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The Story of Taxol: Nature and Politics in the Pursuit of an Anti-Cancer Drug

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 14 July 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:115
  1. Ross Camidge (, clinical lecturer in medical oncology
  1. Edinburgh Cancer Centre, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh

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    Jordan Goodman, Vivien Walsh

    Cambridge University Press, £18.95, pp 282

    ISBN 0 521 56123 X

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    In the 1950s, the United States government set up a programme to look for cancer cures in the natural world. The US Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), sent researchers off into the wilds, and over the next 30 years 15 000 plants were collected and analysed from around the globe.

    This all sounds like pretty swashbuckling stuff, yet the real drama of the programme lay not in the eventual discovery of Taxol—a powerful antineoplastic agent extractable from the bark of the Pacific yew—but in what happened next. …

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