“Dr. Corrie Smithson. A real pioneer in a lot of fields, especially cancer research.”

“She did a lot of work with immortal cell lines when the field was still fast and loose–back when they were basically stealing cells from cancer patients without their consent,” Dr. Mays said. “Way I remember it, Dr. Smithson’s wrote that postdoctoral thesis on the genetic markers in immortal cell line conteminants…using blood she drew from the original subject’s family without a consent form. She was only able to keep that act up so long before the laws caught up.”

Annette nodded, making a note on her pad. “What happened after that?”

“She still worked with immortal cell lines, mostly ones that were grandfathered in. Spent a lot of time working with animal cells that were similar–canine transmissible venereal tumors, Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease, Syrian hamster reticulum cell sarcoma.” Dr. Mays sounded wistful as he spoke.

“I’m…sorry?” Annette said, unsure what he was talking about.

“Oh. Those are all naturally occurring immortal cell lines, which have manifested as transmissible diseases. But the critters didn’t need to sign consent forms, you see. Dr. Smithson pretty much wrote the book on transmissible, immortal cancers.”

“That sounds…well, terrifying.”

“Don’t worry,” Dr. Mays laughed. “They’re quite rare.”

“What happened to her?”

“Terrible story. Lymphoma. The girl spent her entire life researching ways to cure it, and she died of a particularly aggressive strain. Interestingly enough, she took samples from her own tumors and bred an immortal line of research cells from it–they’re now the second-most used immortal cell line in medicine and responsible for half of all laboratory contaminations!”

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