The trophoblast theory of cancer (John Beard, 1857-1924) revisited

Oncology. 1975;31(5-6):310-33. doi: 10.1159/000225037.


Beard's theory can be restated in a modified form in modern terms in the following way. Cancer represents primarily trophoblastic tissue derived either from an aberrant germ cell or from a somatic cell whose normally repressed 'asexual generation' genes are abnormally reactivated ('derepressed'). The variety of tumors, other than teratomas, may be due to a parallel chance derepression of some genes of somatic ('sexual gneration') characters. This would be a defensive reaction against intramural parasitization by trophoblast and would result in the differentiation and hyperplasia of normally present more primative somatic cells.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Embryology / history*
  • Germ Cells
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / embryology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Scotland
  • Trophoblasts*
  • Zoology / history

Personal name as subject

  • J Beard