At the time of the discovery of the neutron by Chadwick, roentgen rays had been in use in medicine as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool since shortly after their discovery some 37 years previously. Many of the biological effects of ionizing radiations, not only of roentgen rays but also of the radiations from radium and other radioactive elements, were therefore known and it was logical to look immediately for uses in medicine of the new particles of matter. However, the difficulty of obtaining neutrons in sufficient abundance to produce cytological effects of therapeutic intensity rendered the applications to medicine a matter of speculation for several years. In 1936 Lawrence and Lawrence; Lawrence, Aebersold and Lawrence; and Zirkle and Aebersold published articles on the biological effects of fast neutrons produced with a cyclotron. Also in 1936 Locher published an excellent summary of the then-known facts about neutrons which were pertinent to the biological effects and therapeutic possibilities of neutrons. In the light of more recent developments it is of interest to note that Locher was evidently the first to suggest in print that elements with high thermal neutron capture cross sections, such as boron, might have therapeutic uses by virtue of this property, (assuming that prompt disintegration follows neutron capture) and that they might be introduced artificially into regions of the body to be irradiated. In 1940 Kruger reported some in vitro experiments on the survival of transplants of mouse sarcoma, mammary carcinoma, and lymphoma following irradiation involving the boron-10 thermal neutron capture reaction, and concluded that, “neoplastic cells can be destroyed in vivo if sufficient boron in some suitable form can be applied to the tumor in vivo.”


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lee E. Farr
  • James S. Robertson
    • 1
  1. 1.Medical Eesearch CenterBrookhaven National LaboratoryUptonUSA

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