Nor­manBlee­hen

BORN MANCH­ESTER, FE­BRU­ARY 23, 1930. DIED CAM­BRIDGE, FE­BRU­ARY 1, 2008, AGED 77.

The Jewish Chronicle - - OBITUARIES -

THE FIRST Can­cer Re­search Cam­paign pro­fes­sor of clin­i­cal on­col­ogy at Cam­bridge Univer­sity, ap­pointed in 1975, Norman Blee­hen cre­ated the con­di­tions for the es­tab­lish­ment of the Cam­bridge Re­search In­sti­tute Can­cer Cen­tre, which opened only last year.

He and his brother, who sur­vives him, were born into a dis­tin­guished Ortho­dox fam­ily of rab­bini­cal and schol­arly de­scent on both sides. Their­great-grand­fa­ther in New York ne­go­ti­ated a pres­i­den­tial ex­emp­tion for kid­dush wine dur­ing Pro­hi­bi­tion.

Norman was ed­u­cated at Hab­er­dash­ers’ Aske’s School and won med­i­cal schol­ar­ships to Ox­ford and Mid­dle­sex Hospi­tal, Lon­don. He fol­lowed his first BA de­gree with a Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil stu­dentship, lead­ing to a BSc and a pres­ti­gious prize.

Fol­low­ing house jobs at Mid­dle­sex and Ham­mer­smith Hos­pi­tals, he did his na­tional ser­vice as a med­i­cal spe­cial­ist in the RAMC and served in Bri­tish mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals in post-war Ger­many.

In Ber­lin he was the UK rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Four Pow­ers Com­mis­sion in med­i­cal charge at Span­dau Prison, which held Ru­dolf Hess, Bal­dur von Schirach and Al­bert Speer. Con­sult­ing his com­mand­ing of­fi­cer about the suit­abil­ity of a Jew for the post, he was told to get on with the job. “This is the army.”

De­mo­bilised, he worked first in aca­demic medicine in Ox­ford, then trained in ra­dio­ther­apy at Mid­dle­sex Hospi­tal. In 1966 he spe­cialised fur­ther in ra­dio­ther­apy at Stan­ford Univer­sity, Cal­i­for­nia, on an MRC fel­low­ship. De­spite an of­fer of work, he re­turned to the Mid­dle­sex, where he be­came pro­fes­sor of ra­dio­ther­apy in 1969.

He moved to Cam­bridge in 1975 with his wife, Tirza, a for­mer col­league at the Mid­dle­sex Hospi­tal, when the MRC asked him to set up a clin­i­cal on­col­ogy re­search unit in the city.

The project was co-or­di­nated with Cam­bridge Univer­sity School of Clin­i­cal Medicine’s cre­ation of a de­part­ment of clin­i­cal on­col­ogy at Ad­den­brooke’s Hospi­tal, en­dowed by the Can­cer Re­search Cam­paign char­ity. Norman Blee­hen was the new de­part­ment’s pro­fes­sor. The fol­low­ing year he was elected a fel­low of St John’s Col­lege.

Un­der his di­rec­tion, the unit be­came a leader in aca­demic on­col­ogy re­search, con­cen­trat­ing on as­pects and treat­ment of lung can­cer and brain tu­mours.

As chair­man of the MRC can­cer ther­apy com­mit­tee, he was keenly aware of the need for rig­or­ous eval­u­a­tion of new drugs and treat­ments.

He looked for po­ten­tial in his stu­dents and en­cour­aged fu­ture spe­cial­ists. With his pa­tients he was sen­si­tive.

He was on the edi­to­rial board of sev­eral ma­jor jour­nals, wrote six books and over 400 pa­pers, chap­ters and edi­to­ri­als. Among his many hon­ours were an hon­orary doc­tor­ate from the old­est med­i­cal school in the world at Bologna Univer­sity and a CBE in 1995.

He and his wife were ac­tive in the Cam­bridge Jewish com­mu­nity and Thomp­sons Lane Syn­a­gogue. They fre­quently hosted the an­nual Ma­gen David Adom gar­den party and en­joyed putting up visit­ing Is­raeli schol­ars.

He is sur­vived by his wife.

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