The University of Pittsburgh's Bernard Fisher, who showed that early-stage breast cancers could be treated with less drastic approaches, has died, the New York Times reports. He was 101.
Beginning in the 1890s, the Times notes that surgeons typically treated breast cancer with radical mastectomies in which patients' breasts, lymph nodes, chest muscle, and sometimes even ribs were removed in a bid to stop the disease from spreading. But in a clinical trial, Fisher showed that women who received simple mastectomies lived as long as those who received radical ones did, the Times says. It adds that this lead to a change in the standard of care by 1979.
"He has to be considered the greatest revolutionary scientist in the history of breast cancer research," Michael Baum, a professor emeritus at University College London who Fisher trained, said in 2002, according to the Times. "He turned the subject around and, as a result, women's breasts are saved and their lives are saved."
The Times notes that a later study of Fisher's examining lumpectomies was the source of controversy as a researcher involved falsified data and though that faked data did not affect the study's conclusions, Fisher was faulted for waiting too long to inform the journal that published the study. However, it adds that the Office of Research Integrity cleared Fisher of any wrongdoing.