The 'Three Princes of Serendip' is an old Persian fairytale about three men who were on a mission and encountered things that looked irrelevant at first sight but which turned out to be important later on. They discovered things by serendipity and sagacity. Serendip is the Persian name for Sri Lanka. In 1754 Horace Walpole coined the word serendipity. One of the founders of pediatric oncology GiulioD'Angio pointed to this fable when he analyzed the discovery of treatment tools in pediatric oncology. It has often happened that serendipitous observations lead to a break-through in quite another field. This story includes the discovery of L-Asparaginase: The enzymatic deamination of asparagine was already studied by Clementi in 1922. In 1952 Kidd discovered that the injection of guineapig serum inhibited the growth of murine lymphomas. His experiments indicated that a protein was responsible for the antilymphoma activity. In 1956, Neuman and McCoy showed that Walker carcinoma tissuecultures had an absolute requirement for asparagine. It took until 1961 before an explanation was found for these observations: Broome, working in Kidd's laboratory, presented evidence that the enzyme L-Asparaginase was responsible for the antitumor activity of guineapig serum. An effective drug was discovered by serendipity.

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Pieters, Prof. Dr. R. (promotor), The Foundation Sophia Children's Hospital Fund (SSWO), The Pediatric Oncology Foundation Rotterdam (KOCR), Medac (GmbH,Hamburg, Germany), Lamepro (B.V., The Netherlands), Novartis B.V., CSL Behring B.V.
R. Pieters (Rob)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Appel, I. (2008, February). Pharmacodynamic sof L-Asparaginase in Childhood Acute Leukemia. Retrieved from