Folkman Cures All

Today’s New York Times buries, on Page A18, the news that Dr. Judah Folkman’s Boston laboratory has developed a procedure to stop the buildup of plaques inside the arteries of mice by cutting off their blood supply. Chatterbox was puzzled by the cautious tone of reporter Nicholas Wade’s Times story, as compared with that of a Ron Winslow piece on the front page of the second section of today’s Wall Street Journal. The Journal’smuch bolder lead says that Folkman, “the Harvard scientist whose discovery of two powerful anti-cancer compounds caused a stir in cancer research last year, now stands to shake up the field of heart disease.” Chatterbox has learned that the Times originally planned to run, but later spiked, a Page One article by ace science reporter Gina Kolata, author of last May’s controversial Times piece that more or less pronounced Folkman on the verge of curing cancer. Chatterbox has acquired a copy of the suppressed Kolata piece, and as a public service reprints a portion of this explosive dispatch below:

BOSTON–Within a year, if all goes well, testing will begin on a new drug that does for human arteries what Drano and the Roto-Rooter man can do for your kitchen sink.

Some heart-disease specialists say this is the most exciting treatment they have ever seen. But they temper their enthusiasm with caution, noting that human beings, unlike mice, do not have whiskers and twitchy little noses.

The drug’s discoverer, Dr. Judah Folkman, was characteristically modest about the latest finding. “Ce n’est rien,” he said yesterday, “just a few doodles I made while taking a break from my acrostics in Amharic.” But Dario Fo, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, was quick to pronounce Folkman’s latest findings a stunning success. “Judah is going to eliminate heart attacks within 235 days, seven hours, thirty-two minutes, and eight seconds,” he said.

The heart-disease research is Folkman’s latest, but clearly not his last, adventure in solving life’s enduring mysteries. Among the other matters Folkman is currently investigating are how to set library fines high enough so that people won’t keep books out too long, but not so high that they won’t ever return late ones; how to eliminate the marriage penalty in the federal tax code without making taxes more regressive; how to get out of jury duty; how to pass a camel through the eye of a needle; and how to make a profit on the Internet …

–Timothy Noah