Progress Is Being Made In Treatment Of Cancer
( Originally Published 1936 )
By the injection of a substance named "prolan," it has been found possible to reduce the growth of cancer in mice.
This report is made by three German investigators, H. Zondek, B. Zondek and W. Hartoch. It is not claimed that the cancer is made to disappear entirely, but the limitation of growth which occurs amounts to nearly 90 per cent.
It is possible that in such experiments as these the key to the treatment of cancer will be found. It is true that the work is still in the experimental stage, and that even so, the results are not all that could be desired, in that all the cancer tissue is not made to disappear; but most serious students of the problem incline to believe that some such method will be the one which will eventually succeed in conquering the most dreaded of all man's diseases.
The two theories of the causation of cancer which hold the field at the present time are, first, that it is due to an infection, and second, that it is due to an increased growth stimulus of certain cells of the body.
In discussing the first theory, while it cannot be disproved that cancer is an infection, it must be said that if it is, it is different from any other infection that we know anything about. There is no proof that it can be transmitted from one human being to another by con-tact, and certainly none of the many so-called germs of cancer which have been discovered have been proved to be the cause. Efforts to treat cancer on the basis of infection have all proved of no value.
The second theory is held by many serious students of the disease. What causes the growth stimulus is not known, but certainly, in the last analysis, it must be some chemical in the body which can be neutralized by some other chemical. It is this other chemical that we are trying to find, and which makes the results of the German investigators with prolan so interesting.
It must not be supposed that this substance can be used at the present moment in human cases. And also it should be said that even by our present methods treatment of most cases of cancer is very satisfactory if taken in the early stages. Immensely valuable contributions to our knowledge are being made by workers with radium and the x-ray, in conjunction with surgeons.
Reports of work in experimental medicine, even though they do not have any direct practical application, should be noted even by the layman. Today practically all the great advances in medicine have begun in the laboratory, and what is used for the cure of disease in mice today may be used tomorrow in the cure of human beings. It is a pleasure, as well as a duty, to call attention to these early experiments for the benefit of my readers. Frequently pure scientists are asked, "What good are these experiments that you have been doing?" The only answer is the one which was given by Benjamin Franklin long ago when aeronautics were in their infancy, when someone sneeringly asked, "What good is a balloon?" He replied, "What good is a new-born baby?" From the balloons of his day there developed the airplanes of ours.