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Rousing research

23 March 2011

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Category: Schools education

needle–vaccine.jpgDid you know that it is exactly 100 years since a little-known researcher called Francis Peyton Rous in New York discovered that chickens could get cancer from viruses? We didn’t think so.

This discovery – the link between virus and cancer – was too radical for most people to believe back then so it isn’t surprising that it was ignored for years, but what is our excuse?

It’s true that Peyton Rous did get the Nobel prize eventually - 50 years later in 1966 - but he isn’t exactly a household name, is he? And he should be. Starting last year, millions of teenage girls are being vaccinated against cervical cancer thanks to work by him and other scientsts on cancer and viruses. Millions of lives will be saved.

With all the talk about communicating the glories of science to young people in schoools, shouldn’t more be done to remember pioneers like Peyton Rous? And let's not forget those chickens either. So much for the idea that animals are too different from human beings to tell us anything useful about human disease!


Read the story of the cervical cancer vaccine here - rabbits were involved too.