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1 Origins of Contemporary Tumour Virus Research


The evolution of unicellular into multicellular organisms has demanded the emergence of very precise rules to govern both the spacial siting and the multiplication rates of their respective differentiated cells. A given specialized cell does not grow at any site in its multicellular host but is restricted to have only certain cell types for its neighbours and to proliferate only upon the receipt of a message signifying that more of its kind are needed for the orderly growth or maintenance of the complete organism. Given the existence of so many types of multicellular organisms, each with its unique patterns of differentiation, there are likely to exist many, many molecular pathways along which these signals are transmitted. Any of them in turn may fail and lead to one of the many abnormal forms of growth that collectively are called cancer.

Cancer, thus, is not a unitary category but a wide, to some, hopelessly wide collection of different abnormal conditions, each displaying its own specific properties. In thinking how to study cancer, most people quickly see the need to distinguish the property of excessive cell division from the property of abnormal cellular affinities. The quality of uncontrolled growth is what leads to the localized masses of single cell types often referred to as tumours. When these tumours grow only at the sites of origin, they do not necessarily upset the functioning of their host and frequently are called benign tumours.

When, however, a cell that has lost the...

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