Chapter 15: Memories of J Freireich


Chapter 15: Memories of J Freireich



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In this chapter, Dr. Benjamin talks about the impact of Dr. J Freireich on researchers in Developmental Therapeutics and outside the institution. He explains that Dr. Freireich "made you think" and refers to "Freireich's Laws" first presented when Dr. Freireich gave the Karnofsky lecture in 1976. He explains Dr. Freireich's perspective on statistical models and gives his version of the Hippocratic Oath, which stressed the urgency of caring for a patient in the here and now. [Redacted]



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 - Key MD Anderson Figures; Portraits; Mentoring; MD Anderson Impact; Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose; Ethics; On Research and Researchers; Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research; The History of Health Care, Patient Care; Healing, Hope, and the Promise of Research; Patients, Treatment, Survivors; Patients


Robert Benjamin, MD:

+And it’s hard—I mean, there are so many things that I learned from Dr. Freireich after I was on the faculty, more so than what I learned from any of my teachers when I was in training.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What were some of the lessons?

Robert Benjamin, MD:

Because he made you think. So, you know, it’s hard to say, oh, you know, he taught me this or he—but I talk about sometimes in some of the lectures that I give some of the specific things that Dr. Freireich would say or the principles that he would make you adhere to.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I’m really curious. What were some of those?

Robert Benjamin, MD:

So actually there’s a wonderful paper. So I came here in ’74. In ’76, Freireich gave the Karnofsky Lecture at ASCO. The Karnofsky Lecture is probably the most prestigious lecture in medical oncology. And he talked about some of his laws. At conference, Freireich would always be saying, “Freireich’s Law number seventeen is this, and Freireich’s Law number thirty-two is this,” and the numbers always changed, but you got a feeling for these sort of this is the word of God from above that you must believe because it’s a law; it cannot be challenged. So the first six laws are in this Karnofsky Lecture, and they’re published, so now those numbers are fixed because they’re etched in stone.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And the year of that lecture again? I’m sorry, I missed it.

Robert Benjamin, MD:

Well, the year was 1976, but the publication didn’t occur until much later, and it was the first year of Cancer Clinical Research, and I’ll send you—I have the reference for it.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, I’d love to. That would be great. Yeah.

Robert Benjamin, MD:

It’s a wonderful thing. So he sort of speaks from the point of view of a clinical investigator, who is primarily clinical, about the rigidity of statistical analysis. So, for example, he talks about the P-less-than-.05 as being the magic temple that we all pay homage to, and he says, “You know, if I had something that had a 90 percent chance of being better than something else, I’d probably want to take that rather than the other. Why does it have to be 95 percent better?”So there are a number of principles. What’s one of the other ones? His modification of the Hippocratic Oath, which is, “First do no harm,” and his modification is, “First do what is necessary,” because anyone can do no harm. That doesn’t require a medical license or any training at all. You can just sit back and watch people die. You have to do what’s needed to make the patient better. It’s the sense of urgency at taking care of the patient who’s here today rather than just worrying about the one who’s going to be here tomorrow, because you have to figure out what’s there and what’s needed. One of the things that I’m sure—I mean, you’ve interviewed Dr. Freireich, right?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Mm-hmm, yeah. [Redacted]

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Chapter 15: Memories of J Freireich