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Humphrey Kay

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 06 January 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:b5685
  1. Caroline Richmond

    Haematologist who led the treatment of childhood leukaemia

    Humphrey Kay spearheaded the transformation of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia from a fatal disease to a usually curable one. He set up the first dedicated ward for childhood leukaemia, where the first bone marrow transplant took place.

    The ward had been funded thanks to a chance conversation with his next door neighbour, the actor Derek Nimmo. Nimmo knew the entertainer Bud Flanagan, famous for the song Underneath the Arches. Flanagan had lost a 6 year old son to leukaemia and made a substantial donation, and so the Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Research Fund was born. In 1963 it provided a dedicated ward at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, for the protective isolation of children with suppressed immune systems and depleted bone marrow. Kay was in charge of the ward, which admitted its first patients two years later. He developed procedures, ran the first clinical trials, and assessed costs and benefits. In 1971 he and colleagues published a report in the Lancet that described the first five years’ experience (1971;297:1034-40). The unit was so successful that they built a larger one, the Bud Flanagan ward, in 1973. The first bone marrow transplant took place there shortly afterwards.

    Fetal tissue bank

    Kay organised international collaboration of clinical trials with colleagues in France and the United States. He also set up a fetal tissue bank, where he showed, with …

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