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One Renegade Cell: How Cancer Begins (Science Masters Series) 1st Edition

36 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465072767
ISBN-10: 0465072763
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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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (October 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465072763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465072767
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John Fetter, Ph. D. in Biochemistry on 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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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Canay on October 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David Fourer on April 10, 2004
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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 By Renaaah on August 25, 2000
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By fab 50-something on October 21, 2012
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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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By FABRICIO M. R. Silva on 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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