The rise of a microparadigm in oncology

Paolo Vezzoni, Maria Rosa Pozzi, Anna Villa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study of the history of ideas is usually devoted to big problems and to concluded debates. We have attempted to analyze a current theory whose fate and explanatory power is still not determined. The term microparadigm is used to define a currently and widely accepted theory limited in time and in the field of application, compared to the greater problems usually investigated by historians of science. Among the characteristics defining a microparadigm we found: 1) the status of an accepted theory with creative scientific power; 2) the presence of anomalies and unproven inferences; 3) a limited field of application; 4) the peculiarity of interaction with non-scientific ideas. In this context, we discuss the rise of the current microparadigm concerning the pathogenesis and biology of lymphoid neoplasms. We show that the current view of the neoplastic lymphoid cells as populations frozen at a particular differentiative stage has been creative for the last 10 years, thus allowing the generation of a large body of data that would not have been collected within the previous view of the leukemic cell as completely "anarchic". This paradigm, although containing some anomalies, has survived the impact of molecular biology in hematology and is still creative. We think that microparadigms are widely distributed in everyday science and that an analysis of them is as useful for active scientist as is the study of macroparadigms, which by themselves cannot be representative of everyday science. Finally, the study of microparadigms while they are still operative can be useful to evidence the weakness of the theory and to suggest where new data should be sought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-67
Number of pages11
JournalBiology and Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The rise of a microparadigm in oncology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this