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Nat Rev Cancer. 2008 Jun;8(6):473-80. doi: 10.1038/nrc2394. Epub 2008 May 12.

Paul Ehrlich's magic bullet concept: 100 years of progress.

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Klaus Strebhardt is at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Medicine, J.W. Goethe-University, Theodour-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt, Germany.


Exceptional advances in molecular biology and genetic research have expedited cancer drug development tremendously. The declared paradigm is the development of 'personalized and tailored drugs' that precisely target the specific molecular defects of a cancer patient. It is therefore appropriate to revisit the intellectual foundations of the development of such agents, as many have shown great clinical success. One hundred years ago, Paul Ehrlich, the founder of chemotherapy, received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. His postulate of creating 'magic bullets' for use in the fight against human diseases inspired generations of scientists to devise powerful molecular cancer therapeutics.

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