Hansemann, Boveri, chromosomes and the gametogenesis-related theories of tumours


Corresponding author. Tel.: +61 8 82223000. leon.bignold@adelaide.edu.au


Theodor Boveri (1862–1915) is often credited with suggesting (in 1914) the first chromosomal theory of cancer, especially in terms of abnormal numbers of chromosomes arising in cells by multipolar mitoses in adult cells. However, multipolar mitoses in animal cells had been described as early as 1875, and Hansemann (1858–1920), in publications between 1890 and 1919, included this mechanism among various ways by which abnormal chromosome numbers might arise in cells and cause tumour formation. Both theories were conceived in a period when gametogenic ideas of tumour formation were current. Boveri based his theory on the observation that some cells in early sea urchin embryos having abnormal chromosome complements wander from their usual developmental paths. His observation may have been seen by other authors at the time as support for Cohnheim's “embryonic cell rest” theory of cancer. Hansemann's contribution is seen as both the original, and the more significant of the chromosomal theories of cancer.