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JAMA 100 Years Ago
August 8, 2001


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2001;286(6):647. doi:10.1001/jama.286.6.647

An Australian physician, J. H. Webb,1 offers a theory of cancer that will be novel to at least a majority of the profession. He rejects the parasitic theory that has lately been so prominently to the fore, holding that thus far no sufficient evidence has been adduced to support it. Nor does he look to the microscope for the solution of the question of the origin of malignancy ; "all the microscopes that were screwed up and down could never have revealed to us the connection between myxedema and the thyroid gland—one of the most important discoveries made in recent years." Supposing, he says, myxedema had only recently recognized and our knowledge of the function of the thyroid still withheld, what a search there would have been after its germs. Taking what clues we have to the disease, he sees little to favor the irritation theory of the excitation of the irregular cell proliferation and much more to suggest a secretory derangement. All secretions, he postulates, have their uses and the plus or minus of any secretions beyond certain limits means disease. All reproduction requires control or, given nutrition, it would be indefinite. There must, therefore, be something that limits the proliferation of the cell, and on account of its variability, he thinks, it can only be a secretion, which may be disordered in nature or in its control. If inhibition is lost and food supply continues, proliferation becomes indefinite ; hence, there must be something in the organism that regulates the multiplication of the cell.

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