Chapter 09: Luminaries in the Department of Pediatrics and Evolution in the Field of Cancer Research

Chapter 09: Luminaries in the Department of Pediatrics and Evolution in the Field of Cancer Research



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Dr. Gehan fondly recalls Dr. Wataru Walter Sutow, recollects his participation with Dr’s Grant Taylor and Margaret Patricia Sullivan in a group studying the effects of atomic radiation, and speculates on how they came to MD Anderson’s Department of Pediatrics. He discusses pediatric cancer researchers’ perspectives on cancer research, how they differed from cancer research in adults, and changing involvement over time in various research groups (e.g. Southwest Oncology Group). Lastly, he notes Dr. Archie Bleyer would know more information regarding the pediatric cancer research activity.



Publication Date



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


Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - An Institutional Unit; Building/Transforming the Institution; Giving Recognition; On Research and Researchers

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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.


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


Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I did quite a bit of work with the Department of Pediatrics. I would mention in particular, Dr. Watsuto, who died in 1981 or 1982—1981, I think.

Lesley W. Brunet:

I know his wife just passed away last summer.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:


Lesley W. Brunet:

I have been talking to his daughter about some things still at the family home.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

He was a very gentle man—a very, very fine man. I think that some of that group first met in Japan. I think Dr. Taylor was head of a group concerned with the effects of atomic radiation and Watsuto was in that group and so was Pat Sullivan. The three of them, I don’t know the exact story of how they came here, but they did. Perhaps it was between the relationship Taylor and Clark. I think they were close.

Lesley W. Brunet:

They really did chemotherapy research in Pediatrics?

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

In Pediatrics?

Lesley W. Brunet:

Yes, Pediatrics. I don’t know that it compared to the amount they did in Developmental Therapeutics, but it was substantial (voice over)…

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I think that the distinction between them and Developmental Therapeutics, I think Developmental Therapeutics was a broader program. They were interested in clinical pharmacology, immunology—kind of the whole spectrum of the development of cancer drugs. Whereas pediatrics was more, you know, as drugs came along they would apply them to the pediatric patients. Well, cancer is tragic for children, but it is not a major problem for pediatric [patients]. Cancer still is mostly an older population. Statistically, there are smaller numbers of pediatric patients. I think they had a good group, and I think they did have kind of an inferiority complex, I don’t know. They always felt that they were sort of the weaker sisters of the Southwest Oncology Group. Initially it was just one group, but then there was an adult division and a pediatric division, and I don’t remember exactly—that came in the 1970’s sometime. They wanted more control to do their own thing, so to speak. Before that there were protocols. The children and adults were entered into the study, but the entries would tend to be dominated by the adult entries, so pediatrics was smaller. Tape 3, Side A

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

This is Dr. Ed Gehan again at 2:40 p.m. It may be easier to track it down; March 28, 2002. So I think the pediatric group has always been concerned about their image and having control of their own destiny, so eventually they did have their own division within the Southwest Oncology Group, and eventually they left the Southwest Oncology Group.

Lesley W. Brunet:

Do you know why they left?

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I think it may have been that there wasn’t enough of a critical mass. I think there has been further consolidation since then. There used to be, well again you’d have to talk to some other people here, but I think there was a pediatric division in cancer in leukemia group B Southwest Group and others. I think now there is only one pediatric group. There was a notion of consolidation and I think that when they left Southwest Oncology they consolidated with some other entity. Archie Bleyer [M.D.] is still around here, right? He would know more about how those things took place. Now there is just one large pediatric group. Georgetown is not a member of that as far as I know. Well, they do enter some patients on those studies, but I haven’t been part of the statistical aspects of those studies.

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Chapter 09: Luminaries in the Department of Pediatrics and Evolution in the Field of Cancer Research