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When Virginia Livingston was a student at Bellevue Medical College her pathology teacher mentioned, rather disparagingly, that there was a woman pathologist at Cornell who thought Hodgkin's disease (a form of glandular cancer) was caused by avian tuberculosis. This lady had published, but no one had confirmed her findings.
Afterwards, Livingston compared slides of both. In Hodgkin's, the large multinucleated giant cells were called ReedSternberg cells. They were similar to the giant cells of tuberculosis, which formed to engulf the tubercle bacilli. Livingston stored away in her memory that this lady pathologist was probably right but she would have a difficult time in gaining acceptance.
By 1931, Pathologist Elsie L'Esperance was seeing 'acid fast' tuberculosis-like bacteria riddling her Hodgkin's cancer tissue samples. And that germ, once injected into guinea pigs, caused them to come down with Hodgkin's too, fulfilling Koch's postulates. L'Esperance brought her stained slides to former teacher and prominent Cornell cancer pathologist James Ewing. Ewing initially confirmed that her tissue slides were indeed Hodgkin's. But when he found out that her slides came through guinea pig inoculation of the avian (fowl) tuberculosis she had found in humans with Hodgkin's, Ewing, visibly upset, said that the slides then could not be cancer.
It betrayed his checkered history of high-placed medical politician. In 1907, you could have approached Dr. James Ewing about a cancer germ, and he would have embraced you over it. At that time, both for he and the rest of the nations medical authorities, it was not a question of whether cancer was caused by a germ, but which one. Was not it Ewing, at one time, who had proclaimed that tuberculosis followed Hodgkin’s cancer “like a shadow”?
But shortly after, James Ewing, “the Father of Oncology”, sent a sword thru the heart of an infectious cause of cancer with “Neoplastic Diseases” , becoming an ambitious zealot for radiation therapy with the directorship of what would one day be called SloanâKettering squarely on his mind. His entry lay in prominent philanthropist James Douglas. A vote for Ewing, Douglas knew, was a vote for continued radiation and James Douglas began sizeable uranium extraction operations from Colorado mines thru his company, Phelps Dodge, Inc..
Lawrence Broxmeyer MD is acknowledged as both a perceptive and innovative medical investigator by colleagues in the United States and abroad. He has appeared in many peer-reviewed publications including as the lead author in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. Read a compendium of Lawrence Broxmeyer MD's published, peer-reviewed articles on the most challenging medical problems of our day, including AIDS, Cancer, Mad Cow Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Tuberculosis, Creutzfeldt-Jakob and Alzheimer's Disease