Originally posted on the Nature news blog

At the moment of his death, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda had a prostate cancer in advanced state, with extended metastasis, according to the first analysis of his remains, carried on by the Chilean Legal Medical Service (SML). The results were delivered yesterday to Mario Carroza, the prosecution judge who is investigating the cause of the Nobel Laureate’s death in 1973.

Whether the death was caused by that cancer, or rather by poisoning, as a key witness has claimed, may be cleared by a toxicological analysis that is being carried on in North Carolina.

Neruda’s body was unearthed from his tomb in Isla Negra, Chile, in early April, as part of an investigation opened after Neruda’s former driver Manuel Araya said that the real cause of the poet’s death was an unscheduled injection that he received a few hours before dying.

The first set of analyses included histological and radiological tests. The SML declined to provide more details but the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio said the experts’ team has found “irregular destruction” and osteonecrosis in bone fragments of the dorsal and lumbar vertebrae, features of the bone metastasis that appear in advanced prostate cancer.

This article is reproduced with permission from the magazine Nature and the Nature news blog. The article was first published on May 7, 2013.