Roy Hertz, 93, who discovered an early drug cure for a cancerous tumor and whose work laid the groundwork for the development of the birth control pill, died Monday at his home in Hollywood, Md.
Hertz was chief of endocrine cancer research at the National Cancer Institute in 1956 when he and a colleague, Dr. Min Chiu Li, reported a cure for choriocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the placenta that often occurs early in pregnancy and can be fatal within six months.
They found that the tumor could be eradicated by the sequential use of two drugs, methotrexate and actinomycin-D. Cures were reported in as many as 90% of women with choriocarcinoma who received the drug therapy, which proved to be the most successful single-agent chemotherapy for metastatic disease.
Hertz's work in endocrinology paved the way for many leading studies in the field. In particular, his research on progesterone analogs formed the basis for development of the contraceptive pill.
A Cleveland native, Hertz earned his medical degree and a PhD in physiology from the University of Wisconsin and a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University. He won some of medicine's highest honors, including the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Research in 1972. He also was nominated for a Nobel Prize.