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December 1958

Relationships Between Cancer and Viruses

Author Affiliations

Berkeley, Calif.

Professor of Virology and Biochemistry and Director of the Virus Laboratory, University of California.

AMA Arch Intern Med. 1958;102(6):939-947. doi:10.1001/archinte.1958.00260230085012

The first direct causal relationship between cancer and a virus was established experimentally in 1908 by Ellermann and Bang in their work on the transmission of fowl leukemia by means of cell-free preparations. Unfortunately, this important experiment failed to have the impact on contemporary investigations that it should have because the neoplastic nature of this disease was not then clearly recognized. However, shortly thereafter, in 1911, Peyton Rous found that a sarcoma that appeared spontaneously in a Plymouth Rock chicken could be passed from chicken to chicken by means of cellfree filtrates. Clearly, here was a malignant growth caused by a virus or virus-like agent. Although for a few years some doubt regarding the true relationship between the virus and the sarcoma existed, the Rous virus did serve to set the pattern, and today tumor viruses of chickens and other avian species are accepted without question. In addition, the situation

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