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William DeWys, M.D.

Dr. William DeWys joined the Clinical Investigations Branch of the National Cancer Institute in 1979 and became its branch chief in 1980. It was in this capacity that he coordinated the workshop on the unusual appearance of Kaposi's sarcoma in younger men held at the NIH on 15 September 1981. This was one of the first actions taken by the NIH to respond to AIDS. Scientists were interested because there seemed to be a link between Kaposi's sarcoma and the immune system and because the cancer was appearing in a population that was also developing Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia [PCP]. Cancer researchers were familiar with PCP because of its incidence among cancer patients undergoing vigorous anti-cancer therapy.

 

As Dr. DeWys describes, scientists at the workshop believed it was likely that the combination of ailments being seen in younger men was virus related. They also debated issues related to treatment of Kaposi's sarcoma given the inability of immunosuppressed individuals to tolerate chemotherapy. After the meeting the Division of Cancer Treatment of NCI supported a number of treatment projects for Kaposi's sarcoma, PCP, and other tumors found in AIDS patients.

 

Dr. DeWys became Associate Director of the Prevention Program of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control in 1982 and remained at NCI until 1985. He then joined the Capitol Area Permanente Medical Group and worked as a medical oncologist until his retirement in 1995. He died in May 1998.

 

Transcript of Interview:
Dr. William DeWys, November 21, 1989

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