Dr. Fukumi Morishige, a chief surgeon of the Fukuoka Torikai Hospital for over thirty years, introduced himself to Linus Pauling via letter in 1975. In this initial outreach, the Japanese physician informed Pauling of his own research on vitamin C, asking to meet with him when Pauling visited Japan later that year. Pauling did indeed meet with him and, at Morishige’s request, delivered a lecture on the value of vitamin C in health and disease. Thus began a friendship and continuing correspondence that would last for the remainder of Pauling’s life.
Fukumi Morishige was born in Fukuoka, Japan in 1925. He attended Kurume University where, in 1961, he received his medical degree. Within six years of completing his studies, he became the chief surgeon of the Fukuoka Torikai Hospital. It was after he visited Tottori Sakyu Hospital and witnessed the inspiring work being accomplished by the resident surgeons there that he really began to take into consideration the importance of vitamin C. He later recalled
I knew that giving vitamin C to patients helps them to heal quicker for some reasons but I didn’t know why. I decided to do more research on how vitamin C impacts human bodies and made up my mind to explore vitamin C’s effect and stay in this field.
So began his research studies on vitamin C, work that, at the time, focused specifically on the prevention of serum hepatitis in patients receiving blood transfusions.
Over time, Morishige’s interests moved in the direction of Pauling’s focus on cancer. Through the nearly twenty years of their correspondence, Morishige frequently would relay information about new ideas on cancer research, and Pauling would unfailingly reply with enthusiasm and encouragement, often voicing his desire to bring Morishige to the U. S. to discuss his progress.
Spurred by Pauling’s encouragement, Morishige conducted several experiments involving vitamin C and other therapies for cancer. In 1983 Morishige, Pauling and three additional Japanese scientists published a paper in the journal Cancer Research titled, “Enhancement of Antitumor Activity of Ascorbate against Ehrlich Ascites Tumor Cells by the Copper: Glycylglycylhistidine Complex.” In this publication, the group communicated their work, which sought to increase the antitumor activity of ascorbate by use of an “innocuous form of cupric ion complexed with glycylglycylhistidine.” While it did not significantly “oxidize ascorbate,” the researchers found that the compound “killed Ehrlich ascites tumor cells” in high concentrations of ascorbate. They further reported that glycylglycylhistidine “prolonged the life span of mice inoculated with Ehrlich tumor cells.”
In 1986 Morishige was introduced to a cancer patient who seemed to be controlling her disease by drinking reishi tea. Excited by this, Morishige launched his own program of research on reishi mushrooms. Through his findings he came to believe that reishi mushrooms acted as both a cancer preventative and a tumor suppressant. He then began to combine the reishi treatments with vitamin C and found that the vitamin C strengthened the effectiveness of the reishi. Though Dr. Morishige used and tested this method successfully on several cancer patients, it is still looked upon as an alternative healing remedy rather than a medically accredited technique.
Indeed, for both Pauling and Morishige, their work with vitamin C was commonly rejected by the medical community, yet they both doggedly continued to research the topic, determined to show the world what they believe to be the great benefits of ascorbic acid in medicine.
Over the course of their struggles and interactions, Morishige remained extremely grateful for Pauling’s support and continually expressed his gratitude to Pauling for the interest and advice that he imparted. Among the resources held in the Pauling Papers is a Japanese newspaper series in which Morishige discusses, in length, his relationship with Pauling and their continuing academic exchange on vitamin C. The newspaper series runs to twelve installments in total, all written in Japanese. Our hope is to someday have this resource translated, so that we might gain further insight into this remarkable collaboration.