to do is try to identify, often ask the people, which I'll ask you, and if you're going to kind of look at the history of oncology.


Chapter 01: Early MD Anderson Pioneers

B: Building the Institution

Story Codes: B: MD Anderson Past

B: Building/Transforming the Institution

C: Portraits

James S. Olson PhD

Who really matters in the history of the institution?

Jordan Gutterman, MD

In terms of oncology or the MD Anderson? Which...

James S. Olson PhD

Either or both. I mean, there's some people, obviously, like Clark, LeMaistre, or Bertner, you know, that have to get mentioned, just because of the administrative role they played in building the institution, you know. But then there are other people that kind of have been in the institution and have wielded great influence inside, but also great influence outside in ASCO or whatever. And I do seek opinions from people if someone would -- or basic scientists. Where does David Anderson fit? Where does Grady Saunders fit? Garth Nicolson. All kinds of little -- (laughter) right? I look at the smile, I know that. I sat with my own physician the other day, he said he hates Garth Nicolson.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Here at MD Anderson?

James S. Olson PhD

Up in Huntsville. He said he hated Garth Nicolson. I said, didja? He says yeah.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

How did you -- was he trained here?

James S. Olson PhD

What, the physician? No. He just practiced, he's a general practitioner.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Well how would he even know Nicolson?

James S. Olson PhD

Because Garth Nicolson tried to recruit all kinds of Vietnam War veterans to come down and being treated for Gulf War Syndrome.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Oh, that crazy stuff he got into.

James S. Olson PhD

Yeah, and all the GPs around East Texas just get inundated by Gulf War veterans and family members wanting to get this -- what is it, the mycoplasma or whatever. Yeah.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

It wasn't Vietnam...

James S. Olson PhD

Gulf War. Excuse me. Yeah. Gulf War syndrome, right. Uh huh. So, suddenly, Nicolson's name kind of pops up out of the blue of the -- with the doctor there. But for me, that's a great story. And it'll be in there. It's a story that needs to be told, because it caused great controversy inside the institution. We had that -- physically remove his wife from the lab after she'd been discontinued, fired. She stopped showing up. And then outside the institution, there's people who kind of remember it. It's not a big story, but -- I'm supposed to write things that people find interesting. And what some of the stories are. Yeah.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

And you got to deal with the Conrad murder?

James S. Olson PhD

Yes. Definitely.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Was that ever solved?

Lesley W. Brunet

No. Someone -- several people have charged me with solving it. But you -- someone had the good -- who was the lead, about it was the secretary from the Institute of Religion? Remember when the secretary of the institute where they shot...

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Dr. Nelson. His name was Nelson. No, no, Nelson was -- Nelson was the head of -- no, Nelson, because I knew his son. He was a venture capitalist. And Eric. So I remember calling Eric in my old, old office, about his dad, who was shot by this woman. Because I heard she was involved here, but I -- I don't know. Did Freireich give you his opinion?

James S. Olson PhD

Mmhmm.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

OK. We'll have that off. I guarantee you.

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh no, it's all there.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

What's that?

Lesley W. Brunet

He's already -- it's on (inaudible).

James S. Olson PhD

Yeah.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Well. (laughter)

James S. Olson PhD

Yeah, he gave me his opinion. Uh huh.

Lesley W. Brunet

And you had an idea about the...

James S. Olson PhD

Yes, I go through the documents. I mean, I see there was a woman in the volunteer services who -- and this is just -- this is total speculation, you know. But well, there were people that the police did not interview that I found kind of interesting over the years.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

I think there was a cover-up.

James S. Olson PhD

Something was off. I'm convinced, simply because people that had proximity in their own offices just weren't interviewed very carefully about the events that morning, even though they were there within a few hours of the incident. Or there'd be complains surfacing about some of the documents about Conrad. One I found interesting was, there was a woman who gets very involved in these ski trips, the pediatric ski trips that were going on with volunteer services, and it had a lot of media attention. But she was very clingy with the kids, OK. Too clingy with the kids. It's like she sort of adopted each one of them herself, and sort of becomes a pseudo-mother of some kind, and volunteer services has to terminate her. And she was very upset.

Lesley W. Brunet

This was Sunshine Kids?

James S. Olson PhD

It was the Sunshine Kids. Yeah. And there are letters from a big construction company her father owned, and she went in, and complained to Conrad and wanted her job back in volunteer services, and he wouldn't give it to her. And my thought was, did the cops interview people from this construction company? Yeah. So, that's not a -- I don't have any theory about it. You sort of sit in the documents, you put two and two together, you probably came up with 2+2=8, nothing to it. But...

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Well, it was sort of -- in my opinion of those things, that if the energy had been -- it would have applied, it would have somewhat analogous. You wanted to find that half-sister. Now, you didn't find it because you didn't go give that rotary talk at Huntsville to find the sister. But if there's enough energy put into a matter, I really feel that things happen. And they're called luck, but -- anyway. So you're giving this talk, and whatever drove you there, this astonishing story occurs. I think if they had put energy, for whatever reason, we can speculate -- it was clear. I had an interview with him that morning -- I mean, an appointment with him at 11AM that morning. And so, since I was on the calendar, the bloodied calendar, I was interviewed very briefly. But it seemed to all of us that this was kind of hushed over.

Lesley W. Brunet

Yeah. We're trying to find some of the leads records and things like that, if they still exist.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

I still think it's an unsolved --

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh, it is an unsolved.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

-- mystery that I'm just shocked that there's now more interest in trying to solve it. Because if it's what a lot of people feel, that would be an astonishing story.

Lesley W. Brunet

And what do a lot of people feel?

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Well I -- (break in audio)

James S. Olson PhD

She asked me to not mention it at all. She felt, she told me -- didn't tell me the name of the individual, she said Conrad had control over the formulary. And it turned down, refused to add a chemotherapy regimen to the formulary of some kind, and she thought it was a revenge killing for that. I don't even know if Conrad was in charge of the formulary at that time.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Didn't sound logical. I mean, I think it was much bigger than that. If it was, I think it dealt with all these contracts. I just have a good clear memory of all that building -- that was kind of the early building phases. You know, they named one of the clinics, there's a plaque over there. Anyway, back to -- we can -- anyway. So one of the areas of who, who would be the names, both in terms of oncology -- maybe we can start with that. Well, at the top of the list in terms of -- I think there's been one -- in my opinion, there's been one giant in terms of clinical cancer research that has -- well, two. That have graced this institute. There may be others, I have to think about. But at the top of the list would be Freireich. There's no doubt about it. And Frei would be number two. But Freireich number one, because I think the drive, much of the intellectual -- I mean, there's a very interesting piece by a close friend of mine, Joe Goldstein, who's a Nobel Laureate from Dallas. He shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1985 with Michael Brown. They've worked together in a very unusual tandem at UT Southwestern since 1973 for 31 years. He wrote a very interesting piece in Nature Medicine. I'm director of the Lasker Awards, and he runs the jury. Since I'm a trustee, I don't vote. But we work very close together, we've become very close friends. And a lot of my recent ideas in the last several years about how to approach a scientific problem, because he's an MD, went right into the lab, and I did a lot of clinical research now going into the lab. But it's come from my association with him. But he wrote a very interesting piece about dualism in art, and how it applied to science, because he likes art like I do. So he wrote a piece about Matisse and Picasso, how they -- because there was this exhibit in New York at the Museum of Modern Art, when they were rebuilding -- redoing the museum, it was out in Queens, showing the competition. Matisse would see Picasso, and would stimulate him, and so forth and so on. So, because we gave the Lasker Award three years ago to these scientists on each coast who had that type of relationship. Rothman would -- from Sloan-Kettering, would publish a paper. And it would stimulate Schekman out in Berkeley to do it. It was very interesting, because Rothman was 6 foot 5, and Schekman was 5 foot 4. And it was very interesting how he gave this -- Rothman would give a presentation, and then Schekman would leapfrog -- if you could believe his leapfrogging over Rothman. He always got this short thing. But he wrote this interesting piece. And so, then he mentioned that there are many duos. They stayed together for many years, you know or short term, Watson and Crick. Most of the brains came from Crick. But without Watson, probably that wouldn't have happened. Certainly without Crick, there'd be no double helix from those two. Pauling worked alone. Goldstein and Brown. Goldstein is all over the place, Brown is grounded. Brown is absolutely brilliant, Goldstein's brilliant but in different ways. Frei and Freireich, and the reason I bring this up, is a lot -- Frei is the grounded one. Freireich was the passionate -- and there's a reason for it. I don't -- do you know the history of Freireich, why he probably developed this incredible intense passion for curing childhood leukemia?

James S. Olson PhD

Well, I remember him talking about just these kids, and these hemorrhaging, and these warts.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

But there was a reason -- a personal reason. That preceded this.

Lesley W. Brunet

Was it the girlfriend? This -- was she (inaudible).

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Yeah. I don't know if he told you this story, but it's well documented.

Lesley W. Brunet

He sometimes -- he minimalizes it.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Well, I'm sure he does. It's probably still -- because he was -- grew up in Chicago, his father committed suicide. Again, I don't know how much he told you. But -- and he -- so his mother -- he grew up poor. And -- but he got to the University of Chicago Medical School. I think he went -- no, I guess it was University of Illinois in Chicago. And then he was -- somewhere in there, he met this woman, I forget her name, begins with an F. But -- Lorraine? No, it was -- well, whatever. There used to be in our library a thing called "Leukemia." It was a little annual publication. And there's a whole history back from the -- when I first came here, published in the '60s about this woman. I don't know if those issues still exist. So, she -- they were engaged. And she developed ALL. And died. Think before he went to Boston. Then he met his current wife, she was a nurse up there. And he never talks about it. But it's impossible for me not to think, because he was just getting into hematology, or medicine, at the time. That this wasn't what really drove him. Because you can see it. So anyway. That -- but he needed, I think, the solidification and the organizational skills, the political skills, and the testing with another person. And it often happens in science. So that's the relationship. And since Frei was the more senior, the smoother, didn't ruffle feathers, very political. I like Tom a lot. But they needed each other. Without Freireich's drive and brilliance, encouraged -- this would never have happened. Probably without Frei, would never have happened. So -- but so, those two are in the top of the list. You have to come down, way down to start thinking about others in terms of the impact. But either in basic or clinical research. I can't think of -- there may -- obviously that's one of the reasons I wanted to start. I don't want to talk too fast if you're going to try to listen to it, so I'll try to slow down a little bit. But I get excited about these issues. I'll have to think about the basic accomplishments. Has there really been any seminal basic -- because we're not really known for that. Or is it just details? You know. Are there any real principles? That's what I'm always looking for?

Lesley W. Brunet

T.C. Hsu.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Yeah. That -- OK. That's an important. He was right there on the chromosome issues, and the ability to do cytogenetics. Very important seminal thing. That was before my time. I mean, he was here. He was actually in this building. I saw him shortly before he died. But, he did all that work before I came here in the '50s. I was still in high school. Yeah. T.C. Hsu. Very good point. So yeah. I said I had to think about -- and there may be well other -- there may be others in terms of laboratory. But, one of the things that drives me personally is that I think that 99% of both basic and clinical science is filling in the details. But we're not establishing new principles. And that's what I'm trying to do with the work we'll talk about at some point, what I'm doing now. Because just filling on which oncogene attaches itself to this oncogene and in this cancer is just detail. It's not going to get us anywhere. It's just incremental stuff. The people that I remember and really had the impact -- you need both. I mean, I'm not denying detail people. But when you're talking about an impact, you want people who really, you know, to lack of a better phrase, which is worn out, is paradigm shifting, here. You know. And are you familiar with the book by -- on the history of science by, it begins with K, what's his name, uh -- I'll find you that book. It's about the shifting of scientific paradigms. I'll think of it the second you walk out. It's not Kunin. But Kyunin -- something like that. I'll just remember it. But it's probably a book you might want to take a look at, because it talks about paradigm shifts. We deal with it in the Lasker Awards all the time. So when we give a clinical or basic Lasker Awards, it's for paradigm shifts. My phrase is this. It's seeing what everybody else is seeing, but thinking what nobody else thought before. And sometimes it's seeing what nobody else saw, as well. In a way, you could say it's seeing what everybody thinks they're seeing, but you see it in a different way. You think a different way. That's our criteria. And I have high standards for that, although I realize 90% of what gets done, even taking care of patients, is very critical. But in terms of real, real impact. And then there's the clinical impact. And that's been very high here, because we've had outstanding clinicians, and I certainly would be the last to denigrate that. So, I think I'm going to be thinking about who are the people -- I mean, Fletcher would be an example. Again, the guy who was here mostly before my time, and I don't know the history of radiotherapy very well. But certainly, on an international -- national, international, local international, he was a major player. But he, he was kind of almost retired by the time I got here in '71. Some of the surgical techniques probably, Martin comes to mind, and probably others as well. I don't know that history very well. But in terms of medical, chemotherapy specifically, obviously Freireich stands out with Frei. And Frei was only here from '65 until '72. He was here seven years. Freireich came in '65.

James S. Olson PhD

Hersh told me an interesting story about Frei's wife. I don't know whether you might know whether it's true or not.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Liz.

James S. Olson PhD

Yeah.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Elizabeth. '69, she -- she, during Vietnam, during that conference you talked about, she had -- they arrested her, I think. She was a real leftie. Is that what he was talking about?

James S. Olson PhD

Yeah, the Federal Building that said Clark was just enraged about it. And moved all of Frei's stuff out of his office into the hallway.

Jordan Gutterman, MD

Well, if Evan said that, he was my -- when I came here, I worked with Evan. And -- 'til he left in '85. And Frei did -- well, he got the job at Dana-Farber, so he left here. But that was right before my time, I came here in '71. I wouldn't be a bit surprised. Because Frei was -- I mean, his wife in particular was a real -- that didn't go over well in Texas. You know. A left-wing liberal like that, extreme left-wing liberal. Interesting.

Lesley W. Brunet

But she -- she chained herself or made some protests during the conference -- the cancer conference, right? Or was it a different...

James S. Olson PhD

Well, she was very upset was Agnew was coming to give the -- the keynote address, that. She didn't think too highly of Nixon and Agnew. (laughter) It's so -- and I guess was rumbling about doing something, but didn't. You know, I think it was the...

Lesley W. Brunet

Was it a different -- she was arrested for a different protest?

James S. Olson PhD

Uh huh. Yeah. She chained herself or something to the Federal Building. Yeah. And it got into the press as an MD Anderson -- wife of an MD Anderson faculty member, I think. Clark took a very dim view of that. That kind of press, I think, so. But, I -- Dr. Hersh told me that story.

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