Cancer in Context, Mina Bissell
At TEDGlobal 2012, Mina Bissell, a researcher associated with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory gave a talk on how the microenvironment can trigger and activate cancer genes, which immediately caught the media’s attention. This “big idea” (according to Mrs. Bissell’s own words) is actually more then 30 years old.
Well before Mrs. Bissell first presented her discovery, a French researcher named Mirko Beljanski, a Doctor of Science working at the Pasteur Institute, the recipient of the Charles Leopold Mayer award for his work on the role of RNA in the process of protein synthesis discovered and published on the very same thing!
Mirko Beljanski dedicated his entire life to investigating the mechanisms involved in the activation and inactivation of genes and the key problems of cell division and tissue development, both in healthy and pathological states. From the very beginning Beljanski was interested in the study of DNA and RNA.
He made a fundamental discovery: the DNA coming from a tissue with unregulated multiplication contains a destabilized secondary structure, which is not the case with the DNA isolated from healthy tissue. A substance capable of amplifying this destabilization affects gene expression and causes an accelerated replication of the DNA. Once this process has started, it is cumulative and the destabilization becomes pernament. In other words, substances present in the environment can alter the structure of the DNA and lead to its abnormal replication – the primary cause of cancer. This discovery is precisely the foundation of what we today call environmental medicine. It has now been almost 30 years since the initial discovery!
Mirko Beljanski’s discovery was not merely a purely theoretical one. The Oncotest, invented by Mirko around 1976 is based on a comparison of the in vitro replication rate of the DNA from a healthy and cancerous tissue, in the presence of a test compound. It draws on the repeated observations made by Mirko’s research team: the substances with carcinogenic potential in our microenvironment strongly and specifically stimulate the replication of cancerous DNA. At the time, the idea was a novel one, and Beljanski received a patent for it.
Despite facing many adversities because of his controversial ideas for which he was eventually removed from the Pasteur Institute, Mirko Beljanski published his findings in 1982. They can be found at: Mr. Beljanski, “Oncotest: screening potential carcinogenic and anti-cancer specifically.” Designs and new perspectives in cancer. Environment and new medicine. No. 2, 1982, p. 18-23.
It is time to demand an explanation why the scientific community is willing to ignore a discovery of international interest. Why is this discovery, with the complicity of complacent media, attributed to another scientist? Why is a 30-year-old discovery described as new?
Was Beljanski so far ahead of his time that Mrs. Bissell and other are only now catching up? Beljanski went on to use his test to find compounds with anti-cancer properties. The story of Mirko Beljanski’s research and his breakthrough discoveries has just recently been described in a new book “Cancer’s Cause, Cancer’s Cure”, as the scientific community is finally rediscovering his work. I highly recommend it myself.