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250 Years of Advances Against Cancer - 1940s

1941
Charles Huggins discovers that removing the testicles to lower testosterone production or administering estrogens causes prostate tumors to regress. Such hormonal manipulation—more commonly known as hormonal therapy—continues to be a mainstay of prostate cancer treatment.
1943
The Pap test is introduced into medical practice. Widespread use of this test in the United States has helped reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality by more than 75 percent since the 1950s.
1944
Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty identify DNA as the basic genetic material of cells.
1947
Sidney Farber shows that aminopterin, a derivative of folic acid, induces temporary remissions in children with acute leukemia. Aminopterin, the first of a class of drugs known as "antimetabolites," is structurally similar to chemicals needed for important cellular processes, such as DNA synthesis, and causes cell death by blocking those processes.
1948
George Hitchings synthesizes 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP), an antimetabolite still in use to treat acute lymphoid leukemia in children and adults.
1949
Nitrogen mustard (mechlorethamine) is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of cancer. Nitrogen mustard belongs to a class of drugs called alkylating agents, which kill cells by chemically modifying their DNA.
  • Updated: February 10, 2014