Roy Hertz, M.D., Ph.D.

Roy Hertz


Roy Hertz, M.D., Ph.D., died October 28, 2002 at the age of 93 after a long and distinguished career.

Dr. Hertz was a native of Cleveland and received his medical degree and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. He also received a Masters Degree in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins University and was a research fellow at Brown University and taught Pharmacology at Howard University. He began his career in the Public Health Service in Baltimore, and was assigned there where he did fundamental research in vitamin biochemistry. He was named head of the Endocrinology Section of the National Cancer Institute in 1946. By the time a hospital facility was opened on the campus of the NIH in 1953, Dr. Hertz was in the Research Medicine Branch of the Cancer Institute. He admitted the NIH's first research patient, who was treated for prostate cancer. His major research occurred during 25 years at the NIH, where in 1961 he was chosen to present the annual NIH Scientific Lecture, one of the research center's highest honors. He moved to the role of Director of the Endocrinology Branch when the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development was opened in 1965, where he continued his important research into trophoblastic disease and other hormonally-related neoplasms.

In 1956 as Chief of the Endocrine Cancer Research unit at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Hertz along with investigator Min Chiu Li reported a cure for choriocarcinoma. Drs. Hertz and Li found that a folic acid antagonist, the newly discovered anti-metabolic drug methotrexate, would provide a chemotherapeutic cure for patients with this disease, even in the face of metastatic disease. As the first chemotherapy that resulted in cure of metastatic malignant disease, it had profound implications for the treatment of other forms of malignancy that continue until today. He and his group at the National Institutes of Health went on to treat over 200 patients with trophoblastic malignancy and laid the groundwork that is used today in the successful treatment of these patients.

Dr. Hertz also did investigative work into progestin analogues which ultimately provided the basis for the development of the oral contraceptive. He also continued to be concerned about the pill's potential cancer-inducing possibilities due to the estrogenic component present. He additionally developed amphenone, which led to drugs used to treat Cushings' disease.

Dr. Hertz was widely acclaimed for his scientific investigations. In 1972 he received the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Research and shortly thereafter was nominated for a Nobel Prize. He published more than 150 papers and a book on choriocarcinoma. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Award from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which made him an Honorary Fellow, the Center Research Award of the International College of Surgeons, and the Philippine Cancer Society Citation of Merit as well as others. He received the Clinical Research Award of the Ewing Society, the University of Wisconsin Medical Alumni Citation, Distinguished and Superior Service Awards of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and many others.

Dr. Hertz was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the International Committee on Contraceptive Research, an Honorary Fellow of the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Vice President of the Endocrine Society, and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. He also sat on a number of journal editorial boards and health organization boards. He received membership in Phi Beta Kappa, the Sigma Xi honorary society, the Wisconsin Medical Association, the Federation for Clincial Investigation, and the American College of Physicians.

His first wife, Pearl Fennell Hertz, died in 1962. His second wife, Toby Oberdorfer Hertz, died October 17, 2002. Survivors include two children from his first marriage, two stepchildren, thirteen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

I had the pleasure of working as a clinical associate for Dr. Hertz from 1964 until 1966, the heyday of the trophoblastic disease experience at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Hertz served as my mentor then and thereafter and provided considerable impact on my career and development within obstetrics and gynecology. He continued to work actively until shortly before his death, and one could anticipate phone calls asking pertinent clinical questions almost monthly.

Mankind is better off for Roy Hertz' life and career. He was a giant at a time fundamental research was getting started in many human illnesses, and he provided major accomplishments that continue to influence human health to this day. He will be missed.

Submitted by Charles B. Hammond, M.D.

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