Sammy Franks

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 13 December 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d8061
  1. John Masters
  1. J.Masters{at}

Advanced the understanding of prostate cancer pathology

Sammy Franks, a gentle and kindly man, contributed much to the understanding of cancer, both as a scientist and as a histopathologist. He combined pathological observations of the long, slow progress of prostate cancer with the development of tissue culture methods in his study of ageing, tumour latency, and cancer progression. He developed cell culture systems and animal models to study these fundamental characteristics of cancer before oncogenes had been discovered. He compared cell clones with high and low capacities for spreading and observed their genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity. Sammy was an early proponent of the concept of cancer heterogeneity, explaining the Mendelian or selective concept of cancer progression, where clones with greater fitness either to grow or to spread take the cancer to the next step in the neoplastic process.

His early contributions were mainly in prostate cancer pathology, and he was known as the doyen of prostate pathologists. In his early days as a working pathologist he studied prostates from autopsies and found a high incidence of latent cancer, which led him to conclude that almost all men will develop prostate cancer if they live long enough. Another key contribution was related to prostate anatomy, a subject of considerable debate because the human prostate has a unique structure among mammals. Sammy was always keen to provide details of his hypothesis that the prostate …

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