Judah Folkman bigraphy, stories - Biologists

Judah Folkman : biography

February 24, 1933 - January 14, 2008

Moses Judah Folkman (February 24, 1933 – January 14, 2008) was an American medical scientist best known for his research on tumor angiogenesis, the process by which a tumor attracts blood vessels to nourish itself and sustain its existence. He founded the field of angiogenesis research, which has led to the discovery of a number of therapies based on inhibiting or stimulating neovascularization.

Work on angiogenesis

In 1971, he reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that all cancer tumors are angiogenesis-dependent. If a tumor could be stopped from growing its own blood supply, he surmised, it would wither and die. Though his hypothesis was initially disregarded by most experts in the field, Folkman persisted with his research.

After more than a decade, his theory became widely accepted and is now being exploited in the treatment of a growing number of diseases, including blindness caused by macular degeneration.

Folkman pioneered the use of interferon to heal hemangiomas, growths that often threaten the lives of infants. His research has led to the development of progressively more potent compounds, such as angiostatin, endostatin, vasculostatin, caplostatin and lodamin, that have successfully halted the growth of tumors in laboratory mice.http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_23/b3936016.htm| title=Inside Judah Folkman's Lab Two angiogenesis inhibitors based on Dr. Folkman’s hypothesis and developed by Genentech, Lucentis and Avastin, are now FDA-approved for use in age-related macular degeneration and some metastatic cancers respectively.www.genentech.com

Over 50 angiogenesis inhibitors — including endostatin, angiostatin, 2ME2 (Panzem), and a thrombospondin analogue — are in clinical trials today for cancer treatment, including a number with unanticipated anti-angiogenic effects. These include the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib (Celebrex); rosiglitazone (Avandia), a drug commonly used to treat Type 2 diabetes; doxycycline, a common antibiotic; and some cancer drugs that also have other mechanisms of action, including Erbitux, Herceptin, Velcade and Tarceva. Even some conventional chemotherapy drugs have demonstrated anti-angiogenic effects when given frequently in smaller doses (see Anti-Angiogenic Chemotherapy below). Folkman envisioned that someday, angiogenesis inhibitors would be used together or in combination with conventional anticancer therapies such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, gene therapy, or vaccine therapy.


Folkman died in Denver on January 14, 2008 en route to deliver the 2008 Keynote Address at the Keystone Symposium (Molecular Mechanisms of Angiogenesis in Development and Disease) in Vancouver, British Columbia, one of the hundreds of lectures that he delivered at conferences and meetings around the world.

He is survived by his wife, Paula, two daughters, and a granddaughter.


For his discoveries which originated the concept and developed the field of angiogenesis research, Folkman was awarded the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 1992.

He was awarded the Massry Prize from the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California in 1997. Just prior to his death, Dr. Folkman accepted the 2007 Hope Funds Award of Excellence in Basic Research for his lifelong work in the area of angiogenesis.

Scientific legacy

Folkman was appointed the Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor of Pediatric Surgery at Harvard Medical School in 1968, where he was also Professor of Cell Biology. He was the youngest full Professor at Harvard Medical School in history. In addition to directing the Children's Hospital Boston Surgical Research Laboratories, which grew to become the , for nearly four decades, he was the Scientific Director of the hospital's . A revered figure at the hospital and throughout the world, Folkman's insights informed many active research efforts outside the field of vascular biology. He constantly initiated new collaborations to study a number of varied disorders, including hydrocephalus and hemorrhages in the brains and eyes of premature infants. His presentations consistently drew standing-room-only audiences.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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