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Interpretation of some results from radiotherapy and an attempt to determine a rational treatment technique. 1906.

Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine
Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Medicine


YALE JOURNAL OF BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE 76 (2003), pp. 181-182. Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved. CLASSICS OF BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE Interpretation of Some Results from Radiotherapy and an Attempt to Determine a Rational Treatment Techniquea J. Bergonie and L. Tribondeau We wish to discuss: (1) the strange selective action of X rays on epithelial tumors; (2) tumors produced by X rays. Firstly, all physicians have observed with the same interest mixed with surprise that X radiation can kill the cells of a neo- plasm while leaving the neighboring healthy tissues or even the tissues invaded by the tumor intact. But experiments on animals have shown that radiation has a selective action among healthy tissues. For example, in our experiments on the testicle of rat, we have been able to destroy the germinal cells whereas the interstitial tis- sue and the sertoli syncytium were unim- paired. As a result of these experiments, it has been possible to formulate the follow- ing law: X rays are more effective on cells which have a greater reproductive activity; the effectiveness is greater on those cells which have a long lineage, on those cells the morphology and the function of which are least definitively fixed. From this law it is easy to understand that roentgen radi- ation destroys tumors without destroying healthy tissues. It was quite puzzling when many and incontestible observations demonstrated that these same roentgen rays capable of destroying malignant tumors in patients were also capable, at times, of producing in the epithelial tissues of the radiothera- pist, previously perfectly healthy, negli- gently exposed in the field of radiation, the appearance of tumors identical to the ones they can destroy. There is no longer any doubt about this point; X rays have pro- duced in radiologists epithelial tumors in the skin of the hands which are invasive and metastasize to the lymph nodes. How can we interpret these apparently paradox- ical results? Again, the animal experi- ments allow us to

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