ASCO Mourns Loss of Cooperative Group Trial Pioneer Dr. James F. Holland

Mar 22, 2018

ASCO and the oncology community are deeply saddened by the loss of James F. Holland, MD, FASCO, who passed away on March 22, 2018. He was 92.

Dr. Holland was a Distinguished Professor of Neoplastic Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the Tisch Cancer Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and a devoted member and active volunteer within ASCO. He served as the Scientific Program Committee chair from 1967 to 1968, and officially became a member in 1970. Dr. Holland was elected ASCO president from 1976 to 1977. He was awarded ASCO's highest scientific honor, the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award and Lecture (1982), and the Distinguished Service Award for Scientific Achievement (1993), and was recognized as a Fellow of ASCO (FASCO; 2007).

Dr. Holland is known for his involvement in developing groundbreaking cooperative clinical trial protocols for the treatment of leukemia. In 1953, Dr. Holland joined the National Cancer Institute (NCI) where he worked to initiate a clinical trial that would compare continuous or intermittent treatment with two chemotherapy agents for acute leukemia: methotrexate and 6-mercaptopurine.

Before the trial was completed, Dr. Holland moved to Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo, New York. Together with researchers at the NCI, the important work on this cooperative trial continued, ultimately leading to the formation of the Acute Leukemia Group B (which later became the Cancer and Leukemia Group B, now part of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology). The detailed work done by Dr. Holland and his colleagues on the trial protocol itself would eventually serve as a prototype for future clinical trials, with its incorporation of eligibility and exclusion criteria, prestudy testing, a scheme for randomization, a central review of morphology, measures for supportive care, and detailed criteria for measurement of response.

Dr. Holland was elected chair of the Cancer and Leukemia Group B in 1962, during which time the group expanded its scope to include pediatric neoplasms other than leukemia, studies of metastatic carcinoma in adults, and trials assessing adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer. Ultimately, the cooperative group’s work on acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children would help to transform the disease from an incurable illness to one with a greater than 80% survival rate.

While at Roswell Park, Dr. Holland and colleagues developed the “7 + 3” regimen of three daily injections of daunorubicin and 7 days of intravenous cytarabine, a schedule now widely used to treat acute myelocytic leukemia.

Dr. Holland also served as president of the American Association for Cancer Research in 1970 and was awarded the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in 1972 for his contributions to the concept and application of combination therapy in the treatment of acute leukemia in children.

Dr. Holland was born on May 25, 1925, in Morristown, NJ. After graduating from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completing his residency, Dr. Holland served as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Korean War. Dr. Holland was predeceased by his wife, Jimmie C. Holland, MD, known as the founder of the field of psycho-oncology, who passed away in December 2017. The Hollands are survived by their six children and many grandchildren.


William M. Hryniuk, MD

Mar, 22 2018 5:43 PM

We mourn the passing of a gentleman, a colleague and a friend. The whole world is benefitting to this day from the results of his rigorous and vsionary leadership of CALGB.  I owe a special debt of gratitude for the personal inspiration he gave me and can still hear his voice booming from the back of the conference room, spurning the microphone and pinning the presenter down. And who can forget his eclectic taste in neckties? Jim, we all miss you...... Bill Hryniuk


Gerald Rosen, MD

Mar, 22 2018 9:53 PM

One of the last of the greats. Jim I'll miss you

Arvind G. Kamthan, MD

Mar, 25 2018 7:23 AM

Dr. Holland was my chairman, mentor and inspiration for learning Medical Oncology. I was his fellow in the Department of  Neoplastic diseases at Mt Sinai Medical Center between 1990 to 1992. I learnt  not only principles and science of Oncology from him but learnt patient care,  devotion to human service and never tiring quest for better survival for cancer patients. I shall always be indebted to Dr. Holland.

Philippe Chahinian, MD

Apr, 02 2018 11:08 PM

I traveled over 3,000 miles to start my Oncology Fellowship with Dr Holland who had just moved from Roswell Park to Mount Sinai. I became immediately engulfed in a powerful whirlwind aimed at defeating cancer. Jim was determined to break the cancer cure barrier. It was his mission in life. I was privileged to work with Jim during 40 years, and to use his favorite term the overall progress against cancer has been truly monumental. He has now joined his recently departed beloved wife Jimmie.

Engracio P. Cortes, MD, FACP

Apr, 12 2018 4:28 PM

Upon completion of my internal medicine residency in Boston, the late Dr. Thomas Chalmers, our Chairman of Medicine, asked me what my future plan was. When I told him of my interest in going into oncology as a specialtyy, he did not hesitate to pick up the phone and recommended me to Dr. James Holland, Chairman of Medicine at Roswell Park.  My 4 year's stint with Dr. Holland was inspiring and stimulating. I did not only learn to be an optimist with compassion for the patients I took care of, but Dr. Holland also guided me on how to do bench research, do clinical trials and write papers for publication. There was always a tense moment on my part when I brought my papers to Dr.Holland for editing, usually at the end of the day when he was tired and took a nap in between editing. When he was done, I could barely recognize the paper I wrote. It had Dr. Holland's imprint all over it!

Jim I'll really miss you.

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