Description: This book describes, from an historic perspective, the evolution of our understanding of the molecular mechanisms necessary to explain why cancer develops. The seminal events as well as the false paths that at times were followed are concisely summarized.
Purpose: Why does cancer develop? How can we sort through all of our knowledge of viral and chemical carcinogenesis, basic molecular biology, and genetics to get to the precise molecular events that lead to oncogenesis? The author's purpose is to trace the historic events which led to the current concept that the conversion of normal cells to cancer occurs in multiple steps involving aberrant mechanisms that falsely stimulate proliferation on the one hand and lead to a loss of normal suppressor and repair functions on the other. The author succeeds in describing how triumphs and failures in the past have led to the development of the unifying hypothesis of multiple genetic carcinogenesis over the course of the last two decades.
Audience: This book is must reading for premedical, medical, and graduate students as well as postdoctoral fellows with an interest in cancer research or for others curious about what really goes on in the universe of cancer.
Features: The strongest feature of this book is that it is written in a style that makes it understandable to a lay reader and yet still informative to those with in-depth knowledge in the area of cancer molecular genetics. It is not meant to be highly detailed. It presents the information as if the author was telling the story in person. It describes great moments of discovery, such as Howard Temins finding a reverse transcriptase, and the roles played by the many dedicated researchers from Watson and Crick through the more recent work of Bert Vogelstein. It details the competition between the virologists and the carcinogenesis devotees. There are many personal reflections of the people involved and details about what made them great or at times disreputable in their quest to find the ultimate cause of cancer. But most of all, it explains how we now have a unifying hypothesis of oncogenesis, a path to follow, and why we are now poised to define the holy grail of cancer research: what causes it.
Assessment: This book is unique in its content and presentation. It is fun to read and leaves the reader hoping that the author will someday write a sequel telling us what really happened in the 1990s and the early new millenium.