1 of this article originally appeared in our August/September
Part 2 was in print in October
Part 3 is an online publication
There are few greater hazards to a
scientist's career than perceiving
a truth before the means exist to test it. Repeated assertions of one's
insight will first invite insistent demands for proof, then skepticism,
followed by silence, ridicule, and often the loss of research funds.
"A Lonely Warrior Against Cancer:
The New York
Dr. Emanuel Revici pioneered nontoxic
lipid treatments for cancer in the mid-1920s – 80 years ago.
Barely in his 30s at the time, Revici was in private practice in
Romania, still associated with the
University of Bucharest where he had received his medical education.
Knowledge about these water-insoluble substances was comparatively
crude at the time. Combining Newtonian physics and quantum mechanics,
he redefined lipids, accurately describing their molecular activity,
organization, and properties.
Revici moved to Paris in 1936, seeking technologically advanced research facilities.
As World War II loomed, French academic physicians encouraged him to continue
his studies, occasionally requesting him to apply his laboratory findings to
terminal cancer patients under their care. These therapeutic experiments, said
one doctor, always resulted in relief of pain and often in tumor regression
(see below, 1936-41: Paris).
Relocating in the US after the war, Revici repeatedly tried to inform doctors
about his research on lipids in physiopathology through peer-reviewed journals
and scientific conferences, but elements in the medical establishment frustrated
his efforts. His concepts were foreign to their knowledge bank, so they derided
or slighted his investigations. (See parts 1 and 2 of this appreciation of
Modern molecular biologists began publishing their insights into lipids in
the 1980s, and virtually no clues in the English-language scientific literature
pointed toward Revici as their predecessor. Bengt Samuelsson's research
on leukotrienes, which earned him a Nobel Prize in 1982, exemplifies independent
confirmation of Revici's groundbreaking experiments. Samuelsson published
his observations almost a generation after Revici had described these fatty
acids in a paper read by a colleague at an international radiology conference
in London in 1950.
By the 1980s, Revici had been a US resident (and naturalized citizen) for close
to four decades, treating cancer patients at his New York City Institute of
Applied Biology (IAB) since 1947 with compounds derived from his clinical research.
These agents, negligible in toxicity, included selenium in lipid bases and
Omega 3 fatty acids extracted from fish oil, especially salmon.
Unlike his scientific investigations, Revici's medical applications quickly
attracted the attention of establishment institutions, the American Medical
Association (AMA) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) foremost among them.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a joint letter
in August 1945, warning about the treatment for cancer at a clinic that Revici
had established in Mexico City in 1942.1 (Driven from Europe by World War II,
Revici had first taken refuge in Mexico.) The signers were US physicians who
had visited the clinic between the fall of 1943 and the summer of 1945. This
Part 3 of my appreciation of Revici presents excerpts from letters those physicians
wrote to each other; their private correspondence was largely at variance with
the public letter they signed.
JAMA published a report by the AMA Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry in 1949,
which associated Revici's method of cancer management with quackery and
denigrated the research at the IAB.2 In 1949, the IAB was located in Brooklyn,
and the Brooklyn Cancer Committee of the ACS reprinted and distributed the
AMA report. Revici and the IAB sued the Brooklyn Cancer Committee for libel.
The facts relating to the 1949 JAMA report slandering Revici and the IAB and
the consequent IAB suit are provided in the account here. Note that, since
the 1940s, the ACS has been the prime source for stories spread among the medical
profession about Revici. The media, for the most part, has echoed the Society
in reporting about him to the public—as they have done in general with
unorthodox approaches to care branded heretical, in effect, by the ACS.
The most elaborate ACS version of Revici's career appeared in the March/April
1989 issue of CA – A Cancer Journal For Clinicians, an ACS publication.
It spoke matter-of-factly of evaluations of his cancer therapy by US physicians
in the mid-1940s. As this part of the Revici appreciation will show, all the
tests of Revici's therapy which the ACS represented in this piece as
actually occurring in the 1940s turned out to be hearsay, misunderstandings
of situations, or opinions expressed in correspondence.
In 1936, Dr. Emanuel Revici uprooted himself from Bucharest to settle
in Paris, where the scientific environment for his research seemed
more hospitable. Late
in life, reflecting on his Parisian period, he confided to friends that he
never would have left France were it not for World War II.3 Between 1937
and 1938, the sub-director of the Pasteur Institute deposited five
by Revici in the National Academy of Sciences.4 This appears to have been
a prestigious way in France of recognizing scientific discoveries.5
summaries concerned novel observations on lipids and cancer.4
Revici maintained that the Minister of Defense and a Councilor of State proposed
awarding him Legions of Honor in the late 1930s. (As defined by Revici, a
Councilor of State was the rough equivalent to an advisor to the US president.)
wanted to honor him for two patents he handed the government for rapid mass
incineration of official papers in the event of war. The Councilor wanted
to honor the entire body of his research after Revici had put the Councilor's
cancer-ridden wife in remission. Concerned that these awards might politically
taint his scientific work, Revici nixed both proposals.6
World War II aborted his French career. The first part of this series on
Revici recounted his eleventh-hour escape from the German forces occupying
capitol. (The Nazis were rounding up Jews in Paris for deportation to death
camps. Revici, who was Jewish, had retained his Romanian citizenship, and
Romania was fighting on Germany's side. Such "distinctions" would
have counted for naught had the Nazis landed him in their nets.) Fleeing
with his wife and daughter to Nice in Vichy, France, Revici bore with him
of recommendation written on the eve of flight in March 1941.
Dr. Roger Leroux wrote: "Dr Revici has been working in my laboratory
for two years. He is carrying on a program of very interesting research of
a physiopathological nature on the metabolism of lipids. He has brought to
this question several new ideas of the greatest interest. It is vital that
his research be continued without interruption, for the results obtained by
Dr. Revici open a multiplicity of new paths to research of all kinds, particularly
in the field of cancer." Leroux was Professor of Pathologic Anatomy
at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Paris.7
Dr. Chifoliau extolled Revici: "On several occasions, in cases of patients
afflicted with grave surgical conditions, I requested the aid of Dr. Revici,
who willingly applied to our patients the results of his laboratory research.
The result obtained in most hopeless cases were always the amelioration of
pain and quite often, the progressive disappearance of large tumors. Dr. Revici's
research must be continued and fostered, and may change the therapy of tumors
completely." Chifoliau was an Honored Member of the Hospitals of Paris
and a Member of the Academy of Surgery of France.8
1942-46: Mexico City
Twenty years after the Second World War, a member of the high command of
the Resistance in southern France recalled Dr. Revici's clandestine service
in the Underground: "Revici volunteered in our resistance in which we
badly needed secret help. . .Revici risked his life doing such jobs. . .He
could have been arrested any time...His wife would have been deported...I never
forgot his quiet courage and the lives he saved."9
Fellow leaders of the Underground sped Revici and his family out of Europe
in the Fall of 1941.10 Mexico agreed to entry visas, and by early 1942, the
Revicis had resettled in Mexico City. Encouraged by Gaston Merry, a friend,
Revici converted a modern 100-room hotel into a medical institute devoted
to his lipid research. Formerly the European representative for E.I. Du Pont
Nemours, Merry was a chemical engineer who had grown interested in Revici's
study of lipids while both were in Paris. (Du Pont had long positioned itself
in the business world as a multinational combine specializing in chemical
research and manufacture.)
Revici's Mexico City institute had 15 qualified physicians and chemists
on staff, with 60 support personnel. Most of the doctors and chemists were
Mexican, but several eminent European physicians, surgeons, and scientists
also in refuge, signed on. The facilities included a hospital equipped with
the latest technology, a clinical lab, a research department with eight labs,
a section for experiments on animals, and an outpatient clinic that charged
patients not a peso for treatment and medication. Concentrating on Revici's
explorations of lipid metabolism and disease, the researchers studied sulfur
incorporated into lipids for antibiotic use, fatty acids as factors in arteriosclerosis,
and shock. The work on cancer focused on treatment of terminal cases with
Toward the end of 1943, a banker in Wilmington, Delaware, the global headquarters
of Du Pont, got word from Merry and others involved with Du Pont about Revici's
Mexican clinic. The banker's father had been a founder of the McArdle
Memorial Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison,
and he passed the word about Revici to the physician-director of the McArdle
center. The director traveled to Mexico City and spent more than a month
at Revici's clinic, summing up his impressions to the banker at the beginning
of December: "My visit with Dr. Revici," he said, "was very
worthwhile, and I am enthusiastic about some of his ideas. Most of his work
is of a fundamental scientific nature. I believe that further work in that
direction is indicated. This is especially true of his work concerning the
fundamental concept of his theory."11
By the summer of 1944, two physicians from Texas had learned about Revici;
one of them recently appointed the first director of M.D. Anderson Hospital,
the other associated with the new cancer center in Houston. In early September,
the associate visited the Mexican clinic and reported his observations to
the director. Revici, he noted, had refused offers of money to finance his
research; he didn't want to work under anyone's direction. Revici
also struck him as well educated in medicine and biochemistry.12 In a supplementary
report, the associate described eight cases of cancer, each different, each
with objective signs of improvement. He concluded: "I am now fairly convinced
that Dr. Revici is completely sincere in what he is doing, and the more I see
of his work, the more I believe that he may possibly have something of value,
even if it is nothing more than the relief of pain without the use of narcotics.
Dr. Revici expressed a very great willingness to tell us of everything he uses
and the way in which he treats his cases."13
Over the next year, more physicians from Wisconsin and Texas and a radiologist
from California made site inspections. Letters to curious cancer researchers
traveled back and forth between the West and East Coasts.14 The observers
and correspondents basically agreed: Revici's scientific concepts seemed
plausible; his medical applications appeared to benefit an unusual percentage
of difficult cancer cases; and he was absolutely open about his theories,
method of care, treatment outcomes, and the operation of the clinic (including
charts and evaluative procedures and tests).15
Meanwhile, inquiries from doctors, patients, and relatives around the US
flooded the Mexican clinic. Many of these people had contacted the physicians
Wisconsin and Texas who had witnessed dramatic improvement in Revici's
patients. To each inquirer, Revici addressed a careful disclaimer: his approach
was in an investigational phase, not a "cure."10
When the August 18, 1945 issue of JAMA arrived in Mexico City, he and Merry
were surprised to find a letter in the correspondence section headed "A
Mexican Treatment For Cancer—A Warning."1 The letter didn't
name Revici, but the facility it described unmistakably matched his institute.
Speaking of "the physician in charge," the letter emphasized that
there was no "positive evidence" that the "peculiar methods" devised
by him and his associates interrupted the usual course of a malignancy. To
underscore this point further, the letter declared that the theoretical basis
for the treatment was "not in accord in any way with established biochemical
or pathological considerations."
A decade later, the shock imprinted in memory, Revici conveyed his reaction: "I
read the letter with bewilderment as it was in total contradiction with the
facts and the correspondence which the doctors who signed the statement sent
to me after their last visit to Mexico."10 His 1955 explanation of the
astonishing turn-around was partly right: "When I had occasion to visit
Texas later," he said, "I was given to understand…that several
of the doctors were embarrassed by the trek of cancer patients to Mexico City,
for which they alone could be blamed."10
But his explanation didn't cover Chauncey Leake, PhD, whose signature
led the others under the JAMA letter. Dean of the School of Medicine, University
of Texas, Galveston, Leake was the only signer who was not a physician. (His
doctorate was in chemistry.) According to Revici, he stayed no more than
a half-hour on his sole visit to the Mexican clinic.10 Yet several months
publication of the JAMA letter, Leake had written to the observer from M.D.
Anderson: "I think that Dr. Revici…has no basic knowledge of modern
biochemistry or of any other modern scientific development that is significant
with respect to the cancer problem. Further, I am convinced that he has no
satisfactory concept of the principles of science which are so important in
judgment on so complex a matter as cancer."16 Note that Leake's
assessment was the polar opposite of the eminent French physicians' view
of Revici's clinical research in 1941.
Leake's correspondence is preserved in the National Library of Medicine,
Bethesda, MD. Other letters in this collection left no doubt that he initiated
and drafted the 1945 JAMA warning and that he browbeat at least one physician
who was unwilling to sign into affixing his signature.17 The letters in this
cache also revealed that he served Eli Lily as a consultant on development
of Mexican pharmaceutical markets.18 Nothing in this correspondence hints
at the basis for his put-down of Revici's understanding of science in connection
with cancer. His evident rationale for issuing a joint public statement was "to
save the expense, the trouble, and the disappointment that are sure to come
to patients who go to Dr. Revici."16 Neither the Leake papers nor any
other documentary evidence surviving from Revici's Mexican period lend
credence to formal trials of his therapy in Mexico City or at the University
of Wisconsin, Madison, which the ACS accepted as factual in its 1989 piece
1946-49: Chicago, Brooklyn
The 1989 ACS piece also stated as a matter of fact that Revici demonstrated
his method at the University of Chicago in 1946, trying it on 52 cancer patients
with "no favorable effects" attributable to his treatment. The
Society's source was an AMA file.2 Who supplied this story to the AMA
awaits an airing of AMA informants on Revici.
Indisputably, Revici was in Chicago in 1946—thanks to Gustave Freeman,
an assistant professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago. Freeman
had stumbled onto Revici in 1944 while serving as a major in the US Army
where his duties involved official liaison with the Mexican government and
research on controlling typhus. A lieutenant undergoing treatment at the
Mexico City clinic had aroused his curiosity. Six times over two months,
notice, Freeman dropped into the clinic, speaking with Revici for many hours.
(His fluency in Spanish gave him an edge over other US physicians appraising
On February 12, 1945, Freeman reported to Dr. George Dick, chief of the Department
of Medicine, University of Chicago, that Revici seemed "properly scientific
in his outlook." None of the American physicians investigating his clinic
had discovered any unethical activities, including a San Antonio surgeon, Dudley
Jackson, who had exposed cancer quacks for the US Public Health Service and
was sending patients to the Mexican clinic. Remarking that Revici's approach
was "so much more promising than anything that has appeared in the field
of cancer," Freeman urged Dr. Dick to offer adequate lab facilities
and patients for a fair trial.19
Dr. Dick extended an invitation. Revici shuttered his Mexican institute,
arranging for patients under treatment to continue, and drove by car with
to Chicago.10 Visas ordered by a special wartime assistant to President Franklin
Roosevelt, Sumner Welles, eased his entry into the US. (The visas, requested
by commanders of the Resistance, recognized both Revici's service with
the French Underground and his promising cancer research.)10 En route, Revici
stopped overnight in San Antonio to pay respects to Dr. Dudley Jackson. Jackson
had been asked by Chauncey Leake to sign the 1945 JAMA letter.20 Instrumental
in founding the National Cancer Institute in 1937,21 he had the political
muscle to refuse. Confirming Revici's suspicion that Leake had authored the
JAMA warning, Jackson added an intriguing bit of information. Leake, he said,
had been inspired by Cornelius Rhoads, head of the chemical warfare division
of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. (Postwar director
of Memorial Hospital in NYC, Rhoads had used his military position to test
deadly chemical agents as chemotherapy for cancer.)22
Shortly after Revici's arrival in Chicago, Dr. Dick's term as dean
expired. The new dean, unsympathetic to Revici, forbade him to treat patients
at the university hospital.23 Shelved in Chicago, Revici interviewed several
doctors in the eastern US interested in cancer, choosing Abraham Ravich,
a urologist with a large practice in Brooklyn, NY. Ravich quickly convinced
local physicians, businessmen, educators, judges, and attorneys to back Revici's
research. In March 1947, this group chartered two non-profit organizations;
the Institute of Applied Biology (IAB), and the Cancer Research and Hospital
Foundation. Dr. Ravich was named director of the IAB; Revici was named the
scientific director (a position he held until 1990). Dr. Gustave Freeman
resigned from Chicago University and moved to Brooklyn to work alongside
son Robert, fresh out of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia
University, also threw in his lot with Revici and the IAB.24
In April 1947, Freeman sent a detailed letter to an associate editor of JAMA,
providing information on Revici and the nature of the IAB clinical research.
Most likely, Freeman was responding to an AMA request for background on Revici,
because his letter touched on the story about Revici testing his method in
Chicago. Freeman told the editor that conditions and facilities didn't
permit Revici to treat any patients at the University of Chicago hospital.23
Through the Freedom of Information Act, this writer obtained an FBI dossier
on Revici in the late 1980s. Consisting of investigative and surveillance
reports dating between the late 1950s and mid-1960s, it indicated that the
cleared Revici, but most pages were unreadable, blacked out with "Top
Secret" stamped at the top. A deep wartime friendship between Revici
and Constantin Omansky, Soviet Ambassador to Mexico, may have sparked the
Bureau's concern, putting agents on his postwar trail to snoop for residual
the Communist bloc in Eastern Europe. On several pages, one can make out
that an agent checked Revici's medical activities in Chicago, finding no
of him in the university hospital records.
Four years after the 1945 warning about Revici's treatment in JAMA, bad
publicity lingered as a major "stumbling block" to fundraising.
But the "highly ethical conduct of the research and the favorable results
obtained" in terminal cancer cases at the IAB were gradually dispersing
the murky cloud over Revici created by that public statement.25 Then, on January
8, 1949, JAMA ran a report by the AMA Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry, headed "Cancer
and the Need for Facts."2 The report named various individuals and groups
as charlatans and purveyors of quackery, Revici and the IAB among them. The
sole basis for including Revici appeared to be the 1945 JAMA warning.
A number of organizations widely propagated the AMA report, the American
Cancer Society and the Consumers' Union in the lead. The report blasted IAB
hopes of getting grants from the NCI. The president of the local ACS chapter,
the Brooklyn Cancer Committee (BCC), reprinted the section on Revici and
the excerpt. Subsequently, the Visiting Nurse Association refused to service
IAB ambulatory cases, and the county medical society barred the IAB from
using the society's auditorium to defend its research before the medical
Of course, lay members of the IAB experienced extreme difficulty in collecting
funds to support lab and clinical programs.25
To protect their reputations, the lay sponsors of the IAB demanded legal
action, first against the local arm of the ACS, next against the AMA. A suit
was soon filed against the BCC and its president. A libel suit against the
AMA, the laymen decided, would be too costly and difficult, so they abandoned
the idea. The suit against the BCC never proceeded to trial. Dr. John Masterson,
president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, intervened, called
the parties to a conference over which he presided, and issued a statement
agreed to by all parties. The BCC declared it never authorized or knew in
advance about the reprint and its distribution, disavowed the letter by its
accompanying the reprint, and disavowed any slanderous inferences in the
reprint and letter. The BCC president acknowledged that he had acted on his
his action, and also disavowed the contents of the reprint, his letter, and
libelous inferences in both. All parties agreed that the section on Revici
and the IAB in the AMA report was unjustified. Revici and the IAB withdrew
In the near aftermath, JAMA published a letter from Dr. Abraham Ravich, IAB
director, in its July 9, 1949 issue. The letter began: "An article entitled 'Cancer
and the Need for Facts' that appeared in The Journal (January 8, p. 93)
contained a number of unwarranted statements derogatory to the research of
Dr. Emanuel Revici and the Institute of Applied Biology. These statements were
based on a correspondence item published in The
Journal on Aug. 18, 1945 (p.
1186). We have in our possession and submit conclusive documentary evidence
from a majority of these signers that completely contradicts their published
unfavorable correspondence. Accordingly, the statements that appeared in The
Journal were without justification if based on these alleged facts."27
To this writer's knowledge, neither the AMA nor the ACS has ever coupled
the 1945 letter warning against Revici's Mexican clinic or the 1949 report
by the AMA Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry with this IAB letter in their
presentations questioning the efficacy of Revici's therapeutic method.
Nor have the AMA and ACS ever referred to the out-of-court settlement of
the suit against the BCC that vindicated Revici and the IAB.
There was another development in the aftermath of the suit against the BCC,
which neither the AMA nor the ACS has ever disclosed: impressed by the treatment
approach and results at the IAB, Dr. John Masterson became a member of the
IAB's board of directors.28
Part 2, Part 3
1. Leake CD, et al. A Mexican treatment for cancer: a warning, correspondence,
2. AMA Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry: Report of the Council, Cancer
and the need for facts. JAMA. 1949;139:93-98.
3. Personal communication with Dr. Emanuel Revici, c. 1984.
4. C. Pouret, archivist, National Academy of Sciences (France), letter
to Dr. Revici, 5/1/85.
5. Center of Alternative Medicine Research, University of Texas Health
Sciences Center, Houston. Available at: www.sph.uth.tms.edu/utcam. (8/19/06:
Link to Center of Alternative Medicine Research no longer active. www.uth.tmc.edu works.)
6. Personal communication with Dr. Revici, c. 1984.
7. Roger Leroux, MD. Letter, March 1941; quoted from Project CURE, "Emanuel
Revici: Evolution of Genius," Impact, (special supplement). Spring
8. Dr. Chifoliau. Letter, March 1941; quoted from Project CURE, "Emanuel
Revici: Evolution of Genius," Impact, (special supplement). Spring
9. André Girard. Letter to Laurence Eldredge, Esq. 4/12/65.
10. Emanuel Revici. Affidavit; sworn and notarized, 2/3/55. Extending
41 pp., this document detailed Revici's life and career from
1896 to 1955.
11. Harold P. Rusch, MD. Letter to Thomas E. Brittingham. 12/1/43.
12. C.A. Calhoun, MD. Letter to E.W. Bertner, MD. 9/11/44.
13. C.A. Calhoun, MD. Letter to E.W. Bertner, MD.10/27/44.
14. For instance: Ross Golden, MD, The Presbyterian Hospital, New York
City, Letter to Lowell Goin, MD, Los Angeles. c. 10/44.
15. For instance: Jas. Greenwood, Jr., MD. Letter to E.W. Bertner,
MD. 11/10/44; and, C.A. Calhoun, MD. Letter to E.W. Bertner, MD. 10/27/44.
16. Chauncey D. Leake, PhD. Letter to C.A. Calhoun, MD. 5/29/45.
17. Chauncey Leake, PhD. Letter to Lowell Goin, MD. 5/29/45.
18. Chauncey Leake, PhD. Letters to Dr. Chen, Lily. 11/26/45, 12/17/45,
19. Gustave Freeman, MD. Letter to George Dick, MD. 2/12/45.
20. Chauncey Leake, PhD. Letter to Dudley Jackson, MD. 6/22/45.
21. Dudley Jackson, MD. Letter to Chauncey Leake, PhD, 6/18/45. See
also: James T. Patterson. The Dread Disease. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1987.
22. Ralph Moss. The Cancer Industry. Brooklyn, NY: Equinox Press, 1996.
23. Marcus A. Cohen. Unpublished review of Revici's career, quoting
firsthand sources, 1988.
24. Abraham Ravich, MD. Letter to André Girard. 4/5/47.
25. Robert Ravich, MD. Letter. c. May/June 1949; quoted in 23, above.
26. Statement of out-of-court settlement, jointly signed by the Brooklyn
Cancer Committee, its president, and Dr. Revici and the IAB. 6/13/49.
27. Ravich A, MD. Institute of Applied Biology. Correspondence. JAMA.
28. Laurence W. Cancer attacked by a new method. The
New York Times.
Marcus A. Cohen
8 East 96th St., 1C
New York, New York 10128 USA