Why study chicken cancer?

Is probably a question that Francis Peyton Rous was asked quite often in the early 1900's. As the story goes, a farmer brought the pathologist a barred rock hen with a large tumor in her breast. Rous found that the cancer was transferable, and attempted to determine the cause. He prepared cell and bacteria free inoculations from the original tumor, and injected it into new chickens. Surprisingly, the injected chickens grew similar tumors (but only if they were related to the original chicken, indicating a genetic component). Rous postulated that a "small, parasitic organism" was responsible for the growth of the tumors: aka, a virus. Viruses and the causes of cancer were poorly understood at the time, however, and few people gave credit to his idea. It wasn't until 50 years later that the importance of his work was acknowledged with a Nobel Prize. The Rous sarcoma virus, named in his honor, is still an important tool in cancer research.
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