The Biology of Human Cancer, and the Development of a Rational Basis for Treatment

  • Arthur S. Levine
Part of the Cancer Growth and Progression book series (CAGP, volume 1)


Cancer is a very “old” disease, with the earliest recorded descriptions of tumors and their treatment found in Egyptian papyrie dating from 1600 B.C. (125). Nevertheless, little if any insight was brought to bear on the biology of cancer until the 19th century, with Schleiden and Schwann’s discovery of the cellular nature of all organisms (140) and Muller’s formulation of microscopic pathology as the foundation of our understanding of disease (99). Later in the 19th century, Virchow proposed that all cells arise from other cells, and that cancer reflected a constitutional predisposition together with an exciting cause, such as chronic irritation. Virchow also promulgated the notion of metastases (143), although he believed the metastatic process to have a “fluid” rather than a cellular basis. Modern cancer research began with Peyton Rous’ demonstration in 1911 that sarcomas in the Plymouth Rock hen could be transmitted to normal hens by the injection of cell-free filtrates of the original tumor (117), suggesting the existence of identifiable cancer-causing agents.


Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Human Tumor Cell Complementation Group Rous Sarcoma Virus Avian Sarcoma Virus 
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  • Arthur S. Levine

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