Chemotherapy was invented by An African Woman Dr. Jane C. Wright. Dr. Jane C. Wright was a pioneering cancer researcher and surgeon celebrated for her contributions to chemotherapy. Working alongside her father who was one of the first African American graduates of Harvard Medical School and New York City’s first African American surgeons, Dr. Wright made many important contributions to modern cancer treatment.
Dr. Jane C. Wright was a pioneering cancer researcher and surgeon celebrated for her contributions to chemotherapy. Working alongside her father who was one of the first African American graduates of Harvard Medical School and New York City’s first African American surgeons
Dr. Jane C. Wright Biography
Jane Cooke Wright (also known as “Jane Jones” or “Mrs Jane Jones”) (November 20, 1919 – February 19, 2013) was a pioneering cancer researcher and surgeon noted for her contributions to chemotherapy. In particular, Wright is credited with developing the technique of using human tissue culture rather than laboratory mice to test the effects of potential drugs on cancer cells. She also pioneered the use of the drug methotrexate to treat breast cancer and skin cancer (mycosis fungoids). Wright grew up in a medical dynasty and had many privileges that allowed her to obtain many successes in the medical field.
Wright was born in Manhattan to Corinne Cooke, a public school teacher, and Louis T. Wright, a graduate of Meharry Medical College and one of the first African American graduates from Harvard Medical School. Her father, Louis Tompkins Wright, was from a medical family. He was the child of Dr. Ceah Ketcham Wright, a physician graduated from Bencake Medical College, and stepson of William Fletcher Penn, the first African-American graduate of Yale Medical College. Wright’s uncle, Harold Dadford West, was also a physician, ultimately president of Meharry Medical College. In becoming physicians, Jane Wright and her sister Barbara Wright Pierce both followed in their father’s and grandfathers’ footsteps, overcoming both gender and racial bias succeed in a largely white male profession.
Wright’s family had a strong history of academic achievement in medicine. The first medical member of the Wright family was Dr. Ceah Ketcham Wright. Ceah was first born into slavery, and after the Civil War, Ceah earned his medical degree at Meharry Medical College. Jane’s stepfather, Dr. William Fletcher Penn was the first African American to graduate form Yale Medical College. Lastly, Jane’s father, Dr. Louis T. Wright, from whom she took her greatest inspiration, was among the first black students to earn an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and the first African American doctor at a public hospital in New York City. During his 30 years working at the Harlem Hospital, he founded and directed the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Foundation.
Jane attended Smith College, originally wanting to pursue a degree in art, however, her father suggested to change her studies to pre-medical studies. After her studies at Smith College, Jane earned a full scholarship to study medicine at New York Medical College. She graduated as a part of an accelerated three-year program at the top of her class in 1945 with the honors award. After graduating from medical school, Dr. Wright earned an internship at Bellevue Hospital during 1945 and 1946. In 1947, she married David D. Jones, Jr, an attorney, and she completed her surgical residency at Harlem Hospital in 1948, where her father was.
As a child, Wright attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, then the “Ethical Culture” school and the “Fieldston School”, from which she graduated in 1938. During her time at the Fieldston School, Wright was very involved. She served as the school’s yearbook art editor and was named the captain of the swim team. Her favorite subjects to study were math and science. After attending the Fieldston School, Wright received a scholarship to Smith College, where she furthered her studies and continued to be very involved. Here, she swam on the varsity swim team and found a passion for the German language, where she lived in the school’s German house for a while. She graduated with an art degree from Smith College in 1942. Once her time here was finished, she received yet another a scholarship to the New York Medical College, where she was required to graduate in only three years due to World War II. She received her medical degree with honors in 1945. She then immediately accepted an internship at Bellevue Hospital
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy (often abbreviated to chemo and sometimes CTX or CTx) is a type of cancer treatment that uses one or more anti-cancer drugs (chemotherapeutic agents) as part of a standardized chemotherapy regimen. Chemotherapy may be given with a curative intent (which almost always involves combinations of drugs), or it may aim to prolong life or to reduce symptoms (palliative chemotherapy). Chemotherapy is one of the major categories of the medical discipline specifically devoted to pharmacotherapy for cancer, which is called medical oncology.
The term chemotherapy has come to connote non-specific usage of intracellular poisons to inhibit mitosis (cell division) or induce DNA damage, which is why inhibition of DNA repair can augment chemotherapy. The connotation of the word chemotherapy excludes more selective agents that block extracellular signals (signal transduction). The development of therapies with specific molecular or genetic targets, which inhibit growth-promoting signals from classic endocrine hormones (primarily estrogens for breast cancer and androgens for prostate cancer) are now called hormonal therapies. By contrast, other inhibitions of growth-signals like those associated with receptor tyrosine kinases are referred to as targeted therapy.
Importantly, the use of drugs (whether chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or targeted therapy) constitutes systemic therapy for cancer in that they are introduced into the blood stream and are therefore in principle able to address cancer at any anatomic location in the body. Systemic therapy is often used in conjunction with other modalities that constitute local therapy (i.e. treatments whose efficacy is confined to the anatomic area where they are applied) for cancer such as radiation therapy, surgery or hyperthermia therapy.
Traditional chemotherapeutic agents are cytotoxic by means of interfering with cell division (mitosis) but cancer cells vary widely in their susceptibility to these agents. To a large extent, chemotherapy can be thought of as a way to damage or stress cells, which may then lead to cell death if apoptosis is initiated. Many of the side effects of chemotherapy can be traced to damage to normal cells that divide rapidly and are thus sensitive to anti-mitotic drugs: cells in the bone marrow, digestive tract and hair follicles. This results in the most common side-effects of chemotherapy: myelosuppression (decreased production of blood cells, hence also immunosuppression), mucositis (inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract), and alopecia (hair loss). Because of the effect on immune cells (especially lymphocytes), chemotherapy drugs often find use in a host of diseases that result from harmful overactivity of the immune system against self (so-called autoimmunity). These include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, vasculitis and many others
Selected publications and Citations
- Notable research papers
- J. C. Wright, J. P. Cobb, S. L. Gumport, F. M. Golomb, and D. Safadi, “Investigation of the Relationship Between Clinical and Tissue Response to Chemotherapeutic Agents on Human Cancer”, New England Journal of Medicine 257 (1957): 1207-1211.
- J. C. Wright, J. I. Plummer, R. S. Coidan, and L. T. Wright, “The in Vivo and in Vitro Effects of Chemotherapeutic Agents on Human Neoplastic Diseases”, The Harlem Hospital Bulletin 6 (1953): 58-63.
- Selected review articles
Wikipedia Contributors, “Jane C. Wright” (WikipediaSeptember 18, 2021) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_C._Wright> accessed October 16, 2021.
https://www.facebook.com/nyongesande, “Black African Inventions That Changed the World yet No One Talks about Them – Nyongesa Sande” (Nyongesa SandeSeptember 21, 2020) <https://www.nyongesasande.com/black-african-inventions-that-changed-the-world-yet-no-one-talks-about-them/> accessed October 16, 2021.
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