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A new kink in an old theory of carcinogenesis

Richmond T Prehn* and Liisa M Prehn

Author Affiliations

Department of Pathology, University of Washington, 5433 S. Hudson St, Seattle, WA, USA

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Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 2013, 10:12  doi:10.1186/1742-4682-10-12

Published: 18 February 2013


According to Berenblum’s two-stage hypothesis, the first stage in carcinogenesis is the production of benign premalignant lesions. Between this initiation stage and the formation of a malignant tumor there is often a long lag phase. We propose that this lag is caused by the delay in the formation of a new and rare tumor-specific antigen, which induces an immune response that stimulates tumor growth. Such tumor-specific antigens could arise as a result of a mutator-like phenotype, which is supposedly present in the benign initial stage of carcinogenesis. According to this hypothesis, the first stage lesion provides a weakly mutagenic environment conducive to the formation of the new antigen(s). If no such new antigens appear so there is no consequent immune response, it is argued that carcinogenesis would seldom if ever ensue.