Remembering NI’s cancer pioneers

Prof Johnston was perfect to build on Edelstyns work and bring pharmaceutical cancer chemotherapy to new level
Prof Johnston was perfect to build on Edelstyns work and bring pharmaceutical cancer chemotherapy to new level

The tragic sudden death of Professor Patrick Johnston recalls the early death of that other famous cancer research worker in Northern Ireland, Dr George Edelstyn, who died prematurely in his 50th year in 1979.

George Edelstyn was the first to pioneer combination cancer chemotherapy.

He founded Action Cancer and is commemorated in an eponymous lecture at the Royal Colleges in London.

I recall being interviewed by Sean Rafferty for the BBC following George’s death, and saying that history would show that Edelstyn’s work would alter the treatment of cancer in the years to come.

No-one better able to achieve that than Prof Patrick Johnston, who brought pharmaceutical cancer chemotherapy to a new level.

Fortunately his research team will continue his remarkable legacy.

This tragic episode also shows that heart disease is another villain alongside cancer, that demands our attention.

We have come a long way but, to quote Robert Frost, we still “have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep”.

Sidney Lowry, Emeritus Professor (head of oncology Queen’s University, 1974 to 1996), Co Down