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ACS mourns the passing of Bernard Fisher, MD, a pioneer in the treatment of breast cancer

​"He will be long remembered for what he accomplished that benefited so many," said Len Litchenfeld, MD, our deputy chief medical officer, on Twitter.

It was the work of Bernard Fisher, MD, FACS, born 1918 in Pittsburgh, that showed that early-stage breast cancer could be more effectively treated by lumpectomy, in combination with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and/or hormonal therapy, than by radical mastectomy.

The oncology journal and website OncLive described Dr. Fisher's research as "launching the breast cancer community into the modern era" and honored him with a Giants of Cancer Care award for his work that ultimately ended the standard practice of performing the Halsted radical mastectomy, a treatment that had been in place for more than 75 years.

Dr. Fisher faced constant attacks from within medical ranks as he worked to disprove the efficacy of the old status quo treatment, but he prevailed and was awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research in 1985 "for his pioneering studies that have led to a dramatic improvement in survival and in the quality of life for women with breast cancer."

Dr. Len said: "We at the American Cancer Society join Dr. Fisher’s friends, colleagues, and those with cancer in mourning his passing and celebrating his accomplishments. He was truly a giant in cancer care and research. His efforts formed the foundation of many advances we have relied on for decades in treating breast cancer and other cancers. "

He added: "His wisdom challenged us as early as the 1960’s to rethink our understanding of breast cancer and led the way to more effective and more focused treatments."

Dr. Fisher, who turned 101 in August, was a University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery. Read more about him here.

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