I remember her waiting up for my father
To come home from God knows where
In a yellow cab at 2:00 A.M.
And waiting for me in the school parking lot
In our old blue station wagon
When whatever it was I was practicing for
Ran late …
And I remember her waiting for me
At the airport when I got back from Japan,
Waiting for everything to be all right,
Waiting for her biopsy results.
— George Bilgere, “Waiting”
Waiting for Cancer
In 1956, in On the Origin of Cancer Cells, Otto Warburg tried to pin down the causes for the “mysterious latency period of the production of cancer.” Fifty years later, in Genetic Progression and the Waiting Time to Cancer, Niko Beerenwinkel, Tibor Antal, David Dingli, Arne Traulsen, Kenneth W Kinzler, Victor E Velculescu, Bert Vogelstein, and Martin A Nowak replace the “mysterious latency period” with talk about a waiting period: they set out to “derive an analytical formula for the expected waiting time for the progression from benign to malignant tumor.” They started with a “normal” cell and predicted the number of mutations the cell will undergo. Based on the number of mutations, they could calculate how long it will take for a normal cell to produce a benign tumor and how long before those mutations produce a tumor that becomes malignant.