The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1966
Born: 5 October 1879, Baltimore, MD, USA
Died: 16 February 1970, New York, NY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA
Prize motivation: “for his discovery of tumour-inducing viruses”
Prize share: 1/2
In cancer, cells grow and multiply beyond normal limits. In 1910 Peyton Rous extracted material from a cancer tumor in a hen and injected it into a healthy chicken. The chicken developed cancer, and he concluded that cells from the hen’s tumor contained an infectious substance, a virus, that transmits cancer. However, the study could not be replicated in mammals and was long overlooked. When research showed that viruses can operate by affecting the genetic material of normal germ cells, interest in Rous’ discovery was reignited.