Cancer Research


    THE eleventh annual report of the British Empire Cancer Campaign, presented at the annual general meeting on July 9, contains summaries of a great variety of researches of different kinds, carried on in a number of laboratories and hospitals. Two of them are of particularly general interest. At the Middlesex Hospital, Prof. J. Mclntosh has shown that tumours produced in fowls by the action of tar may be filtrable, that is, they may be transmitted from bird to bird by an ultramicroscopic agent which has many of the characters of a virus. In this way, the artificial tumours resemble those which spontaneously occur in birds, and filtrability seems to be a general property of bird tumours, irrespective of their mode of origin. The common-sense interpretation of this is that the virus-like agent arises in the tumour and does not come into the body from outside. At the Cancer Hospital, Prof. E. L. Kennaway, Dr. J. W. Cook and their colleagues have carried their brilliant work on carcinogenic chemicals a good deal further. Having at last identified at least one of the effective substances in tar, they have studied allied compounds and derivatives and have established what may be called a carcinogenic constitution, so that the probable action of any substance may to some extent be predicted from its structural formula. All this helps to rationalise the overwhelming hygienic case against tar and soot as causes of external cancers: it seems possible also that it may explain the origin of some internal cases, for some of the active substances are related to the sterols, bile acids and cestrin, which are normal components of the body. Conversely, as Prof. E. C. Dodds has shown, some substances which produce tumours are also effective in causing oestrus and sex changes in the plumage of birds.

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    Cancer Research. Nature 134, 55 (1934).

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