Gale Sees Broader Role for U.S. Scientists in Chernobyl Study
The UCLA bone marrow specialist who won Soviet approval for the lifelong monitoring of 100,000 potential victims of the Chernobyl nuclear accident said here Saturday that he is confident that the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences will join in the study.
“It is hard to imagine that there is any physician or scientist who would would not be eager to participate,” Dr. Robert P. Gale, told a news conference moments after his arrival at Los Angeles International Airport from the Soviet Union .
“We expect to learn a considerable amount about the pathogenesis of cancer,” the 40-year-old physician said.
Gale said that it is premature to speculate on how many of the 100,000 will actually develop cancer, but he stressed that any exposure to radiation from the Chernobyl disaster could be dangerous, because there is “no threshold level for adverse effects of radiation.” He said that some forms of cancer stemming from the radiation are not expected to develop for at least five years.
Gale, who is also head of the International Bone Marrow Transplant Registry, said details of the agreement he signed with the Soviet Ministry of Health have yet to be hammered out, but he expects the study to last as long as 35 years, with a broad input from Western nations. He said he expects to return to the Soviet Union next month for further negotiations.
While a major goal of the joint efforts will be more definitive information about the relationships between radiation and cancer, he said, the primary goal will continue to be “to provide the best medical care possible.”
The 100,000 believed to have suffered the greatest exposure to radiation will be of “immediate concern,” Gale said, with “broader concern” for approximately 1 million thought to have suffered lesser, but significant, exposure.
Gale was joined at the airport news conference by Los Angeles industrialist Armand Hammer, through whose efforts Gale’s missions of assistance to the Soviet Union were negotiated.
Hammer, who is chairman of the Occidental Petroleum Corp. and has long enjoyed personal friendships with top Soviet leaders, said it is his hope that in addition to saving lives and contributing to scientific and medical knowledge, the joint project will help promote long-lasting and peaceful relationships between the United States and the Soviet Union.