Michael George Parke Stoker

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 01 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5831
  1. John A Wyke, Glasgow
  1. johnwyke{at}

Pioneer in basic cancer research

Remarkable advances in cancer research over the past 50 years make it difficult to recall our rudimentary understanding of neoplasia in the middle of the 20th century. Although transplantation studies had suggested that individual neoplastic cells were able to produce a tumour, the hypothesis that cancer arose from mutation(s) to a somatic cell was not widely accepted because it was not testable. Around the time of this impasse, Michael Stoker became Britain’s first professor of virology, and the research he initiated on the molecular biology of virus induced neoplasia would contribute significantly to breaking the logjam.

After graduating, Stoker served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in India (1943-47), which stimulated an interest in laboratory medicine, with a focus on virology during a subsequent decade in Cambridge as a lecturer in pathology. Cambridge in the 1950s was a cradle of the new discipline of molecular biology. The structural work on haemoglobin and DNA at the Cavendish Laboratory was one of its antecedents, with genetic studies on bacteriophages in the USA and France being another. Stoker, …

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