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Med Phys. 2000 Jun;27(6):1212-6.

American radium engenders telecurie therapy during World War I.

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Radiotherapy Department, Good Samaritan Hospital, Vincennes, Indiana 47591, USA.


From 1899 to 1912 there was a European monopoly controlling the sale of radium for cancer therapy. This trust was finally broken, albeit only temporarily, in 1912/13 by American entrepreneurs J. Flannery, H. Kelly, and J. Douglas. Joe Flannery was a former mortician turned mining magnate. Dr. Howard Kelly was the renowned gynecological surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medical School who defied tradition by maintaining his own private hospital. Professor James Douglas was the Arizona copper king who helped support Memorial Hospital in New York City as America's first cancer hospital. During 1913-1916 surgeons Howard Kelly (Baltimore) and H. H. Janeway (Memorial Hospital) began using radium and radon for the treatment of deep seated cancers. Their technique required placement of the sources several centimeters away from the skin surface. As this new concept, telecurie therapy, resulted in a significant decrease in dose rate, it was necessary for both surgeons to have several grams of radium, costing $180000/gram, in their possession. Fortunately, Kelly and Janeway were the sole beneficiaries of a radium mining company, the National Radium Institute, from 1913 to 1916. With this unique American source of radium and with Europe otherwise preoccupied, these two American surgeons pioneered megavoltage telecurie therapy, using the 1.2 MeV gamma rays of "mass radium."

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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