Insights: A Theory of a Deadly Fusion; January 2009; Scientific American Magazine; by Charles Q. Choi; 3 Page(s)
On a cold, gray Saturday morning at Yale University in February 1993, instead of just reading his laboratory¿s article in a cancer journal and scanning past the rest¿cancer is a profoundly wide field, and there is much to read¿cancer biologist John Pawelek made time to finish the entire issue. That simple decision changed the course of his research, toward a controversial explanation for the deadliest aspect of the disease¿namely, why it spreads.
The issue contained a letter from three Czech doctors asking whether the fusion of tumor cells and white blood cells could cause cancers to spread, or metastasize. At the time, Pawelek was also reading a book by evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis, who pioneered the idea that life on earth was revolutionized by ancient cells engulfing one another and fusing together, forming hybrids that had better chances at survival. ¿I was really excited by the connection,¿ he recalls. ¿Since there was a precedent for hybridization in evolution, why not in cancer?¿