Cancer Is a Killer Twin
Cancer is an “evil twin,” and death by cancer is “fratricide,” according to the Scottish embryologist Dr. John Beard (1858-1924).
Drs. William D. Kelley (1925-2005) and Nicholas J. Gonzales (1947-2015) both missed the memo.
Dr. Beard discovered that a malignant tumor, given the opportunity to sustain normal development and timing, “would have been the twin brother or sister of the individual in whom the tumor arises.”
Caleb Williams Saleeby, M.D. (The Conquest of Cancer: A Plan of Campaign, 1907) wrote …
“For myself I do not care to exclude the possibility that in some cases cancer may arise in cells which were formerly proper tissue-cells of the part in question, but which from some cause or another have undergone a reversion to the germ-cell state. The student of cell-life will not find such a conception incredible. In this connection I would note that malignant tumors have never been found to occur in three tissues — namely, in fatty or adipose tissue, in striped muscular tissue and in nervous tissue. (Tumors of the brain arise never from the nervous elements, but from the connective tissue elements — which bear the same relation to the nerve-cells as a house does to its inhabitants.) Now these three kinds of tissue are probably the most highly differentiated in the body; differing as widely as possible in all other respects, they agree in this. The nerve-cell is so much differentiated and specialized that it is quite incapable of multiplication — in accordance with Spencer’s famous law of antagonism between individuation and genesis. The same is probably true of the striped muscle-cell, there being reason to believe that when a muscle is developed by exercise, the previously functioning cell-fibres do not divide, the growth being due to the development of small round cells which had not previously developed. Hence there is a limit to the growth of every muscle as to the growth of every brain. As for the fat-cell, it has almost specialized itself to extinction, very nearly the whole of its bulk consisting of lifeless oil. It seems to me that we may perhaps understand why it is that malignant tumors never arise in these three tissues, if we assume the process of specialization to have gone so far that reversion to the primitive state, common to all of them, is impossible. This suggestion is merely thrown out for what it may be worth, and I am quite aware that, if there is anything in it, it involves the modification of some non-essential parts of Dr. Beard’s theory.
“One other remarkable fact, first discussed by Dr. Beard, bears very closely on this question of the relation between reproductive and malignant tissue. It is that every stage can be traced, or at any rate that every intermediate condition has been observed, between, on the one hand, unquestionably malignant growths, and, at the other extreme, the production of what are called identical twins — twins invariably of the same sex, and not infrequently all but indistinguishable from one another. Now Dr. Beard has been asserting for years that a malignant tumor arises from a germ-cell, such that if it had undergone normal development at the proper time, it would have been the twin brother or sister of the individual in whom the tumor arises. I will confess that when first I met that statement of Dr. Beard’s, it seemed to me too wild and bizarre for credence; yet now, as I have said, we have the recognized and accepted fact that the students of these matters have observed all stages between say, a malignant tumor of the ovary at the one extreme, and identical twins at the other.
“The countless varieties of monstrosity, such as the inclusion of one more or less imperfect and ‘parasitic’ twin within another, pass by gradual stages in one direction to the occurrence of a typical malignant tumor in a complete and living individual, and in the other to the production of a pair of healthy twins. In the light of this fact I would remind the reader of the statement already made, that, according to Dr. Beard’s theory, the death inflicted by cancer is really a fratricide.”