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No. 107: Sep-Oct 1996

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Subversive Cancer Cells

It has been generally believed that most cancers originate in a single founder cell, which then multiplies to create the tumor. But cancer is more insidious than expected. A precancerous founder cell may actually subvert nearby noncancerous cells and turn them into cancerous cells. In this sense, the first precancerous cell recruits and transforms healthy cells, enlisting them in its destructive operations, and thereby turning them against the body that produced them. No one yet knows how this subversion is effected or how it evolved. (Why is there cancer anyway?)

The basis for this claim involves a few rare human mosaics, whose bodies are built of cells with two different genetic complements. Cancers in human mosaics have been found to contain both types of cells and, therefore, did not grow from a single cell alone.

(Day, Michael; "Cancer's Many Points of Departure," New Scientist, p. 16, June 1, 1996)

Comments. Curiously, some "primitive" animals, such as sharks, seem to have evolved defenses against cancer that mammals lack. With reference to "mosaics," see item in SF#105 on "Mixed-Up People." Also relevant is BHH25 "'Insidious' Properties of Cancer Metastases" in Humans II. For information on this book, visit here.

From Science Frontiers #107, SEP-OCT 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987