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The Moss Report

 

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The Moss Report
I was particularly struck by the honesty of his memorial to Dr. Robert A. Good, M.D., Ph.D. In the article 
below he looks at the way Dr. Good had opportunities to assist the integration of mainstream with holistic/ 
alternative medicine. And we see the careful way that Dr. Moss handles this important area that influences 
the health care of our nation.
 
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--Ralph W. Moss, PhD
 

IN MEMORY OF ROBERT A. GOOD 
[Dr. Good is also honored by Dr. Gonzales in the interview with Dr. Mercola: on my Cancer Information page]
 
 
"He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again."
--Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene ii
 

Dr. Robert A. Good, MD, PhD, a celebrated cancer
researcher, died on June 13, 2003 at the age of 81,
after a long battle with esophageal cancer. Dr. Good
was Physician-in-Chief of All Children's Hospital in
St. Petersburg, Fla., Director of the Children's
Research Institute and Distinguished Research Professor
at the University of South Florida. He was considered
by many to be the father of modern immunology.
 

The last time I saw or spoke to Dr. Good was in 1977,
when I was a science writer (and assistant director of
public affairs) in his employ at Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City.
My memories of him are of an extremely vigorous man,
then at the height of his powers and influence. He was
always a bit unconventional in his dress and manner.
Nowadays on the Internet, one sees pictures of him in
shirt and tie, but back in his Sloan-Kettering days he
cut a dashing figure with his turtleneck, sneakers and
outsized peace symbol.
 

In 1973, Dr. Good had been appointed director of
Sloan-Kettering Institute, and his face was soon
familiar to many from the cover story that Time
magazine ran on him. 
 

To view Dr. Good on the cover of Time (March 19, 1973)
please click or go here:
http://www.library.georgetown.edu/dept/speccoll/time/images/jpg/16.jpg
 

In a field filled with intensely ambitious people, Bob
Good stood out for his exceptional drive, intelligence
and charisma. He was a pediatrician, pathologist and
microbiologist who received a combined MD-PhD from the
University of Minnesota at the age of 25, an
extraordinary start to an extraordinary career. He was
the first person to perform a human bone marrow
transplant, effectively creating a new branch of
medicine. He was also the first to clearly
differentiate between human T and B lymphocytes, and
among many other things, he elucidated the importance
of the thymus gland and rescued the lowly tonsil from
medical scorn, demonstrating that these organs were
important components of the immune system. This
reversed a 50-year trend of needlessly destroying them
through radiation and surgery.
 

Dr. Good was a prolific author, writing or co-authoring
over 2,000 articles and 50 books, certainly something
of a record. He was also a great pioneer in the field
of nutrition and cancer. Readers of this newsletter may
recognize his name from the foreword he wrote to
Charles B. Simone's book Cancer and Nutrition. With
Gabriel Fernandes and Edmund J. Yunis, in the 1970s, he
began an exploration of the effect of dietary
restriction on cancer incidence and survival in mice.
There is no question that he deserved the Nobel Prize
for Physiology or Medicine many times over. That he did
not receive it had nothing to do with merit and much to
do with the scandals that marred his years at
Sloan-Kettering.
 

It was my exceptional good fortune to begin my career
as a science writer under the tutelage of this
brilliant and eccentric mentor. It was from him that I
first learned how a great scientific mind works. He
hired me in the spring of 1974, when his own tenure at
Sloan-Kettering and the entire "war on cancer" were
brand new. During the process of applying for this job
I had to submit to interviews with all the leaders of
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). I well
remember meeting with Lewis Thomas, MD, president of
MSKCC, who stared at me vacantly through a cloud of
pipe smoke, as remote as the hookah-smoking caterpillar
in Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps he was thinking about
his next essay for the New England Journal of Medicine,
soon to be published as the award-winning book, Lives
of a Cell. Whatever the reason for his remoteness, my
interview with him (and every subsequent encounter) was
both mystifying and intimidating.
 

How different was my first encounter with Dr. Good, who
was filled with enthusiasm for the work being done at
Sloan-Kettering. He had a need to explain, convince and
inspire. Something in his tone of voice told you that a
cure for cancer was possible, perhaps even imminent! We
talked about everything from the origins of cancer to
the differences between research in the sciences and
the humanities. I well remember him telling me about
Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the famous Arctic explorer, who
claimed that cancer was "a disease of civilization". Dr
Good also spoke about the exciting work on cancer
immunology which he was then performing along with his
co-workers Drs. Lloyd Old and Edward Boyse. (My
colleagues and I later dubbed these three great
immunologists the "Good Old Boyse").
 

After I was hired, I wrote so many articles in MSKCC's
Center News about him and his protégés that some
scientists complained that the new director was
monopolizing my services. Or, conversely, they accused
me of playing office politics. But as I surveyed the
entire work of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, an institution
of 4,600 employees, I found myself gravitating over and
over again to the work of Dr. Good and his colleagues.
Not for nothing had they made him the Director.
 

Dr. Good was as unconventional in his work habits as he
was in his dress. His day began well before sunrise,
and friends, colleagues and employees were expected to
accommodate themselves to this grueling schedule. He
also thought nothing of keeping people waiting hours to
see him. I took this personally until the day I saw
James Watson, PhD, co-discoverer of DNA, cooling his
heels in Good's outer office! In time, despite huge
differences in our professional standing, Dr. Good and
I became close. On occasion, I would travel the subway
in the predawn darkness to attend an early morning
meeting in his office.
 

The high point in our relationship came in 1977, when
(by a strange concatenation of events) Dr. Good and I
dined together at New York's famous 21 Club. We were
planning to write a book about his travels in China,
then still a novelty. In the course of the dinner,
however, he said something privately to me that
certainly gave me pause. "You and I are not so
different. We are both employees. You can be fired, and
so can I," he told me in a fatherly way. In the light
of what was to come, these words were little short of
prophetic.
 

Not long after taking up his post at Sloan-Kettering,
Dr Good became embroiled in the Summerlin Affair, a
scientific scandal that, unfortunately, remains
indelibly linked to his name. Dr Good hired and
sponsored a young researcher named William Summerlin,
MD, who claimed to be able to transplant tissue between
genetically unrelated animals, a feat which, if valid,
would have been one of the greatest breakthroughs in
medicine. To prove the validity of his astonishing
claims, Summerlin demonstrated white mice with black
patches on their backs allegedly transplanted from
unrelated donor mice. However, after Summerlin made one
such "dog and pony show" in Good's office, an astute
technician noticed that the black patches on some of
the mice had inexplicably changed. The technician found
that these 'transplanted patches' were actually drawn
on the skin of the mice with a felt-tipped marker, and
he was able to remove the patches with alcohol. This
discovery led to one of the most sensational scientific
scandals of the 20th century.
 

I myself arrived at Sloan-Kettering in the spring of
1974, just as the Summerlin story was breaking. Many
people, including some inside the institution, thought
that Dr. Good himself was personally culpable in the
deception. He was, they pointed out, senior author on
Summerlin's papers. However, an official MSKCC panel
concluded that he was not directly responsible,
although it did reprimand him for not properly
supervising his young colleagues. Summerlin in turn
blamed the "pressure cooker" atmosphere within
Sloan-Kettering for his transgressions.  His reference
to a "pressure cooker" was widely seen to be an
allusion to the results-oriented atmosphere generated
by Dr. Good.
 

With the hindsight of nearly 30 years, I sympathize
with Dr. Good. I can well understand how he was
betrayed by his own enthusiasm. In essence, he was a
trusting man in a field that depends, in great measure,
on one's ability to rely on the honesty of one's
colleagues. What Summerlin proposed was startling, to
be sure, and more prosaic minds rejected it simply for
that reason. But Dr. Good understood that any major
discovery was, by its very nature, bound to be
surprising. He was also taken with the beauty of
Summerlin's idea. Perhaps his enthusiastic imagination,
and his intense desire to find cures (and, naturally,
to have them connected to his name) got the better of
his scientific objectivity. I don't think that either
he, or any of the other leaders at Sloan-Kettering,
seriously considered the possibility that Summerlin's
research might be a hoax. Even today, it is something
one almost never thinks of in regard to colleagues -
which is precisely why sociopathic tricksters can wreak
such havoc in medicine.
 

There were less seemly factors at work as well.
Sloan-Kettering was approaching a financial crisis,
caused in part by the administration's extravagant
spending on new projects. A discovery of this magnitude
would have attracted all sorts of money and might have
rescued the institution. Good himself deserved to win
the Nobel Prize for his work on T cells and on bone
marrow transplantation. It was inexplicably delayed,
perhaps by enemies who called him the "Sammy Glick" of
modern science (after the anti-hero of Budd Schulberg's
novel, What Makes Sammy Run?)  If Summerlin's research
had proved valid, Good would have been internationally
feted. But, essentially, I feel that he was a tragic
victim. His openness and intelligent enthusiasm, while
certainly the source of much of his personal charisma
and power, also laid him open to the wiles of
charlatans. I know it was devastating for him to learn
how an unscrupulous person had taken advantage of his 
most appealing trait.
 

My own parting of the ways with MSKCC came a few years
later. I have written in detail about this in my book,
The Cancer Industry. The week after I was fired, the
journal Science interviewed Good. He said that I knew
his "innermost thoughts."  But I certainly never
learned his innermost thoughts on why he and his
colleagues issued misleading statements on the nature
of MSKCC's laetrile experiments. It was a painful and
disappointing end to our relationship. And then, not
long after my departure, Dr. Good was himself dismissed
from Sloan-Kettering, a strange fulfillment of the
prediction he made during that dinner conversation with
me years earlier.
 

Relationship with Dr. Gonzalez
 
Others in alternative medicine had similarly complex
and troubled relationships with Dr. Good. Nicholas J.
Gonzalez, MD, was another who was befriended by this
outstanding mentor. While still a student at Cornell
University Medical College, Gonzalez convinced Good to
supervise his research into the dietary cancer
treatment proposed by William Donald Kelley, DDS. Both
Good and Gonzalez thought that they would quickly
expose this "fraudulent" therapy. Yet to their
amazement, Gonzalez was able to document many
unexpected remissions.
 

Although Dr. Good later minimized the importance of his
relationship with Gonzalez, in fact they were very
close. Gonzalez lived in Good's home for weeks at a
time and followed him into his "Babylonian exile" in
Oklahoma and then Florida after he left
Sloan-Kettering. Dr. Good served as best man at his
young protégé's  wedding. But in the late 1980s,
Gonzalez made the momentous decision to become a
full-time practitioner of the Kelley method and to set
up a private practice in Manhattan. Dr. Good was
scandalized by this unequivocal embrace of alternative
medicine. At that point, their relations became
estranged. Not long ago, Dr. Good even appeared on
national television, denying that he ever had a close
and supportive relationship with Gonzalez! Now,
ironically, Gonzalez is becoming not just famous but
also quite respectable, with a clinical trial of his
methods financed by the National Institutes of Health.
Good saw the potential value of the therapy but
(always, I believe, with one eye on the Nobel Prize
that never materialized) shied away from even the hint
of controversy.
 

Like all of us, Robert Good had his weak as well as his
strong side. However, as serious as were his flaws, he
had a tremendous and beneficial impact on almost
everyone he came in contact with, including thousands
of patients, colleagues and students. He could be
incredibly inspiring to young people. Despite how our
relationship ended, I am proud to number myself among
those who were taught, nurtured and befriended by this
outstanding individual.

--Ralph W. Moss, PhD
=======================
 
References:
American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 2003.
Available online at:
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/STT/stt_0.asp
Barclay, Laurie. Radiotherapy Helpful After Excision of
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ. 7/10/03. 
At: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/458505
Dunscombe P, et al. A cost-outcome analysis of adjuvant
postmastectomy locoregional radiotherapy in premenopausal
node-positive breast cancer patients. Int J Radiat Oncol
Biol Phys. 2000;48:977-82.
Fernandes G, Yunis EJ, Good RA. Influence of diet on
survival of mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1976
Apr;73(4):1279-83.
Summerlin WT, Broutbar C, Foanes RB, Payne R, Stutman O,
Hayflick L, Good RA. Acceptance of phenotypically differing
cultured skin in man and mice. Transplant Proc. 1973 
Mar;5(1):707-10.
Saxon, Wolfgang. Robert A. Good, founder of modern
immunology, dies. New York Times, June 18, 2003. Available at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/18/obituaries/18GOOD.html?ex=1058414400&en=7715ca2087a844e7&ei=5070
 
UK Coordinating Committee on Cancer Research (UKCCCR) Ductal
Carcinoma in situ (DCIS) Working Party on behalf of DCIS
Trialists in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Radiotherapy and tamoxifen in women with completely excised
ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast in the UK, Australia,
and New Zealand: randomised controlled trial. Lancet
2003;362(9378):95.
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