Thalidomide and cancer

William McBride
Med J Aust 2002; 177 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2002.tb04744.x
Published online: 19 August 2002

To the Editor: Thalidomide (N-α-phthalimidoglutarimide) was first marketed as a sedative-hypnotic in 1957. It was withdrawn from the market in 1961 as it was found to cause congenital malformations.1 Infant mortality statistics in Germany for the years 1959 to 1963 show that about 40% of thalidomide-affected babies died in the neonatal period.2 The main causes of death were atresia of the bowel, renal dysgenesis and heart malformations.


  • 1. McBride WG. Thalidomide and congenital abnormalities [letter]. Lancet 1961; 2: 1358.
  • 2. Lenz W. A short history of thalidomide embryopathy. Teratology 1989; 38: 203-215.
  • 3. Hellman K. Immunospression by thalidomide: implications for teratology. Lancet 1966; 1: 1136-1137
  • 4. Huang PH, McBride WG, Tuman WG. Interaction of thalidomide with the DNA of rabbit embryos; a possible explanation for its immunosuppressant and teratogenic effects. Pharmacol Toxicol 1999; 84: 103-104.
  • 5. Deaths from all cancers in people under the age of forty for England and Wales for the year 2000. Rate per 100 000 population age. London: Office of National Statistics, 2001.
  • 6. Lutwak-Mann C. Observations on the progeny of thalidomide treated male rabbits. BMJ 1964; 1: 1090-1091.


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