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In the 75 years since the first issue of British Journal of Cancer was published there have been developments which would never have been believed. We have analysed the frequency of citations of all the papers published and selected those most highly cited in the decades since then. Where possible we have asked original authors to update and describe the impact of their findings, or invited leading experts in the field to comment and update the relevant biology or clinical relevance. The series of articles provides a fascinating and up to date review of where discoveries have come from and where they are going.