April 30, 2007 - Volume 2, Number 15
In this issue:
A Look Back: Atoms for Life
City of Hope staff gather behind a truck that transported radioactive cobalt from the United States Atomic Energy Commission in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to Duarte, Calif. (April 1955).
In the Cold-War era, a new radioactive cobalt device represented one of the initial steps in harnessing the atom to fight cancer. Melville L, Jacobs, M.D., and Cheng Wu Li, Ph.D., designed the Cobalt 60 Teletherapy Unit for treatment of deepseated tumors. Planning and manufacturing took two years and cost $35,000 — a fraction of the cost of existing radiotherapy units at the time.
It was seen as a prototype that would make lower-cost cancer “bombs” more widely available.According to Jacobs, the instrument provided more than 100,000 individual therapies in two decades. “So simple and so effective were its concept and construction that this unit recorded ‘down time’ of less than two weeks across its 20 years of use,” he said. After a linear accelerator replaced the cobalt unit in 1975, City of Hope donated the unit to the Smithsonian Institution. (Photo courtesy of City of Hope Archives)