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Published on 26 July 2007

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Benny and 2-CdA


No doubt many of you will have heard of 2-CdA, otherwise known as 2-chloro-2′-deoxy-D-adenosine or chlorodeoxyadenosine. However, I doubt if anyone has heard of Doctor Benny Galenin and know of his 2-CdA connection.

The story goes back to the mid 1980s, when an Israeli terminally ill breast cancer patient heard of a new “wonder drug” used at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, California, USA. This new “wonder drug”, 2-CdA, was reputed to cure almost every disease known to mankind, somewhat akin to “Lily the Pinks” medicinal compound.

The Israel Ministry of Health rejected a physician’s request to treat the patient with 2-CdA on a compassionate-use basis. They pointed out that the drug had barely undergone phase I trials and was not involved in any Food and Drug Administration, National Institute of Health or EORTC studies. If something went wrong, who would be responsible?

Undeterred, the breast cancer patient appealed to the courts who promptly overturned the Ministry’s decision, conditional to her depositing a $1m bond to be forfeited if she were to sue the Ministry, should any problems arise.

Sure enough, the patient arrived at our hospital awaiting treatment with 2-CdA. However, we didn’t have any. Nor did anyone else in Israel, Europe or anywhere else in the world!

Now back to pharmacist Dr Benny Galenin. Benny was Head of a famous institute in Moscow, at least until he requested permission to immigrate to Israel. After that, he was promptly fired, and to avoid prison as an unemployed parasite, he took a job as a boiler stocker in steam trains for three years. That is until the KGB knocked on his door one day at 3am and “found” a gun under his bed. He was then sentenced to seven years in a labour camp for revolutionary activities. On release, he was finally able to leave the vale of tears, broken in body but not in spirit, and came to work in our institution.

So, where were we to get some 2-CdA? Thankfully, the Head of our Haematology and Oncology Department, E.R., was on friendly terms with the inventor of 2-CdA, Professor Beutler. During a trip to America, one of the junior doctors had visited Beutler’s chief chemist and scrounged a small sample for analysis

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