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In cancer research, a winding road to discovery

Book by MIT professor examines the circuitous history behind the investigation of cancer as a contagious illness.

Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office
May 14, 2019

In 1961, people in the suburb of Niles, Illinois, experienced what they termed a “cancer epidemic.” Over a dozen children in the town were diagnosed with leukemia within a short time. Fears quickly spread that the illness could be contagious, carried by some type of “cancer virus.” News coverage soon identified several other towns with apparent “cancer clusters,” as well. Belief that cancer was a simple contagion, like polio or the flu, kept bubbling up.