O. Harold Warwick: Canada’s first medical oncologist

  • D. H. Cowan Cancer Care Ontario and University of toronto


O. Harold Warwick graduated in medicine from Mc-Gill University as a gold medalist and Rhodes Scholar in 1940. After World War II, he started postgraduate training in Montreal, and in 1946, he began studying the newly described drug treatment of cancer in London, England. There he carried out the first study of nitrogen mustard in a group of adult patients with a non-hematologic solid tumour, lung cancer. After a brief period of practice in Montreal, he moved in 1948 to Toronto, where he became executive director of the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute of Canada. Simultaneously, he joined the staff of Toronto General Hospital and its Radiotherapy Institute, where he became the first physician–oncologist to provide medical care and administer anticancer drugs in a Canadian cancer centre. In 1958, the new Princess Margaret Hospital opened in Toronto; Warwick became its first chief physician, responsible for clinical drug trials. Here he carried out his best known clinical study—the use of vinblastine sulphate in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma. From 1961 to 1971, he served as dean and then vice-president Health Sciences at the University of Western Ontario. He returned to the practice of medical oncology from 1972 to 1980 at the London Cancer Clinic, after which he had a long and productive retirement. He died in October 2009. Although the specialty was not named until the latter years of his career, Harold Warwick satisfied all the criteria for and was undoubtedly Canada’s first medical oncologist.

Author Biography

D. H. Cowan, Cancer Care Ontario and University of toronto
Professor Emeritus, Department of Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences  Centre and University of Toronto and Consultant Emeritus, Cancer Care Ontario
How to Cite
Cowan, D. H. (1). O. Harold Warwick: Canada’s first medical oncologist. Current Oncology, 18(3), e117-e120. https://doi.org/10.3747/co.v18i3.425
Oncologic History