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January 22, 1982

The diverse nature of cancer cells: one reason therapy can fail

JAMA. 1982;247(4):417-418. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320290003001

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Although many cancer researchers believe that a cancer arises from a single aberrant cell, the same cancer may contain a diverse population of cells when it reaches a clinically detectable size.

Recently, the implications of this heterogeneity for causes and treatment of primary cancers and metastases were discussed at a Bristol-Myers Symposium on Cancer Research held at The Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Baltimore.

"It is becoming apparent that tumor cells which look alike when stained and viewed under the microscope do not necessarily behave alike in the body," said Albert H. Owens, Jr, MD, head of the center and symposium director. "For example, some may metastasize while others won't; some may divide, others not; some may be sensitive to drugs, others resistant."

According to Stephen B. Baylin, MD, associate professor of oncology and medicine at Johns Hopkins, it is possible to correlate the prognosis of patients having medullary thyroid cancer