Author explains how chemotherapy was discovered after a tragic WWII attack on an Italian port

During this special Veterans Day episode and every day, it is vital that we tell and remember the stories of soldiers, doctors and researchers who made massive discoveries during times of conflict.

Author Jennet Conant joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss her book about one of the great medical developments to come out of World War II and how many are discovered.

After brutal tactics that were used in World War I, some were deemed inhumane and they were not used in World War II. However, world powers stood ready to use some of these tactics if the other side deployed them first.

The United States stored tons of mustard gas in an Italian port in the event that the Germans began using chemical weapons in World War II. Storing these weapons proved to be deadly when the Germans bombed the harbor, destroying the supply of mustard gas.

When the survivors were rescued, they began dying suddenly. In their autopsies, it was found that many of these soldiers had ingested mustard gas, which attacked their internal systems.

As medical researchers worked on the bodies, they found that the white blood cells were heavily depressed. They connected the dots and realized that white blood cells are also the cells that allow cancer to travel throughout the body.

Doctors and researchers realized that the mustard gas was depressing white blood cells and began testing it on cancer patients. The treatment later became known as chemotherapy.


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