An esteemed Canadian investigator and ingenious experimentalist
In 1952, Dr. Noble received an envelope that had 25 Madagascar periwinkle leaves enclosed from Jamaica. The envelope was sent from Miss Lily Farquharson via her doctor Dr. E. Clark Noble, a Toronto clinician and Robert’s brother who as a student, had once been a diabetes researcher with Macleod. From the leaves, Dr. Noble developed a concentrated extract and injected it into laboratory rats. The rats all died, which Noble’s laboratory assistant Halina Czaikowska Robinson discovered was caused by a significant reduction of white blood cells. Nobel listened to her observations. Although the extract had little effect on blood sugar levels, it held promise for cancer treatment. Joined by Dr. Charles Beer, Dr. Noble led the team to make the ground breaking discovery of vinblastine. While not a cure, in combination with other drugs, vinblastine had a major impact on controlling the growth of a number of different types of cancers.
Dr. Noble and Dr. Charles Beer were jointly nominated and inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.