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One Renegade Cell: How Cancer Begins (Science Masters Series) [Paperback]

Robert A. Weinberg
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 8, 1999 0465072763 978-0465072767 1st
One of the leading cancer researchers in the world, Robert A. Weinberg is perfectly suited to describe the search for cancer's origins from the early days of this century to the present. Presuming little knowledge of biology, he tells how a cancer-causing virus was first discovered in 1909, how the correlation was made between chemical carcinogens and cancer, and how oncogenes (the genes that can turn a cell malignant) work. He explains clearly how malignant cells send messages to one another and also block the messages of normal cells. Finally, Weinberg predicts that cancer prevention may depend on our ability to understand the mysterious chemical clock that regulates our cells' most basic functions. One Renegade Cell offers a concise, accessible route into the complex and often daunting world of cancer and cancer research.

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One Renegade Cell: How Cancer Begins (Science Masters Series) + The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer + The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
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Editorial Reviews Review

"Cancer wreaks havoc in almost every part of the human body"--Robert Weinberg's opening remark is a chilling reminder of the pervasiveness of an all-too-familiar disease. Cancer touches most families, and if you have ever wondered why, despite so much time, effort, and money, it has proved such a seemingly intractable problem, then read One Renegade Cell, Robert Weinberg's masterful explanation. As director of the Oncology Research Laboratory at the Whitehead Institute and professor of Biology at MIT, Weinberg has been at the forefront of cancer research for well over a decade.

Unlike most diseases, cancerous tumors are not foreign invaders but "take on the appearance of alien life forms, invaders that enter the body through stealth and begin their programs of destruction from within." But as Weinberg shows, these are deceptive appearances. And since he is foremost a scientist, he finds the truth "subtle and endlessly interesting" and manages to convey fascination for something that most of us dread--cancer. Much of the present increase in cancer is due to increased longevity because "given enough time, cancer will strike every human body."

By telling the story of the historical discovery of cancer, Weinberg is able to introduce gradually the intricacies and complications of the genes and proteins involved (oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, etc.) for the general reader. He characterizes cancer cells as renegade because, unlike normal body cells, they "disregard the needs of the community of cells," they are "selfish and unsociable," and are only interested in "their own proliferative advantage." By comparison, normal cells hold down cell numbers by "inducing them to commit suicide" (apoptosis).

The understanding of cancer has been developed enormously over the last few decades by Weinberg and the worldwide community of researchers. As Weinberg eloquently shows, cancer research and its related disciplines "have moved from substantial ignorance to deep insight." --Douglas Palmer, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The last 20 years have brought a revolution in cancer research that will profoundly change diagnosis and treatment of the disease, writes Weinberg in this comprehensive but rigorous introduction to the subject. Weinberg, founder of the Whitehead Institute for Cancer Research and a biology professor at MIT, traces the development of previous theories of cancer, and explains that scientists are now certain that cancer is caused when genes are damaged through a succession of mutations. These can result from damage to a cell's DNA inflicted by mutagens (which can be of foreign origin, such as tobacco smoke, or of internal origin); from normal mistakes made when DNA is copied during cell growth; or from defects in the body's DNA repair machinery. Weinberg discusses the roles of chemical carcinogens, retroviruses and heredity in developing cancer, and explains the body's intricate defenses against tumor growth. Though he argues that cancer will never be fully eradicated because so many mutations occur during long lifetimes ("Given enough time, cancer will strike every human body"), Weinberg is optimistic that increasingly sophisticated understanding of cellular functions will yield more effective treatments for those cancers that cannot be prevented. Though some readers might find the technical sections of the book difficult, it readily conveys the challenge and excitement of scientific discovery. Two illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (October 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465072763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465072767
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have: great intro and overview of current research October 16, 2002
By Canay
No prior knowledge of cell biology or genetics is required. I have gained an appreciation for the complexity of cancer research thanks to the book. I highly recommend it. You also learn a fair amount of the history of the development of cancer research. And don't think you need to read through hundreds of introductory pages to accomplish this. The book is under 200 pages.
Once again: What I found great about the book is it explains very clearly the current thories on how cancer starts and spreads without requiring any prior knowledge in the field.
For the scientifically oriented who are interested in the details, it has a big reference and endnote section. 5 stars for sure.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview for the nonscientist and scientist November 16, 1999
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a scientist, I am familiar with most of the discoveries in cancer research discussed in the book. Weinberg nicely ties them together and explains how one exciting discovery in cancer research led to another. This is an excellent overview of what has been discovered about cancer and what is not known. Weinberg points out that many of the discoveries were from areas of research not directly related to cancer. This book should help the nonscientist understand the complexities of research and why so much time and resources have been required to uncover the mechanisms of cancer. I also highly recommend this book to students at all levels that are interested in any type of research.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent entry to cancer biology April 10, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are very few books out that give the reader an overview modern cancer biology. This short book gives a clear picture of a complex and current subject. It uses historical perspective on scientific discovery to enliven the reading. It's well organized and readable without background in biology, but with enough depth to interest biologists in other fields. I also reccomend Robert Weinberg's "Genes and the Biology of Cancer", written with Harold Varmus, which covers the same material in a little more depth.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Cancer 101" August 25, 2000
By Renaaah
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, I frantically read everything I could lay my hands on to try to understand what was happening to her. As a former English major and flunker-of-high-school science classes, educating myself about the disease was a daunting task. "One Renegade Cell" explains in intelligent but clear language the theories that currently best explain how the disease begins and spreads.
In my search for knowledge, I have found many books that explain cancer as though to the Village Idiot. And I have found others that explain it as though to a PhD in Biology. I am truly thankful that Weinberg wrote this rare book that can be enjoyed and understood by the rest of us.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A preview of cancer books 20 years from now December 4, 2000
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A close relative of mine is a cancer survivor, and the shadow of this horrific disease has become a new member in our family. Weinberg's book is a quick and very well written primer for the layman on cancer and the history of oncological research. Not only does it contain up to date information about the latest genetic discoveries in the field, but it also presents them in a didatic and lighthearted style only an insider could offer. Reading this book, I felt like having a glimpse of the kind of books that will be written abou cancer in (hopefully) 20 years: books in which all the mechanisms leading to tumor formation will be laid bare for the student, and effective therapies will be available for all kinds of cancer, with minor burden of side effects. Books in which all the suffering caused by cancer nowadays will be as part of medical history as polio is. I felt enpowered by this book and actually enjoyed reading it (the account of how a virus can cause cancer by stealing proto oncogenes from normal cells is fascinating). The only reason I have not given 5 stars is some difficulty in the last chapters due to the complicated naming conventions of genes, but I guess this is a fault of the unfinished status of genetic oncology and my ignorance. If cancer or the history of medical research in general interests you, I strongly recommend this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book about cancer's causes I've ever read April 5, 1999
By A Customer
A book I'd recommend to everyone. Robert Weinberg is obviously on the shortlist for a medicine Nobel, and with the acknowledged help of his US editor has produced a wonderfully lucid, exciting book about how science discovered what cancer is and how it works. The link to evolution and Darwinism (at the gene level) is perhaps surprising. but utterly crucial.
This is a *fabulous* time to be alive, if you're intelligent and enthralled by knowledge!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars over my head but still very worthwhile October 21, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am very interested in the subject matter (for personal reasons) and have no scientific background other than basic biology in high school and college. I selected this book because of the subject matter and because other reviewers said that it did NOT require a strong medical/scientific background.

The book does not deal so much with cancer in terms of how it affects the body, but rather, the life cycle of cancer at the cellular level. In particular, how "one renegade cell" becomes cancerous and grows into a tumor. The examples and explanations run the gamut of many different kinds of cancer (lung, breast, ovarian, retinal, lymphomas, and others). It's heavily focued on DNA and cell replication.

I found the book very well written. The technical details did overwhelm me at times, but I kept working through it because of my interest in the subject matter. I think that I probably grasped only 30-40% of the real detail here, and I admit that in some sections I'd read the first half of a chapter and kind of skim the rest of it because it was just over my head. However, I still got a LOT out of the book and read it through to the end. I feel like I was able to get the gist of everything, but didn't necessarily have a full understanding of everything the author presented.

I do, however, think that this book has given me enough of an understanding of cancer so that I can now understand the oncologist better and also have an increased level of understanding when reading about cancer and cancer drugs as it affects myself and people close to me.

Let me explain my 3 ranking. I'm simply not technical enough to be able to speak to the technical accuracy and timeliness of the content of this book; so I couldn't give it a 5.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for anyone interested in learning about cancer.
I do cancer vaccine research. This is a great book for anyone interested in learning about the history of cancer research. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Steve Arnold
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and very accessible
This is a very interesting book about the bio mechanics of cancerous tumors
and possible ways of fighting them, written in a very playful and interesting language. Read more
Published 6 months ago by michael holtzman
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book!
My daughter read this book for her AP Biology class and thought it was very well written and gave alot of great information.
Published 10 months ago by Shari J. Hyman
5.0 out of 5 stars never seen a book so clearly described cancer
With each step of investigations form the authro,we outsiders started to understand the mechanism of tumor and how to tackle them from daily habits. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Isaac Mao
3.0 out of 5 stars Great writing, horrible publishing
The content was great; I thought that it ranked among the best science writing that I've encountered in terms of making a complicated topic understandable and readable. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Dan
4.0 out of 5 stars renegade cell book
This book was purchased as a Christmas gift for my son, who studies these things. He was more than pleased to receive this!!
Published 18 months ago by Kathy Natoli
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Introduction to Cancer
This book (if you can call it a book; it's small in volume, though goes surprisingly in depth) is a good introduction to cancer. Read more
Published 18 months ago by LLawrence
3.0 out of 5 stars Not interesting for a high school student
Had to read this for approval bio and it was not fun. I would recommend it to hardcover biology fans and people with higher tastes
Published 18 months ago by sarker
5.0 out of 5 stars The history of molecular cancer research from The pioneer of the field
This book is a must read for whoever is interested in cancer research. It completes the other excellent book on cancer research, The Emperor of All Maladies.
Published 19 months ago by Alireza202
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece
The author has managed to condense enormous knowledge into a relatively thin book. It never loses touch of its target audience and succeeds in making the content accessible to a... Read more
Published 19 months ago by S. Choudhary
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