Drug Discov Ther. 2009;3(2):37-40.

From chemotherapy to signal therapy (1909-2009): A century pioneered by Paul Ehrlich.

Maruta H


Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915), a German microbiologist who was awarded a 1908 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for his pioneer work on the antibody production, pioneered the modern chemotherapy by discovering his magic bullet for syphilis, called "606" or "Salvarsan" in 1909 with a Japanese young scientist, Sahachiro Hata (1873-1938) from "Denken" (Institute for Infectious Diseases, now called IMS for Institute for Medical Sciences) in Tokyo. His magic bullet was used to eradicate syphilis for more than a half century until a more safe and effective antibiotic called "Penicillin" was introduced to this world towards the end of WWII by Howard Florey (1898-1968). Celebrating this year the 100th anniversary of his discovery, this brief review will discuss how Ehrlich, now known as the Father of Chemotherapy, managed to design the first effective therapeutic for this then formidable sexually transmitted disease, which is equivalent to AIDS, HIV-infection, in the present century, and how so many new chemotherapeutics have been successfully developed during the past 100 years for other formidable diseases such as cancers and AIDS by his followers (microbe hunters and oncogene hunters) such as Alexander Fleming (1881-1955), Hamao Umezawa (1914-1986) and Brian Druker, culminating in the first signal therapeutics of cancers such as "Gleevec" that block the oncogenic signaling, around the turn of this century.

KEYWORDS: Paul Ehrlich, chemotherapy, signal therapy

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