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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

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by Siddhartha Mukherjee

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Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.


Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence. Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years. The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist. From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave cut off her malignant breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease. Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.

Editorial Reviews

...and a tip of the hat to Siddhartha Mukherjee's November release, a 2010 Discover Great New Writers award finalist. This biography of cancer has received sterling reviews: "Rarely have the science and poetry of illness been so elegantly braided together as they are in this erudite, engrossing, kind book."

Publishers Weekly
Mukherjee's debut book is a sweeping epic of obsession, brilliant researchers, dramatic new treatments, euphoric success and tragic failure, and the relentless battle by scientists and patients alike against an equally relentless, wily, and elusive enemy. From the first chemotherapy developed from textile dyes to the possibilities emerging from our understanding of cancer cells, Mukherjee shapes a massive amount of history into a coherent story with a roller-coaster trajectory: the discovery of a new treatment--surgery, radiation, chemotherapy--followed by the notion that if a little is good, more must be better, ending in disfiguring radical mastectomy and multidrug chemo so toxic the treatment ended up being almost worse than the disease. The first part of the book is driven by the obsession of Sidney Farber and philanthropist Mary Lasker to find a unitary cure for all cancers. (Farber developed the first successful chemotherapy for childhood leukemia.) The last and most exciting part is driven by the race of brilliant, maverick scientists to understand how cells become cancerous. Each new discovery was small, but as Mukherjee, a Columbia professor of medicine, writes, "Incremental advances can add up to transformative changes." Mukherjee's formidable intelligence and compassion produce a stunning account of the effort to disrobe the "emperor of maladies." (Nov.)
Janet Maslin
…an informative, well-researched study…The Emperor of All Maladies is at its most honest in describing the push-pull dynamics of scientific progress.
—The New York Times
Jonathan Weiner
…Mukherjee has undertaken one of the most extraordinary stories in medicine: a history of cancer…He frames it as a biography, "an attempt to enter the mind of this immortal illness, to understand its personality, to demystify its behavior." It is an epic story that he seems compelled to tell, the way a passionate young priest might attempt a biography of Satan.
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
"An inspiring account of a very personal battle against 'the plague of our generation.'" ---Kirkus
Library Journal
Taking a strictly Western approach to the study and treatment of cancer, clinical oncologist Mukherjee presents a comprehensive, fascinating, and informative view of the subject that is part historical treatise, part biography, part memoir, part case study, and part science textbook. Two-time Audie Award winner Stephen Hoye does a great job of conveying all of the nuances of the narrative, which can jump around at times and includes a large number of footnotes. This highly accessible and quality audio production will greatly satisfy audiences liking titles that similarly attempt to humanize otherwise clinical topics, such as Seth Mnookin's The Panic Virus, Mary Roach's Stiff, and Atul Gawande's Complications. [See Major Audio Releases, LJ 10/1/10; the National Book Critics Circle Award-nominated Scribner hc was a 2010 LJ Best Consumer Health Book and a 2010 LJ Best Sci-Tech Book; the Scribner pb will publish in September 2011.—Ed.]—Nicole A. Cooke, Montclair State Univ. Lib., NJ

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Read an Excerpt


Diseases desperate grown

By desperate appliance are relieved,

Or not at all.

—William Shakespeare,

Cancer begins and ends with people. In the midst of scientific abstraction, it is sometimes possible to forget this one basic fact. . . . Doctors treat diseases, but they also treat people, and this precondition of their professional existence sometimes pulls them in two directions at once.

—June Goodfield

On the morning of May 19, 2004, Carla Reed, a thirty-year-old kindergarten teacher from Ipswich, Massachusetts, a mother of three young children, woke up in bed with a headache. “Not just any headache,” she would recall later, “but a sort of numbness in my head. The kind of numbness that instantly tells you that something is terribly wrong.”

Something had been terribly wrong for nearly a month. Late in April, Carla had discovered a few bruises on her back. They had suddenly appeared one morning, like strange stigmata, then grown and vanished over the next month, leaving large map-shaped marks on her back. Almost indiscernibly, her gums had begun to turn white. By early May, Carla, a vivacious, energetic woman accustomed to spending hours in the classroom chasing down five- and six-year-olds, could barely walk up a flight of stairs. Some mornings, exhausted and unable to stand up, she crawled down the hallways of her house on all fours to get from one room to another. She slept fitfully for twelve or fourteen hours a day, then woke up feeling so overwhelmingly tired that she needed to haul herself back to the couch again to sleep.

Carla and her husband saw a general physician and a nurse twice during those four weeks, but she returned each time with no tests and without a diagnosis. Ghostly pains appeared and disappeared in her bones. The doctor fumbled about for some explanation. Perhaps it was a migraine, she suggested, and asked Carla to try some aspirin. The aspirin simply worsened the bleeding in Carla’s white gums.

Outgoing, gregarious, and ebullient, Carla was more puzzled than worried about her waxing and waning illness. She had never been seriously ill in her life. The hospital was an abstract place for her; she had never met or consulted a medical specialist, let alone an oncologist. She imagined and concocted various causes to explain her symptoms—overwork, depression, dyspepsia, neuroses, insomnia. But in the end, something visceral arose inside her—a seventh sense—that told Carla something acute and catastrophic was brewing within her body.

On the afternoon of May 19, Carla dropped her three children with a neighbor and drove herself back to the clinic, demanding to have some blood tests. Her doctor ordered a routine test to check her blood counts. As the technician drew a tube of blood from her vein, he looked closely at the blood’s color, obviously intrigued. Watery, pale, and dilute, the liquid that welled out of Carla’s veins hardly resembled blood.

Carla waited the rest of the day without any news. At a fish market the next morning, she received a call.

“We need to draw some blood again,” the nurse from the clinic said.

“When should I come?” Carla asked, planning her hectic day. She remembers looking up at the clock on the wall. A half-pound steak of salmon was warming in her shopping basket, threatening to spoil if she left it out too long.

In the end, commonplace particulars make up Carla’s memories of illness: the clock, the car pool, the children, a tube of pale blood, a missed shower, the fish in the sun, the tightening tone of a voice on the phone. Carla cannot recall much of what the nurse said, only a general sense of urgency. “Come now,” she thinks the nurse said. “Come now.”

I heard about Carla’s case at seven o’clock on the morning of May 21, on a train speeding between Kendall Square and Charles Street in Boston. The sentence that flickered on my beeper had the staccato and deadpan force of a true medical emergency: Carla Reed/New patient with leukemia/14thFloor/Please see as soon as you arrive. As the train shot out of a long, dark tunnel, the glass towers of the Massachusetts General Hospital suddenly loomed into view, and I could see the windows of the fourteenth floor rooms.

Carla, I guessed, was sitting in one of those rooms by herself, terrifyingly alone. Outside the room, a buzz of frantic activity had probably begun. Tubes of blood were shuttling between the ward and the laboratories on the second floor. Nurses were moving about with specimens, interns collecting data for morning reports, alarms beeping, pages being sent out. Somewhere in the depths of the hospital, a microscope was flickering on, with the cells in Carla’s blood coming into focus under its lens.

I can feel relatively certain about all of this because the arrival of a patient with acute leukemia still sends a shiver down the hospital’s spine—all the way from the cancer wards on its upper floors to the clinical laboratories buried deep in the basement. Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells—cancer in one of its most explosive, violent incarnations. As one nurse on the wards often liked to remind her patients, with this disease “even a paper cut is an emergency.”

For an oncologist in training, too, leukemia represents a special incarnation of cancer. Its pace, its acuity, its breathtaking, inexorable arc of growth forces rapid, often drastic decisions; it is terrifying to experience, terrifying to observe, and terrifying to treat. The body invaded by leukemia is pushed to its brittle physiological limit—every system, heart, lung, blood, working at the knife-edge of its performance. The nurses filled me in on the gaps in the story. Blood tests performed by Carla’s doctor had revealed that her red cell count was critically low, less than a third of normal. Instead of normal white cells, her blood was packed with millions of large, malignant white cells—blasts, in the vocabulary of cancer. Her doctor, having finally stumbled upon the real diagnosis, had sent her to the Massachusetts General Hospital.

In the long, bare hall outside Carla’s room, in the antiseptic gleam of the floor just mopped with diluted bleach, I ran through the list of tests that would be needed on her blood and mentally rehearsed the conversation I would have with her. There was, I noted ruefully, something rehearsed and robotic even about my sympathy. This was the tenth month of my “fellowship” in oncology—a two-year immersive medical program to train cancer specialists—and I felt as if I had gravitated to my lowest point. In those ten indescribably poignant and difficult months, dozens of patients in my care had died. I felt I was slowly becoming inured to the deaths and the desolation—vaccinated against the constant emotional brunt.

There were seven such cancer fellows at this hospital. On paper, we seemed like a formidable force: graduates of five medical schools and four teaching hospitals, sixty-six years of medical and scientific training, and twelve postgraduate degrees among us. But none of those years or degrees could possibly have prepared us for this training program. Medical school, internship, and residency had been physically and emotionally grueling, but the first months of the fellowship flicked away those memories as if all of that had been child’s play, the kindergarten of medical training.

Cancer was an all-consuming presence in our lives. It invaded our imaginations; it occupied our memories; it infiltrated every conversation, every thought. And if we, as physicians, found ourselves immersed in cancer, then our patients found their lives virtually obliterated by the disease. In Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novelCancer Ward, Pavel Nikolayevich Rusanov, a youthful Russian in his midforties, discovers that he has a tumor in his neck and is immediately whisked away into a cancer ward in some nameless hospital in the frigid north. The diagnosis of cancer—not the disease, but the mere stigma of its presence—becomes a death sentence for Rusanov. The illness strips him of his identity. It dresses him in a patient’s smock (a tragicomically cruel costume, no less blighting than a prisoner’s jumpsuit) and assumes absolute control of his actions. To be diagnosed with cancer, Rusanov discovers, is to enter a borderless medical gulag, a state even more invasive and paralyzing than the one that he has left behind. (Solzhenitsyn may have intended his absurdly totalitarian cancer hospital to parallel the absurdly totalitarian state outside it, yet when I once asked a woman with invasive cervical cancer about the parallel, she said sardonically, “Unfortunately, I did not need any metaphors to read the book. The cancer ward was my confining state, my prison.”)

As a doctor learning to tend cancer patients, I had only a partial glimpse of this confinement. But even skirting its periphery, I could still feel its power—the dense, insistent gravitational tug that pulls everything and everyone into the orbit of cancer. A colleague, freshly out of his fellowship, pulled me aside on my first week to offer some advice. “It’s called an immersive training program,” he said, lowering his voice. “But by immersive, they really mean drowning. Don’t let it work its way into everything you do. Have a life outside the hospital. You’ll need it, or you’ll get swallowed.”

But it was impossible not to be swallowed. In the parking lot of the hospital, a chilly, concrete box lit by neon floodlights, I spent the end of every evening after rounds in stunned incoherence, the car radio crackling vacantly in the background, as I compulsively tried to reconstruct the events of the day. The stories of my patients consumed me, and the decisions that I made haunted me. Was it worthwhile continuing yet another round of chemotherapy on a sixty-six-year-old pharmacist with lung cancer who had failed all other drugs? Was is better to try a tested and potent combination of drugs on a twenty-six-year-old woman with Hodgkin’s disease and risk losing her fertility, or to choose a more experimental combination that might spare it? Should a Spanish-speaking mother of three with colon cancer be enrolled in a new clinical trial when she can barely read the formal and inscrutable language of the consent forms?

Immersed in the day-to-day management of cancer, I could only see the lives and fates of my patients played out in color-saturated detail, like a television with the contrast turned too high. I could not pan back from the screen. I knew instinctively that these experiences were part of a much larger battle against cancer, but its contours lay far outside my reach. I had a novice’s hunger for history, but also a novice’s inability to envision it.

But as I emerged from the strange desolation of those two fellowship years, the questions about the larger story of cancer emerged with urgency: How old is cancer? What are the roots of our battle against this disease? Or, as patients often asked me: Where are we in the “war” on cancer? How did we get here? Is there an end? Can this war even be won?

This book grew out of the attempt to answer these questions. I delved into the history of cancer to give shape to the shape-shifting illness that I was confronting. I used the past to explain the present. The isolation and rage of a thirty-six-year-old woman with stage III breast cancer had ancient echoes in Atossa, the Persian queen who swaddled her cancer-affected breast in cloth to hide it and then, in a fit of nihilistic and prescient fury, had a slave cut it off with a knife. A patient’s desire to amputate her stomach, ridden with cancer—“sparing nothing,” as she put it to me—carried the memory of the perfection-obsessed nineteenth-century surgeon William Halsted, who had chiseled away at cancer with larger and more disfiguring surgeries, all in the hopes that cutting more would mean curing more.

Roiling underneath these medical, cultural, and metaphorical interceptions of cancer over the centuries was the biological understanding of the illness—an understanding that had morphed, often radically, from decade to decade. Cancer, we now know, is a disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of a single cell. This growth is unleashed by mutations—changes in DNA that specifically affect genes that incite unlimited cell growth. In a normal cell, powerful genetic circuits regulate cell division and cell death. In a cancer cell, these circuits have been broken, unleashing a cell that cannot stop growing.

That this seemingly simple mechanism—cell growth without barriers—can lie at the heart of this grotesque and multifaceted illness is a testament to the unfathomable power of cell growth. Cell division allows us as organisms to grow, to adapt, to recover, to repair—to live. And distorted and unleashed, it allows cancer cells to grow, to flourish, to adapt, to recover, and to repair—to live at the cost of our living. Cancer cells grow faster, adapt better. They are more perfect versions of ourselves.

The secret to battling cancer, then, is to find means to prevent these mutations from occurring in susceptible cells, or to find means to eliminate the mutated cells without compromising normal growth. The conciseness of that statement belies the enormity of the task. Malignant growth and normal growth are so genetically intertwined that unbraiding the two might be one of the most significant scientific challenges faced by our species. Cancer is built into our genomes: the genes that unmoor normal cell division are not foreign to our bodies, but rather mutated, distorted versions of the very genes that perform vital cellular functions. And cancer is imprinted in our society: as we extend our life span as a species, we inevitably unleash malignant growth (mutations in cancer genes accumulate with aging; cancer is thus intrinsically related to age). If we seek immortality, then so, too, in a rather perverse sense, does the cancer cell.

How, precisely, a future generation might learn to separate the entwined strands of normal growth from malignant growth remains a mystery. (“The universe,” the twentieth-century biologist J. B. S. Haldane liked to say, “is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose”—and so is the trajectory of science.) But this much is certain: the story, however it plays out, will contain indelible kernels of the past. It will be a story of inventiveness, resilience, and perseverance against what one writer called the most “relentless and insidious enemy” among human diseases. But it will also be a story of hubris, arrogance, paternalism, misperception, false hope, and hype, all leveraged against an illness that was just three decades ago widely touted as being “curable” within a few years.

In the bare hospital room ventilated by sterilized air, Carla was fighting her own war on cancer. When I arrived, she was sitting with peculiar calm on her bed, a schoolteacher jotting notes. (“But what notes?” she would later recall. “I just wrote and rewrote the same thoughts.”) Her mother, red-eyed and tearful, just off an overnight flight, burst into the room and then sat silently in a chair by the window, rocking forcefully. The din of activity around Carla had become almost a blur: nurses shuttling fluids in and out, interns donning masks and gowns, antibiotics being hung on IV poles to be dripped into her veins.

I explained the situation as best I could. Her day ahead would be full of tests, a hurtle from one lab to another. I would draw a bone marrow sample. More tests would be run by pathologists. But the preliminary tests suggested that Carla had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It is one of the most common forms of cancer in children, but rare in adults. And it is—I paused here for emphasis, lifting my eyes up—often curable.

Curable. Carla nodded at that word, her eyes sharpening. Inevitable questions hung in the room: How curable? What were the chances that she would survive? How long would the treatment take? I laid out the odds. Once the diagnosis had been confirmed, chemotherapy would begin immediately and last more than one year. Her chances of being cured were about 30 percent, a little less than one in three.

We spoke for an hour, perhaps longer. It was now nine thirty in the morning. The city below us had stirred fully awake. The door shut behind me as I left, and a whoosh of air blew me outward and sealed Carla in.

© 2010 Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"An inspiring account of a very personal battle against 'the plague of our generation.'" —-Kirkus

Meet the Author

Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher. His book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction. Mukherjee is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center. A Rhodes scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School. He has published articles in Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times, and The New Republic. He lives in New York with his wife and daughters.

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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 271 reviews.
Kratz More than 1 year ago
I heard the author on Public Radio and purchased the Nookbook. It is an excellent history of cancer and cancer research that strips away much of the mystery of the disease. I found it compelling and not difficult to read. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has cancer or knows someone struggling with the disease. This is not a how-to book on comforting those with cancer. This is a book that gives knowledge on how the disease exists in the body and the challenges that lie ahead in defeating it. "The Emperor of All Maladies" not only contains facts but passion in fighting cancer and compassion in treating it. A must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a young physician, it was fascinating to hear about a disease that continues and will continue to haunt the human race. Towards the end, the pathways bit might be too much for a lay reader, but overall this is a fantastic book and will hopefully inspire some to cure cancer or to be at least cured.
Mystiflyer More than 1 year ago
Maybe I loved it because I've been diagnosed with cancer and wanted to know more, but I couldn't put this book down. To me, it read like a who-done-it. It answered so many questions for me -- even questions I didn't know I had until I began reading. It gets very technical at times, but its written so that it is still understandable. Very well done.
golfer0197 More than 1 year ago
As a biology student, I can assure you that this book is fascinating and elegant in every way. The way the author describes cancer pharmaceutics in the most elegant and beautiful way possible. He describes cisplatin as a "winged molecule that descends on DNA interrupting replication. If you are at all interested in the history of genetics or oncology, it is all covered in this book from Sidney Farber's discovery of Aminopterin to Thomas Hunt Morgan's work, to the state and future of cancer biology today. A great read.
The_hibernators More than 1 year ago
The Emperor of All Maladies is a sweeping “biography” of cancer covering archeological/ancient history to present-day. It is very well-informed, well written, and thorough. Definitely worth a read for anyone who is interested in the history of cancer or medicine. Well-deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it won in 2011. I think it was written with the popular reader in mind (he DOES tell us what DNA is at the beginning of the book), but the book quickly delves into terminology and topics that I suspect would be very heavy to someone who doesn’t already know a little about biology/medicine. This is especially true in the second half of the book. Mukherjee also is SO thorough that the book becomes extremely long, which is difficult for those of us with a short attention span. Also, I got great amusement out of his formulaically inserted personal patient pieces. It was good that he had them (they broke up the difficult scientific passages) but I could tell that they were written by a scientist and not a journalist (i.e. they were comprised of literal rather than emotive descriptions). Being a scientist myself, this made me chuckle (alas! an emotion). However, I think the personal patient pieces were interesting and elicited enough emotion to engage the readers. They worked for me, anyway
bnagata More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because I was, and I am sure you are, curious as to the hype surrounding it- I'm sure glad I did! Mukherjee did an excellent job in capturing and sustaining my interest through this chronicle of cancer's history. He was amazing at explaining the biological nitty-gritty details of cancer in a colloquial manner. I appreciate all that I learned from this life changing book.
BobbieCohen More than 1 year ago
You don't have to be a physician or scientist to get into Dr. Mukherjee's excellent biography of cancer. What is fascinating is that he calls this a biography, and as you read the history of this disease, you'll understand why. He treats cancer as if it is a living thing that warrants a biography. He blends history, sociology, psychology, forensic science and good old-fashioned detective work to make a highly readable history of how mankind has been in battle with this disease. He also gives tremendous insight into our modern day war on cancer: what has worked, what has not, and why. The best part of reading The Emperor is the writing style. On every page, Dr. Mukherjee gives an almost poetic description or phrase that makes you realize this man is not just a great doctor, but a great writer as well.
Purr More than 1 year ago
This very lengthy history of the dreaded *C* was quite eye opening. I have been an RN since the late 70's,and it'amazing what leaps and bounds have been made during my career This is not always an easy read and sometimes comes across like a textbook, but it really covers cancer and its treatment with a highly clinical viewpoint. IKept waiting for the human aspect, but those glimpses were few and far between. Still, very educational
room145teacher More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. So many things I did not realize about cancer and the search for cures and therapies. You'll get up close and personal.
charityl77 More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed every page. By reading the book in its entireity the reader has a deep sense of respect, awe, and frustration towards human nature's 'Emperor of all 'Maladies' Well done.......
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At the recommendation of an oncologist at tumor board, I decided to buy this book & glad to read this during my semester off from school, before I begin my journey in CA biology. It has given me a new insight on a group of diseases that continues to be a mystery, even as we solve one small piece of this large puzzle. Personally, it left me in awe in how far we have come & more enthralled with oncology than I was before. I very highly recommend this book, it is especially helpful as a cancer registrar, knowing how these drugs came about & how they attack cancer.
Minormi More than 1 year ago
The book I needed to have when my young wife was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer three years ago. What informed questions we could have asked!
R-Lowe More than 1 year ago
Wonderful blending of the scientific hunt for cancer cures, the author's personal experience with cancer patients and the evolution of medical knowledge - both as it relates to cancer but generally as well. It explained a lot of the time lag between research and treatment so that even as researchers were discovering tons about the workings of cancer - particularly the genetic components - treatment still consisted of refinements of the brute force chemo, radiation and surgery until well into the 90s for the most part. It's only since then that treatments using the genetic knowledge became available and that continues today. Particularly anyone having to make decisions involving treatment - whether professionally, personally or on behalf of loved ones - this is a must-read to put things in perspective.
C_2112_M More than 1 year ago
This book is very well written and highly informative. By the time I finished I had a much better understanding of what cancer is and why it is treated the way it is. The author does this by tracing the long history of cancer and cancer research up to the modern day. I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to learn more about cancer or just enjoys science related books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I you've ever wondered about cancer this is a book to read. I study cancer for a living and found this book to be extremely comprehensive and able to illustrate the full scope of cancer and the problem it presents to doctors and researchers. It is great to find a book that is well researched and translates cancer into laymans terms.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very informative and written so that a non medical person is able to understand.
SLB333 More than 1 year ago
This was so complete and so interesting. Can't wait to read the sequel in 10 years.
ABookAWeek More than 1 year ago
Non survivors may not find it interesting, but I was fascinated to read the history of this ancient disease that is so much our part of ourselves.
Hitch22 More than 1 year ago
I found the book educational. It presented a good overview of the history of cancer, it's diagnosis and the medical fraternities attempts at treatment. It is a grizzly subject but the author also reviewed our recent deeper understanding of the causes of cancer and how that is leading to much less deadly therapies. So it ends on an encouraging note.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
These were the words a doctor used one year ago as he explained nmy spouse's C. The first chapter was captivating. Our son who gave it as a birthday gift noted that despite the title it was a very good read. I can confirm his take.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very interesting read concerning a thousand foot view of the history of cancer.
Cycling_Chef More than 1 year ago
This is a biography of an unlikely subject: cancer. I have a particular interest in this topic as one of my sons is pursuing a PhD in molecular biology and genetics to become a cancer research scientist. This book helped me understand his field. To be perfectly honest, I had to overcome many generations of familial hypochondria to read this book and once I shoved those fears aside, I found the history of  the diseases that make up cancer, its treatments and discoveries very interesting. The author's writing style makes medical and scientific information accessible to the layperson. His colorful descriptions of the doctors and scientists who have played roles in cancer's biography, from ancient Egypt to modern times, make the book engaging. He weaves his own experience as a cancer oncologist into the story and he treats cancer patients who play roles in the book with dignity. I often find Pulitzer prize winning books too high brow or intellectual for entertaining reading, but this is a book I would recommend to anyone who is interested in this subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the most gripping, interesting, and thoughtful books I have read in 2012.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Persons who suffer, caregivers, and interested observers will all benefit from the study of the history of this malady that continues until the present day. My own personal condition, Multiple Myeloma, does not receive lots of in depth study but the explanations of all of the symptoms and treatments for the various forms helped me to better understand my treatment progression. This work lets the reader in on the "why" of the present day treatment procedures something every sufferer needs to better understand. Surprisingly easy to read considering the large volume of information.
Kensi More than 1 year ago
This was a fascinating book about the history of and man's fight against cancer. I lost a loved one to leukemia, the type of cancer that figures prominently in the medical history of this disease, so it was especially moving to me. My one slight negative is that there is a lot of "science" in this book and there were a few times when I couldn't quite keep things straight. I would have liked to have seen a few more illustrations to accompany the narrative discussion of the biology and chemistry behind cancer.