Hawthorne And BNCT | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 87 Issue 24 | p. 2,4 | Letters
Issue Date: June 15, 2009

Hawthorne And BNCT

Department: Letters

I was delighted to see the smiling face of my good friend Fred Hawthorne on the cover of C&EN and to find out that he had been selected as the 2009 Priestley Medalist for his many seminal contributions to boron chemistry (March 23, page 12). Clearly, Fred is very worthy of this highly prestigious award.

I was fortunate to have met Fred when he was still at Rohm and Haas, and he generously provided us with samples of his polyhedral borane anions for screening in tumor-bearing mice in William Sweet's laboratories at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). We also obtained boron compounds from Earl L. Muetterties and Walter H. Knoth at DuPont and from Harold Snyder at the University of Illinois. Unfortunately, two of the compounds screened 50 years ago remain the only ones that have been used clinically in the U.S., Japan, and Europe.

When Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, he could not be treated by boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) because its clinical developments have not yet been perfected. It is ironic that Kennedy was a patient at MGH, the institution where Sweet first proposed its use in treating such inoperable malignancies more than 50 years ago.

For BNCT to become clinically useful, a highly interactive program involving physicists, chemists, biologists, pharmacologists, and clinicians coordinated by the Radiation Therapy Program of the National Cancer Institute should be established and carefully monitored for progress. For clinicians to use this modality, an accelerator producing epithermal neutron beams of the proper energy must be constructed and housed within hospitals, because this is where patients are treated. Just as cancer chemotherapy generally requires multiple compounds for targeting cancer cells, so too can we expect that several compounds targeting tumor cells by different biochemical mechanisms will be necessary for BNCT to become a clinically successful modality.

I hope Fred has a complete recovery from his medical problems and continues his highly productive chemical career.

Albert H. Soloway
Columbus, Ohio


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