No scientist with even a rudimentary moral compass and an ounce of intellectual humility takes human experiments lightly, given how much can go wrong. But Dr. Robert Gatenby was especially aware of the stakes.

An oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., he has spent years studying how tumor cells respond to chemotherapy, especially in patients whose cancer has metastasized well beyond the original tumor, as when malignant prostate cells invade bones like gang members expanding their turf. Now Gatenby was ready to put his theories to a real-world test by treating men with advanced prostate cancer in a way that broke all the rules.

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