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A Contagious CauseThe American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine$
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Robin Wolfe Scheffler

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226458892

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226628400.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 31 July 2021

Cancer as a Viral Disease

Cancer as a Viral Disease

(p.41) Chapter Two Cancer as a Viral Disease
A Contagious Cause

Robin Wolfe Scheffler

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 1 examined the cultural association of cancer and contagion, Chapter 2 follows the development of the theory of cancer as a viral disease. It opens with a discussion of the work of Peyton Rous, who identified the first potential tumor virus in 1911. Unlike bacteria, viruses were often too ambiguous to associate with disease—they could not be grown outside their hosts or observed with microscopes. Moreover, most doctors doubted that the study of cancer in the laboratory would yield useful therapeutic discoveries. Theories of the viral causation of cancer were revived in the 1950s due to first, new instrumentation and new techniques for studying viruses, such as the electron microscope or tissue culture, and second, by analogy with successful vaccination campaigns against polio.

Keywords:   Peyton Rous, Rous Sarcoma Virus (RSV), laboratory, Ludwik Gross, causation, tissue culture, electron microscope, vaccination

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