95-year-old Wang Zhenyi Honored as “The Best Doctor”

By: gjb Launch time: 2019-03-19 12:06:11

The major public service program “2018, Looking for The Best Doctor” award ceremony was broadcasted by CCTV 1 on 18th March. Ten doctors won the prize of “The Best Doctor” and one team won the prize of “The Best Team”.

95-year-old Wang Zhenyi from Shanghai Ruijin Hospital is one of the winners of “The Best Doctor”.
Wang Zhenyi is one of the first members of Chinese Academy of Engineering, winner of 2010 State Highest Science and Technology Prize, and tenured professor of Ruijin Hospital. After eight years of study, he discovered a kind of medicine to cure the most challenging leukemia——acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) .

Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) for M3 has the highest risk of disease progression and the highest fatality rate among all types of leukemias. If not treated in time, 90% of the patients would die in half a year, some of whom die in three days.


Wang Zhenyi and his patients

The father of the induction and differentiation of cancer” gave up applying for a patent.
In 1978, Wang started his study. At that time, the international mainstream treatment for M3 is chemotherapy. However, only 10% to 15% of patients endured more than 5 years after receiving chemotherapy. Wang initiated a method——to change cancer cells by applying the theory of induced differentiation. After eight years of exploration, Wang discovered that all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) can induce M3 cells to become normal cells in vitro.
One day in 1986, a young girl was dying from acute promyelocytic leukemia. “Doctor, please help her, please,” beseeched her family members. After carefully studying the girl’s case, Wang suggested her taking all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) which was still at the experimental stage. Some people persuaded Wang not to do so. For he has been fairly successful, and this trial is sure to bring him the risk of losing everything. However, the miracle happened: the girl’s condition improved after taking all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) for only about a week, and in the end, her disease was completely in control.
Over thirty years past, the girl has now grown up and leads a healthy live. This case is the first successful example of the world's accepted theory of induced differentiation in changing the cancer cells. As a result, Wang was honored as “The father of the induction and differentiation of cancer”.
Instead of applying for a patent for ATRA, Wang made ATRA available to all patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia as soon as possible. The yellow pills, named "miracle drugs" by the patients, cost only 11 yuan per box. Even after more than 30 years, it costs only 290 yuan and can be covered by medical insurance, while the price of a similar tumor treatment drug is more than 20,000 yuan.

Once, Wang Zhenyi received a letter from an overseas patient enclosed with a picture of two foreign children. That letter turned out to be sent from an American mother who also suffered acute myelocytic leukemia ten years ago. She was close to death, and it was the pill (ATRA) developed by Wang that saved her life. The photo enclosed was the picture of her two children after recovering, and she sent it Wang to show her gratefulness.

Later, Wang Zhenyi, together with students Chen Zhu and Chen Saijuan, creatively proposed the treatment method of " Total trans-retinoic acid with arsenic trioxide", increasing the five-year survival rate from 10% to more than 97%, making it the first leukemia that could be cured.

The team miracle of "four academicians"

Wang Zhenyi not only made remarkable achievements himself, but also nurture many outstanding students.
Chen Guoqiang, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and dean of Medical College, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, is Wang Zhenyi's favorite student. Chen Guoqiang often talked about the whole process of Wang Zhenyi helping him revise his master's thesis: Wang Zhenyi revised again and again and he then collated and copied it over and over. In total, Wang had changed the graduation thesis 10 times, so Chen Guoqiang had copied the near 20,000 words’ paper 10 times.

Nowadays, 95 - year - old Wang Zhenyi still insist having an “open-book exam” every Thursday morning——every week, students propose a difficult case to Wang, and Wang would use a week's time to search the latest global literatures, think about it thoroughly and made PPT to discuss with the students. By this means, they can sometimes find out clues and treatment plan for incurable diseases. He laughingly named it an "open-book exam" for himself.

He often says: to love one’s country, one should love his/her career first. As for him, he has cured one type of disease, and he regrets not having time to cure other diseases. He said, “there are still many diseases to be cured, I hope each of us could keep learning and innovating, thus providing better service for the patients.”

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