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Special Issue 2005

SOT Mourns the Loss of Philippe Shubik

Philippe Shubik was a larger than life character with dual United Kingdom and United States citizenship who performed on a worldwide stage. He had an impact on the lives of many people and made important contributions to research into the causes and mechanisms of cancer. His personal life was characterized both by higher highs and lower lows than most of us will ever know. Those of us privileged to be a friend or colleague will long remember him with deep admiration, respect and affection.

From his earliest days at school in Hampstead, London, he was clearly destined to be a leader and he quickly achieved this status and maintained it throughout a long and productive working life. Like his Oxford colleague, Sir Richard Doll, Shubik did not seem to understand the concept of retirement; to the very last day of his life he was planning the future activities of his brainchild, The Toxicology Forum. Even in his 80’s he maintained a prodigious work rate and hated to waste time.

In 1947, he worked under the influence of Howard (later Lord) Florey and Isaac Berenblum, who was his DPhil supervisor. Together they developed the fundamentally important ‘two stage’ theory of carcinogenesis. Philippe’s first two scientific papers with Berenblum appeared in the British Journal of Cancer in 1947. They were seminal contributions and ensured that the name Shubik would always be associated with carcinogenesis research. His last publication on this subject, 55 years later, appeared in 2002. At various times he was on the editorial board of eight journals and was the Founding Editor of Cancer Letters. At the last count he was, or had been, a fellow or member of 17 scientific societies and served on more than 30 committees. He was a long-serving member of the National Cancer Advisory Board and its subcommittees and on a U.S. President’s Advisory Committee on Cancer. One of the journalist members of this Committee has since written that “Shubik was the most fascinating scientist that I ever met.”

While Director of the Eppley Institute for Cancer Research in Omaha, Nebraska, Shubik became troubled by the lack of communication and collaboration between the major sectors involved in cancer research and treatment, namely the pharmaceutical industry, the government and its regulatory agencies, academia and consumers. To address this deficiency he proposed the formation of a Toxicology Forum and on its establishment in 1975 duly became its first (and so far only) President. He had planned to retire next year! After thirty years, the Forum continues to hold successful and important independent meetings where balanced uninhibited discussions take place about controversial issues impinging on toxicology and especially cancer.

Among many honors he received, he particularly valued the Ernst W. Bertner Memorial Award from the prestigious M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in 1978, which he shared with his mentor, Isaac Berenblum, and the Merit Award from the Society of Toxicology in 2000, which recognized his distinguished career and lifetime contributions to Toxicology.

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