Conversations with the Pioneers of Oncology: Dr. Lawrence Baker and John Cleland

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Dr. Hayes interviews Dr. Lawrence Baker on his early involvement with SWOG

ANNOUNCER: The purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. This is not a substitute for professional medical care and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of individual conditions. Guests on this podcast express their own opinions, experience, and conclusions. The mention of any product, service, organization, activity, or therapy should not be construed as an ASCO endorsement.

DANIEL HAYES: Welcome to JCO's Cancer Stories-- The Art of Oncology, brought to you by the ASCO Podcast Network, a collection of nine programs covering a range of educational and scientific content and offering enriching insight into the world of cancer care. You can find all of the shows, including this one, at podcast.asco.org.

Today, my guest on the podcast is Dr. Laurence H. "Barry" Baker. Dr. Baker has a long and distinguished career in oncology. It dates back to the early 1970s, when he was intimately involved in new drug development, including doxirubicin or adriamycin, as we know it. He's also led early studies in preoperative chemotherapy in anal cancers. He was instrumental in advances in sarcoma research, and he led the Southwest Oncology Group-- now designated SWOG-- for eight years in the last decade.

Dr. Baker was raised in Brooklyn, and since this interview is taking place just a week after the sad loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dr. Baker informed me that he and his wife Maxine were married in 1964 in the Midwood Jewish Center, Justice Ginsburg's home synagogue. He received his undergraduate degree from the Brooklyn College at the University of New York, and then he graduated from Des Moines University of Osteopathic Medicine in Iowa. He completed a residency in internal medicine at Flint Osteopathic Hospital in Flint, Michigan, and then he has a curious two-year break in his curriculum vitae during which he was on active duty in Vietnam.

Upon discharge from the Army, he returned to Michigan, and he served a three year fellowship at Wayne State University, where he stayed on faculty from 1972 to 1994, serving at various times as the chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology, the chair of the Department of Medicine, and director of the Cancer Center. In 1994, he moved west about 30 miles to Ann Arbor, where he served as the director for the Clinical Research and Translational and Clinical Research Program for the UM Comprehensive Cancer Center, now called the Rogel Cancer Center. And he was also the associate chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology and currently is the Laurence H. Baker Collegiate Professor in developmental therapeutics.

Dr. Baker has authored hundreds of peer-reviewed papers, and like so many of our guests on this program, he has a list of honors that are just, frankly, too long to recite, except two that I want to highlight. He received the ASCO Distinguished Service Award for Scientific Leadership in 2007, and he was named an ASCO Statesman, now designated as a fellow of ASCO in 2010, for his many services to our society. Dr. Baker, welcome to our program.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Thank you. Nice to be here.

DANIEL HAYES: Well, it's really great to have you. A lot of questions, but I want to start out, I just can't help but ask you, to be trite, how does a nice boy from Brooklyn end up in the Midwest for the rest of his life? Can you give us some stories about how you got there?

LAURENCE H. BAKER: I graduated high school at 15 and went into what some know-- but not everyone knows-- was a very competitive college. Brooklyn College accepted-- was a free school. The grades used in the New York City school system were numerical. They weren't letters. And you had to have a 90 average on high school and certain scores on the state, New York State examinations to get in.

And that was it. It didn't matter where your parents went to school. It didn't matter if you had money. And so it was a school largely of relatively low-income families. But that's the one who took me, and I guess they accepted me at 15. To not make this into a long story, but to drag it out a little bit, I was fascinated that I was 15 and I could date 18-year-old girls, and they didn't know it.

So that's how I spent the first two years of college. And my grades showed that that was my focus of attention. I did pretty well on the MCAT examination. I would not have gotten into a medical school in this country, and I didn't speak a language that would be sufficient for me to go to Europe, for example, to school. So osteopathy he was where I went.

I went to Iowa, but their admitting question to me is, do you have $2,000 a year tuition? To which, of course, I lied. And that's how I ended up being a DO, and that's how I came to the Midwest. And I actually got to like the-- I didn't know anybody from Iowa, as you make reference to my Brooklyn background, but I actually came to really appreciate the Iowa people, and particularly the community people that I came to know.

At the time there were-- the really good programs in residency in medicine were in Michigan. That's the direct answer to your question. That's how I came to Michigan.

Just about then, just about could have gone to California and gotten an M.D. degree just by taking the licensure examination. And then, that closed. That opportunity closed. So a long story to your question. So I came to Detroit, into Flint, and then returned back to Detroit, and I've been in Michigan ever since.

DANIEL HAYES: Now, that raises the second issue I talked about a minute ago. And that is, many of our guests were so-called Yellow Berets at the NIH in the late 1960s and really changed our practice. But you actually ended up in the Evacuation Hospital at Cu Chi in Vietnam. And I've heard horror stories about this. How did that happen? What did you do there? Enlighten me.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Well, there were good and bad things about being an osteopath. The American Osteopathic Association was always in conflict, was always trying to defend itself. And at the time that the Vietnam War was going on, the DOs were not eligible for military service as an officer. You could go in as an enlisted man, but not as an officer. But there was a great need for primary care physicians in Vietnam, and the understanding of the military physicians was that all DOs were primary care physicians.

So a deal was struck between the AMA and the Department of Defense that led to the drafting of everyone in my medical school class. Every one of the men-- not women. Every one of the men was drafted. There was a universal draft.

I then-- I was given a choice. I could volunteer for the Army or go to jail. Those were the choices. And I had, at the time, two little children with Maxine, and I was not-- you might guess-- not a big fan of the Vietnam War. The alternative was to go to Canada, and I wasn't secure enough to consider that I could actually practice medicine. It was uncertain.

So I went in. When I got there, they asked me, did I have any interest in anesthesiology or radiology, because they were really short of those two. And of course, being who I am, I said, if you need a radiologist or an anesthesiologist, why don't you go draft one and let me go home? That didn't work, and so I became-- I was assigned to radiology.

DANIEL HAYES: [LAUGHS]

LAURENCE H. BAKER: They sent me to Fort Jackson, where-- no, that was actually a good experience then, because I learned a lot about imaging, and I still have interest in imaging, but I don't qualify anymore. This is before CAT scans and MRIs. This is IDPs and upper GIs, right? So anyhow, barium lower bowel examinations.

So I was trained for six months, and I stayed on for another few months on staff there and then, lo and behold, was sent to Vietnam. I was sent for a year, but I volunteered to stay an extra month so that I could return without any further obligation to the military and begin my fellowship on July 1, which I had actually secured before I went to Vietnam. So that's the gory details of that.

I was elevated to Major about, oh, a few months before I was discharged. And then, because they weren't nasty enough to me when I got home, into my fellowship, I then got a letter congratulating me on being in the active reserve. So I had to go two weeks every summer. That was my summer vacation during fellowship and beginning of faculty. And I had to go once a month for a weekend to play soldier with a bunch of guys who were lucky enough that they didn't have to go to Vietnam. And now we're even, I think.

So it was an interesting experience, as I've shared some of it with you. It still is a painful experience in some ways. I was out the busy [INAUDIBLE].

DANIEL HAYES: If you don't mind, a quick story you've told me before about the child with leukemia.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Yes. So they made me a radiologist. I'm not a great-- it doesn't matter where you call me. I am who I am, and I'm really interested in patient care. And there were already five internists, and there was only so much gonorrhea that the troops could acquire. So I volunteered to open a pediatric clinic. And the Army thought that was a good thing for publicity. They did stories about it.

Anyway, I opened the clinic for pediatrics. I knew nothing about pediatrics. I mean, the truth is, I had a month of rotation. My wife sent me my textbook. It was Nelson's Textbook of Pediatrics. Nothing I ever saw in Vietnam was ever in Nelson's Textbook. But I did what I could of trying to treat the children as best I could.

And along came a young girl, eight years old, who had acute lymphacytic leukemia. I had a wonderful pathologist who was my hoochmate. "Hooch" is translated, there were eight guys who lived in a place. That was called a hooch. And he was a pathologist, and he made the diagnosis of ALL.

I had my books from my mentor teaching me about chemotherapy. So even though I hadn't started the fellowship, I had some resources about chemotherapy. And now I had to find chemotherapy. Treated her with-- I started with steroids and penicillin, and then I went to find drugs.

I was able to-- I won't tell all the details, but I was able to get drugs at an old French hospital in Saigon. And so I would visit that hospital pretending great interest in the pharmacy, but of course, I stole whatever drug I could steal when the pharmacy wasn't looking. And that included some alkylating agents, methotrexate, 6MP.

And so I tell Jay [INAUDIBLE]-- to get to where you want to be, perhaps-- that I invented the bicycle therapy, which was every month, you changed the drug to try to avoid resistance. So that's what I did by necessity. [LAUGHS] And I actually-- there was a second child that I also treated. When I left, they were both in complete remission. And I think that that's what you're asking me. I was lucky that I didn't get shot or thrown in jail for many of these escapades. But I look back and think that at least I did somebody some good. So--

DANIEL HAYES: Kind of makes the current generation who complains about work hours look in a different light, I think.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Yeah, we worked every day. We worked seven days a week with-- there was no such thing as time off. This was the busiest American hospital, certainly in Vietnam, and some think the busiest hospital since the Atlanta train station in the Civil War. It was in Cu Chi, which was on the way to Cambodia, which is, of course, where the North Vietnamese troops would enter into South Vietnam.

So it was a major, major place. It was about an hour, an hour and a half west of Saigon.

DANIEL HAYES: Let's move on to the rest of your career. You come back, then, and trained at Wayne State, and at the time, [INAUDIBLE]-- and I can never pronounce his name. I'll have you do it. Dr. Venutius Vicevicius-- I always heard him Dr. V.-- who was, I think, a real character and really was one of the first chemotherapy pioneers. Can you tell us more about him? Because we've heard a lot about the folks on the East Coast and the folks in Texas, but not so much what was going on in the middle of the country at the time.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Yeah, Dr. V, or Dr. Vicevicius, who was Lithuanian, he has a story of his life that certainly makes me look like a slump. He was a guest of the Nazis, and then he was a guest of the Russians when Auschwitz was freed. So this was as a child.

He grew up in a very educated and somewhat affluent family in Vilnius. And when he got out of these camps, he actually got to medical school in Frankfurt, Goethe Medical School in Frankfurt. He had major interest in biochemistry and, without speaking more than three words of English, chose to come to the United States.

And he landed-- I don't really know why; I've heard so many different versions-- but he landed in Detroit and showed up at the Detroit Receiving Hospital-- this would be like LA County or Bellevue in New York, that sort of thing, knife and gun club-- not speaking any English but wanting to do training. And somebody was smart enough to accept him.

And so he did his training. He also trained-- after medicine, he trained with Mike Brennan-- that's another name from the past who is a past president of ASCO, by the way, the second or third person, perhaps. Mike was present of the Michigan Cancer Foundation and was the card-carrying medical oncologist in the Detroit area. He trained Dr. V., and he trained another man named Bob Tally, who had a great deal of history to contribute to oncology.

And then, V was recruited by Wayne to come there and started a program. He was an extraordinary person. English was the eighth language he learned, and he actually taught me how to write. I flunked college English. I had to take it twice. But he taught me how to write and, I think, made me a better writer.

He certainly was an inspiration. His devotion to patients was extraordinary. His knowledge was extraordinary. And so he was a great, great teacher. And one of his major early contributions was the recognition that you could make the drug float-- they had four drugs or five drugs at this time-- but one of them was 5-fluorouracil, that was developed by Fred Ansfield in Minnesota. The drug was given for five days and then every other day until their mouth fell out or their white count got to zero. And maybe that's a little of an exaggeration, but not much.

At any rate, he figured out if you gave the drug by continuous infusion-- because it had a rather short half-life-- you could avoid a great deal of the toxicity. And that's how infusion of fluorouracil got its start. He then went on to combine it with other drugs and with radiation, and that was the backbone of this anal canal achievement that you mentioned in the introduction. I had very little to do with it, but I was a cheerleader.

It was a rectal surgeon who came to us at the time, and those familiar with that disease-- which we now know is a virus disease that could be prevented, but at that time, nobody had any of that-- the treatment was abdominal perineal resection, and it had to be among the most horrible things we did to people. And the surgeon came to us and said, listen, you guys always squirt those drugs in after they relapse, and I'm really tired of this. Maybe you could give those drugs first, OK?

And that's how neoadjuvant chemotherapy got started. It wasn't our idea. It was a surgeon's idea. That story gets repeated again in orthopedics, but that's how it began in anal canal tumors.

And so we gave 5FU infusion, and mitomycin, and radiation preoperatively. That almost always shrunk the tumor, by the way-- almost always significantly shrunk the tumor. The patient then once they went through that operation but was cured. And so you took a horrible disease and changed its natural history with that development.

If it works once, you know, in oncology, then you try it a second and third time. And I had very shortly thereafter the opportunity to work with a wonderful Japanese pediatric oncologist in Houston, Watsu Tao. He was looking for a partner because he was tired of seeing osteosarcoma patients die. Cure rate at the time was around 20%, 30%, and the surgery that was done for osteosarcoma was amputation, usually of the lower extremities.

So 2/3 of osteosarcomas occur around the knee, and the orthopedics really dislike the idea of taking a child's leg off. Every teenager and child wants to be exactly like every other teenager and child, so you can imagine how disruptive it is to have a high amputation of your leg. It took about three months to make a prosthesis, and everyone knew that you didn't really have to do an amputation. You could just cut out the bad bone and replace it with a prosthetic device. But it took three months to make it, because they were handmade at the time.

And so the idea came to several people-- Jim Holland was involved in this; Tom Frei was involved in this as well. Different cities were approaching it in this way. And we all ended up giving chemotherapy to these young people-- children, teenagers-- and then having the operation. And osteosarcoma went a cure rate of 20% to 30% to 70% or 80%. And they didn't lose their legs.

DANIEL HAYES: I have two personal comments on this. One is you mentioned Dr. Brennan and the Michigan Cancer Foundation. Just for our listeners, Michigan Cancer Foundation is MCF. And if you've done any breast cancer work at all, you've worked with MCF-7 cells or MCF-10 cells [INAUDIBLE], which came from that organization. I think people have forgotten what MCF stands for, except for you and me.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: That cell line that you talked about, MCF-7, that was developed by a man with, I think, a high school degree who just had a green thumb at that growing cells-- a wonderful man. And that came from a patient of ours. When I say "ours," I mean Dr. V. I was just the flunky, but it was his patient. And she had ascites from breast cancer. And we would tap ascites, in those days, with some frequency. And the cells for MCF-7 came out of that patient. That's its actual origins, and more papers have been written about MCF-7 than even you and I could count.

DANIEL HAYES: Including by me.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: I understand. No, it was incredibly useful. I mean, we learned about hormone receptors from this [INAUDIBLE].

DANIEL HAYES: Yep, that's [INAUDIBLE].

LAURENCE H. BAKER: It's was incredible.

DANIEL HAYES: My other personal story related to your stories is, as a fellow at the then Sidney Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Frei was my boss. And he, as you mentioned, was starting to work with Holland and others that had already worked with neoadjuvants. And he would cite your data all the time.

Now, I didn't know Larry Baker for us from all the tea in China, but we heard a lot about the Wayne State experience when we were fellows. I don't know if that would have [INAUDIBLE] or not, but people definitely--

LAURENCE H. BAKER: No, I came to SWOG-- which is really why you wanted, I think, to talk to me-- in '70 or '71, I can't remember exactly. And Dr. V, it was an incredible experience. He took me with him. You ran into Tom Frei. They knew each other. And he said, Tom, I want you to meet my colleague, Larry Baker. I just had never been introduced like that.

DANIEL HAYES: [LAUGHS]

LAURENCE H. BAKER: And Tom was the friendliest person I think I've ever met in oncology. He had a wonderful smile. He clearly-- I was always paranoid that I'm a osteopath. Maybe I went on too long about that story. But when they tell you in school you're just as good as the MDs, you can quickly figure out if you were just as good, they wouldn't keep saying it, right? So that's socially accepted paranoia, and that's how I was brought up. So here is the wonderful, famous Tom Frei being nice to me! I was just amazed.

DANIEL HAYES: He used to come to the lunch room in the Dana Farber two or three times a week and would just sit with us, and was constantly thinking of new stuff. This is not an interview with me, but someday, I'd like to tell the stories he told us. He was really just a fabulous man. I want to segway into your work with adriamycin, which is now, of course, also one of the workhorses of oncology. We've all used it. And I believe you were an author on either the first or one of the first phase II trials of adriamycin in Cancer in 1973. Is that an outgrowth of that introduction you just told us?

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Yes. That study-- it's in Cancer, I think, not-- I don't think JCO existed. But that study didn't distinguish what the primary was. So it was a phase II study of cancer. And so there was, I don't know, 800 patients.

I worked with Bob or Brian on that study. Bob was at Henry Ford, and there was a student of Bob Tally that I had mentioned, and I was the student of V. And the two of us were basically the schleppers for them. And so it had hundreds of patients in it. And in that study, we recognized that it worked in breast cancer, that it worked in lymphoma, and it worked in sarcoma-- and nothing worked in sarcoma.

So that was the study. It's often quoted by Jim Dorshow because he said, we do everything that's disease-specific, but look what came out of one study that, by the way, accrued, as I say, 600 or 700 patients in 18 months. And this is before computers, so you can imagine how much work was done to evaluate the flow sheets. It was an incredible opportunity here to work.

But it was an amazing paper, and it changed my life, of course. That's how [INAUDIBLE] and other things.

DANIEL HAYES: So at the time, you recognized that this was not just another drug off the shelf, that it really was going to be a game-changer?

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Absolutely, absolutely. You saw people getting better. And my experiences were mostly in breast cancer patients getting better, and some lymphoma patients that were refractory. First time I saw solid tumor patients dramatically improve.

DANIEL HAYES: So I saw that your name is before another giant in the field who was a young Italian investigator who spent time in the United States named Johnny [INAUDIBLE].

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Yeah, that's how I first met him. I don't know that this story's been told. We were trying to make some level of peace with the Russians, and the Russians, of course, claimed that they discovered adriamycin. I don't know, but if you don't know this, I'll continue.

DANIEL HAYES: Please go.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: OK, but we all-- everyone knew, and certainly [INAUDIBLE] knew, this was an Italian drug, OK? "Adriamycin" is for the Adriatic Sea. As far as I know, you can't see the Adriatic Sea from Russia.

But this was a time when our government wanted to be nice. They cared more about building a relationship with the Soviet Union than they did continuing a friendship with the Italians. Jim Holland was then sent to Moscow to negotiate this. That's where the name doxirubicin came from.

In other words, we didn't know generic names, trade names. This didn't exist in the early '70s. So we called it adriamycin, which was not only the generic name, it was the trade name, right? Made by adria-- I think far Pharmitalia is the name of the company, right? And as a result of Jim Holland's diplomacy, it became doxirubicin as the generic name. It's a true story.

DANIEL HAYES: Yeah. I know that "adria--" came from the Adriatic Sea, but I've not heard that's where "doxi-" came from. That's a good story.

That segways into the next segment of your life that fascinates me, and this is your work in SWOG. When I moved here to the University of Michigan, you were on your way to becoming the chair of SWOG, which you did. And it occurred to me that University of Michigan wasn't even in Southwest Michigan, let alone the Southwest of the United States. Just reminisce a little bit about Dr. Coltman, who ran SWOG, the beginnings of SWOG, even before that, and where you see the [INAUDIBLE] groups now.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: So Dr. V brought me to a SWOG meeting in San Antonio, Texas, as you said, in 1970 or '71. At the time, Tom Frei was running the group. J. Freireich was chairman of the Leukemia Committee. Chuck Coltman was chairman of the Lymphoma Committee. V specifically chose to work with this group because of those people. You're right, Michigan is not in the Southwest, obviously, and, there were other groups that wanted-- we had a large population of patients we treated, so there was actually some competition, if you will, for us to join other groups. V was adamant that we would be SWOG and that was it, for reasons that I told you.

Tom Frei then was invited to go back to Boston. That's how you came to know him. And there was an election for a replacement. And J. Freireich was somebody that we clearly supported. There was no doubt that J. an absolutely brilliant man-- he still is-- and taught a lot of people, trained a lot of people, and taught us a great deal.

But he had one flaw. He could not control his ability to saw inappropriate things. If you knew him, you loved him. If you didn't know him, you were like your reaction to the debate, OK? That's how he ground on people.

I grew up with the respect for J., as I told you, as I was introduced to him, and he was always incredibly kind to me. Anyway, so we were actively supporting J. To be the replacement. There were some other people that did not want Freireich. So you had some people who didn't have the same feeling. And that's how Boris Hoogstraten became chairman.

Boris Hoogstraten was a hematologist from the University of Kansas. And I remember-- and you'll be very proud of me, Dan-- one of my colleagues from Wayne wanted to do a study of this new drug called tamoxifen--

DANIEL HAYES: [LAUGHS]

LAURENCE H. BAKER: --for breast cancer, OK? [LAUGHS] And Hoogstraten said, don't you get it, Baker? We're a chemotherapy group. What's with this hormone stuff? I don't have to tell another story, but that one is true. So SWOG didn't study tamoxifen for a long time.

Any rate, Boris was an interesting man. I don't want to cut him short. But there came a time when it was clear that SWOG needed to go in a different direction. And we all thought that the right person for that was Chuck Colton.

At the time, I have to tell you, there was two things relevant to this. There were lots of regional cooperative groups that don't exist anymore. I led a revolt-- that's what Colton said-- that included the University of Indiana-- Larry Einhorn was in Detroit plotting against Hoogstraten-- along with the University of Michigan. Al Labulio was in Detroit doing that. So you got the idea.

So it was a group of institutions, if you want, that were geographically somehow related to the Great Lakes in some way. There were seven or eight of us. And we represented probably 40% of the [INAUDIBLE] of SWOG. And Coltman came to me and said, listen, stay with the group. Don't do this. Stay with the group. And I said, I can't stand this nonsense. I mean, we're not working anymore. We're just--

Anyway, he said, please stay. And he ended up becoming the chairman. And then he turned to me and he said, listen, Larry, I want you to be the deputy. I don't need a title. I don't want a title. He said, no, no, no, I don't care what you need or what you want. I need you right next to me, because if you led a revolt once, I don't want to see it happen again.

DANIEL HAYES: [LAUGHS]

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Absolutely true story. And so we abandoned the idea of a regional group. I still think that may have been a dynamite group, by the way. But we all stayed-- Indiana was not [INAUDIBLE] SWOG, so let me be clear. That was ECOG, I think. I think that's right.

Anyway, so that's how I came to know Chuck, and I was his deputy for 25 years. I had the best job as deputy, because I had nothing to do. He just wanted me sitting there, and that's what we wanted.

Then there was some push from the NCI that maybe to 25 years of being chair is a long time, and maybe there's a reason to move on. From that team the suggestion from Bob Livingston and John Crowley, that I was the natural person to do that.

I really didn't want it, to be honest. I still maintain that. But there was a good deal of pressure exerted, both from within the group and from the NCI, for me to do that. So I became the chairman, I think, for a couple of terms.

I made some changes in the group. I think as groups go on, institutions either get better or they get worse. I think that's true. And we made a number of different ways of appointing disease chairs and things like that, that the group did get better and started on a better path.

But I really didn't want to continue it, and there was a time when I was not only running SWOG, but I was also running this sarcoma group called SARC. And it became overwhelming to me. I was working literally 80 hours a week there.

So I gave up SARC first. That really-- University of Michigan was thrilled that I did that-- and stayed with SWOG another year or two. But I knew that I wasn't going to stay at that. And so after two terms, I thought I would set the precedent that, maybe, group chairs should have two terms and move on. Witshoski had two two terms. [LAUGHS]

But anyway, being serious, I really think there should be a limited amount of time. There's so many talented people in our field that it's silly to think that one person has to stay in these jobs. And so that's-- I think I answered your question. I'm not sure my [INAUDIBLE].

DANIEL HAYES: I have to tell just a brief-- Nobel laureate Bruce Beutler was my intern when I was a resident at UT-Southwestern. After he won the prize, he came up here as a visiting professor, and we went to dinner. And I said, Bruce, I kind of lost track. I know you did an internship with us, but I never heard if you finished your clinical training. And he said, no, I went-- I loved the lab and went back into it. I never did go back and finish my training [INAUDIBLE]. And then he looked at me and said, but I think I worked down all right, don't you?

LAURENCE H. BAKER: [LAUGHS]

DANIEL HAYES: And in a similar manner, I would say, for all your humility that you've laid out, I think it worked out all right. SWOG is a powerhouse and has changed practice in so many ways. And part of that, a lot of that, was your doing.

So we've actually run out of time. I had hoped, actually, to-- you've done too much in your lifetime, Larry. I was hoping to get into the sarcoma work, but we've run out of time. I think everybody who's listening to this who knows about the work you've done in sarcoma-- and lord knows there's plenty of work to do in sarcoma, so--

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Can I give you just one more anecdote, and you can cut it, and I'll try to be very [INAUDIBLE]?

DANIEL HAYES: No, no. Please do, please do.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Remember I told you I became chair of the Sarcoma Committee of SWOG? The man I replaced was a man named Jeff Gottlieb. Jeff was a pediatric oncologist-- little did people know-- who was a student of J and Tom at the NCI. Jeff died in his mid-30s of cancer, by the way, but he was the most brilliant medical oncologist I ever met. He was the originator of combination chemotherapy that became popular in breast cancer, and he was involved in sarcomas in combinations as well.

I was handpicked by Jeff to be his replacement, which was probably the nicest thing that ever happened to me. And during that period when Jeff died, I went to Houston to his funeral. And I can give you one-sentence description of J. Freireich going to speak at Jeff's funeral. He stood up, and he said, Jeff-- and he broke down and cried for minutes. And that was his talk.

When anyone says something to me critical of J. Freireich, I remember that love he showed to his colleague. So that's worth [INAUDIBLE].

DANIEL HAYES: No, that's--

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Not many people were at that funeral.

DANIEL HAYES: --very touching. He also gave Dr. Frei's eulogy in Boston, and he got through it, but just barely. It was very similar. These are the kinds of stories I'm hoping to capture in this series. Larry, I'd really like to thank you for taking time to be on. I'd also like to thank you for all you've done for the field, for me personally, frankly, with my time here in Michigan the last 20 years, and most importantly, for our patients who have benefited from all your contributions, your training of-- we could go on about all the people you've trained.

So anyway, thanks a lot. We appreciate it.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Thank you.

DANIEL HAYES: And have a nice day.

LAURENCE H. BAKER: Thank you very much. I appreciate your kind words.

DANIEL HAYES: Until next time, thank you for listening to this JCO's Cancer Stories-- The Art of Oncology podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard today, don't forget to give us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. While you're there, be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. JCO's Cancer Stories-- The Art of Oncology podcast is just one ASCO's many podcasts. You can find all the shows at podcast.asco.org

37 episodes