Jane Cooke Wright
Wright was born in New York City. Her father, Dr. Louise Wright, was one of the first African American graduates of Harvard Medical School who went on to establish the Cancer Research Center at Harlem Hospital. Following her father’s footsteps, Wright trained in medicine, graduating with honors from New York Medical College in 1945. She worked alongside her father to investigate chemotherapeutics and in 1951, found methotrexate to be effective for breast cancer treatment. They also discovered nitrogen mustard agents and folic acid antagonists to be potent chemotherapeutics and established a correlation between the chemotherapeutic treatments on patients and the results from tissue culture. This pioneered the use of tissue culture in preclinical studies for chemotherapeutic potency. Wright also pioneered the use of chemotherapy in addition to radiotherapy for early cancer treatment, increasing the life span of cancer patients by up to 10 years. After her father’s passing in 1952, Wright was appointed head of the Cancer Research Center at the age of 33.
Later in 1967, she was appointed Associate Dean and Professor of Surgery at her alma mater, New York Medical College where she worked until she retired in 1987. In 1964, she co-founded the American Society of Clinical Oncology and in 1967, she was invited by President Lyndon Johnson to serve on the cancer subcommittee of the President's Commission of Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke. Her suggestions led to the establishment of regional cancer centers throughout the US. In 1971, Wright became the first female president of the New York Cancer Society. She also served as vice president of African Research and Medical Foundation from 1973-1984. Many papers, positions and awards later, Wright passed away at the ripe age of 93.