Wynder, Ernst L., M.D.(Epidemiologist, Sloan Kettering, Anti-Tobacco Expert) 1993 First scientist to report in 1950 on the carginocencity of cigarettes in rats painted with tar. Assistant at Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research Directed the American Health Foundation (AHF) from 1984 to his death in 1998.
Ernst Ludwig Wynder (pronounced WIN-der) was born in Herford, Germany, on April 30, 1922, where his father was a physician. As Jews, his family was subjected to increasing persecution after the rise of Adolf Hitler and in 1938 they immigrated to New Jersey. After selling newspapers and waiting tables while earning a bachelorâ€™s degree at New York University, Ernst Wynder received U. S. citizenship and returned to Germany to serve as a U.S. Army intelligence officer during World War II. At the end of the war he entered medical school at Washington University in St Louis, and it was here that he came into contact with renowned thoracic surgeon Evarts A. Graham.
Graham (1883-1957) was one of the countryâ€™s most esteemed surgeons, yet like many medical authorities of the day, he was a heavy smoker who was skeptical about a link between cigarettes and cancer. After the release of one study that suggested such a connection, he commented derisively, "Yes there is a parallel between the sale of cigarettes and lung cancer, but there is also a parallel between the sale of silk stocking and cancer of the lung." Despite Grahamâ€™s hostility, younger men like Wynder found the evidence compelling and he began looking carefully at the necropsy specimens of lung cancer victims and discovering confirmation of such a link.
He began trying to convince his professors to let him do a more comprehensive study and most of them dismissed the idea as a waste of time. Yet Graham figured there was no harm in such an endeavor and granted Wynder access to his extensive case records. The eager medical student began collecting detailed data on the smoking habits, occupation, and lifestyle habits of lung cancer victims and then launched a full-scale epidemiologic investigation.
Eventually, the starkness of the data overcame Grahamâ€™s reluctance. As Wynder would later recall, "Graham became quite supportive. It was a great break in my life." Just as important, the renowned surgeon agreed to lend his name to the study. "Tobacco Smoking as a Possible Etiologic Factor in Bronchiogenic Carcinoma: A Study of 684 Proven Cases" was published in JAMA in 1950 and was almost immediately recognized as a landmark. In addition, Graham was persuaded to give up smoking, although tragically his decision came too late to save him from dying of lung cancer in 1957.
But not everyone was convinced by the statistical nature of the evidence, so Graham and Wynder decided to launch a second study with the aim of establishing the specific mechanism by which smoking caused lung cancer. The two enlisted the help of Adele B. Croninger, one of their assistants on their first collaboration, and embarked on an ambitious study in which tar was painted on the backs of mice to see if tumors would be produced. Once again the results were striking, and the publication of the study in five parts between 1953 and 1958 proved another crucial step in establishing the health risks of cigarette smoking.
By the time the final segment was published, Wynder was one of the worldâ€™s best-known cancer researchers and yet was still in his mid-thirties. His lifestyle, however, belied the stereotype of a bookish denizen of laboratory and library. Richard Kluger, for example, notes that while still a bachelor, Wynder "zipped about in an open sports car, squired many pretty women, including well-known film actresses, frequented smart spots from Beverly Hills to the Hamptons, bought an apartment at New Yorkâ€™s UN Plaza complex, and employed a gourmet chef for his entertaining." These proclivities, coupled with a brash air, led one leading pathologist to dismiss Wynder as being "as much a scientist as a bomber pilot is."
Yet by any reasonable standards, the remainder of Ernst Wynderâ€™s career was a busy one with many noteworthy achievements. He joined the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in the 1950s. There he met Dietrich Hoffman and they began their forty-year tobacco research partnership. Wynder and Hoffmann and continued to work at Sloan-Kettering until conflict with the institute's head, Frank Horsfall, Jr. over his efforts to rein in their budgets and pronouncements as a result of accepting grants from the tobacco industry. In 1969, Wynder and Hoffman left Sloan-Kettering to launch the American Health Foundation. Wynder became its medical director and guided the organization for the next three decades. Under Wynder's leadership and prolific fund-raising, that ironically included research grants from Philip Morris, the Valhalla, New York-based foundation became one of the countryâ€™s foremost private centers for research on topics like preventive medicine and health maintenance, receiving many grants from the National Cancer Institute and conducting research in such areas as epidemiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, synthetic chemistry, nutrition sciences, experimental oncology, and the behavioral sciences. After a few years, the American Health Foundation started the journal Preventive Medicine, and Wynder took on the additional responsibility of being its editor.
Wynder found time as well to publish nearly eight hundred papers, the majority of which appeared in Cancer or journals of similar prestige. He also wrote one book: the 1988 Environmental Aspects of Cancer: The Role of Macro and Minor Components of Food. His published writings typically related in one way or another to the study and prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases. Cancer of the lung and breast was his most common topic, with a ground-breaking 1960 coauthored study of the epidemiology of breast cancer being one of his most notable works. But he also weighed in with important studies on numerous other forms of cancer. For instance, he collaborated with Swedish scientists on a study that pinpointed poor nutrition as a cause of cancers of the upper alimentary tract and of a disease known as Plummer-Vinson syndrome. In response to the study, an iron supplement was added to Swedish flour, resulting in a sharp decrease in the countryâ€™s incidences of Plummer-Vinson syndrome.
Ernst Wynder died in Manhattan on July 14, 1999, survived by his wife, a sister, and two nephews. Like his mentor Evarts Graham, Wynder died of cancer â€“ in his case, cancer of the thyroid. His passing caused fellow cancer researchers Dietrich and Ilse Hoffmann to write that Wynderâ€™s "fervour towards disease prevention, his inspiration, and his networking efforts in the cancer research community will be very much missed. He surely is among those whose epitaphs will be written over and over, as it is even at his death impossible to evaluate the full impact of his lifeâ€™s work. The legacy of Ernst Wynder as a disease prevention pioneer of the 20th century is a seed that will reach its full harvest only as coming generations will mature."
Allan M. Brandt, The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America (New York: Basic Books, 2007).
"Dr. Ernst Ludwig Wynder: One of the First to Link Smoking and Cancer," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 18, 1999.
Dietrich and Ilse Hoffmann, "Ernst L Wynder MD, 1922-1999," Tobacco Control 1999;8:444-445 (Winter).
Richard Kluger, Ashes to Ashes: Americaâ€™s Hundred-Year Cigarette War and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris (New York: Vintage Books, 1996).
C. Barber Mueller, Evarts A. Graham: The Life, Lives, and Times of the Surgical Spirit of St. Louis (B.C. Decker Inc., 2002).
Wynder, Dr. Ernest
Wynder, Ernst L.