This article is also available at http://www.ca-journal.org.
Tribute. Gerald P. Murphy, MD, DSc (1935–2000)†
Article first published online: 31 DEC 2008
Copyright © 2000 American Cancer Society
CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians
Volume 50, Issue 2, pages 121–122, March/April 2000
How to Cite
Woolam, G. L., Kelly, J. R. and Seffrin, J. R. (2000), Tribute. Gerald P. Murphy, MD, DSc (1935–2000). CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 50: 121–122. doi: 10.3322/canjclin.50.2.121
- Issue published online: 31 DEC 2008
- Article first published online: 31 DEC 2008
The world of distinguished cancer leaders has become smaller with the untimely passing of Dr. Gerald P. Murphy. The editor-in-chief of CA—A Cancer Journal for Clinicians died of a sudden heart attack at age 65 in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Friday, January 21, 2000. He was a formidable force in the worldwide fight against cancer, and his passing leaves a great void, both internationally and domestically.
When stricken, Gerry, as he was known to thousands of clinicians and researchers around the globe, was doing what he loved, leading a symposium on prostate cancer for his beloved International Union Against Cancer, the only worldwide organization devoted to cancer research and control. As Secretary General of the organization for 26 years, Dr. Murphy led the UICC with great energy and distinction. Those of us who knew and worked with Gerry were shocked by the news of his sudden passing. But most of us also knew that he had an unfortunate and long history of heart problems. We also knew that he would never slow down, outpacing most of us, working from dawn till dusk, flying coast to coast, and continent to continent. While serving as director of the Roswell Park Memorial Institute for Cancer Research, Gerry underwent a multiple coronary bypass operation. In those days, convalescence after bypass surgery was routinely 12 weeks, but Gerry amazed us all by flying to Budapest a week after the operation to deliver an important paper—on prostate cancer, of course, the oncology field that the famous urologist served with distinction and tenacity over the years.
Gerry served as president of the American Cancer Society in 1984 and later joined the staff as chief medical officer from 1988 through 1993. He would routinely fly to the UICC headquarters in Geneva for a weekend of business, then fly home to Atlanta on the red-eye, go right to the office and put in a full day. He was a man of prodigious energy, as well as extraordinary devotion to the world of cancer control.
As a researcher and clinician, Dr. Murphy achieved a worldwide reputation when the team that he led discovered prostate-specific antigen (PSA). At the time, he was director of the Roswell Park Memorial Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York.
This discovery resulted in the development of the PSA test, which is now routinely used as a diagnostic tool together with digital examination of the prostate gland—a combination that has had good results in detecting cancers of the prostate during their early stages.
In the early 1980s, some 43% of patients had advanced disease when they were diagnosed, compared with only 30% today. Last year, other researchers found that high PSA levels may also slow the growth of cancer by stimulating the immune system—a development Gerry continued to study.
“Patients and colleagues who knew Gerry professionally respected and admired him. He was simultaneously a clinical urologist and a basic scientist,” said Dr. Robert V.P. Hutter, editor-in-chief of Cancer, another journal of the ACS.
“Gerry accepted no personal pecuniary reward for the worldwide use of PSA for screening,” Dr. Hutter pointed out. “Professional success never engendered self-aggrandizement nor motivated the pursuit of personal financial gain. His love of research was motivated by the fundamental quest for scientific validity that would have clinical application.”
Gerry left Roswell Park to become chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society in 1988, upon the retirement of Dr. Arthur Holleb (another distinguished editor-in-chief of this journal). In 1993, he left the Society and was named director of the Pacific Northwest Research Foundation in Seattle. There-after, Dr. Murphy was involved in research on more refined cancer tests, as well as on a vaccine treatment for prostate cancer. Ever a man of energy, he also lectured on urology at the University of Washington Medical School.
Dr. Murphy received his B.Sc. degree (Summa Cum Laude) from Seattle University in 1956 and his M.D. degree from the University of Washington in 1959. His surgical training was at the Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1959 to 1967. Dr. Murphy received seven honorary degrees from various universities. Author and co-author of more than a thousand papers and fifteen books dealing with cancer topics, Dr. Murphy served on the editorial boards of 18 national and international medical journals.
“As a leader in the fight against cancer in this country, Gerry lobbied for the passage of the National Cancer Act in 1971 and served on the first National Cancer Advisory Board. He was also instrumental in initiating the organ site cancer program to bring together networking groups to study prostate cancer,” said Dr. Harmon Eyre, ACS Executive Vice President for Research and Medical Affairs.
Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Bridget Murphy, six adult children, and six grandchildren. His sister, Lois, wife of his lifelong friend, John Spellman, former governor of Washington, also survives him.
The staff and editorial advisors of CA and the entire American Cancer Society family express their immense sadness at the loss of a world famous scientist whose intense drive and dedication contributed so immeasurably to global progress against cancer.
“Those of us who experienced the privilege of knowing and working with Gerry,” said Dr. Hutter, “will never forget him.”