Nobelist’s Cancer Theory

Excerpt from the July 13, 1963, issue of Science News Letter

The key to finding the cause and treatment of cancer is the balance between two newly found substances in the body, Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi, the 1937 nobelist in medicine, has suggested. The substances are promine, which causes sudden cell growth, and retine, a similar chemical that holds back growth…. He predicted in Science, 140: 1391, 1963, that the new theory will “open a wide field for cancer research….” Laboratory observations during the past ten years … Indicate sudden cell growth is caused by a predominance of promine over retine…. “we found no harmful side effects either with retine or with promine,” the scientists said. “one might have here substances which will stop cancer growth and even produce regression without toxicity,” they predicted.

UPDATE: Szent-Györgyi’s theory did not ultimately provide new cancer treatments. It turned out that promine and retine refer to physiological effects, not individual molecules. Research has continued, though, on the enzymes he was studying, known as glyoxalases. These molecules can protect cellular components from stress and damage that lead to diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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