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Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer Paperback – August 1, 2011
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About the Author
- Publisher : Scribner; 1st edition (August 1, 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 608 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1439170916
- ISBN-13 : 978-1439170915
- Lexile measure : 1240L
- Item Weight : 1.34 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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When you are told you have cancer you are bewildered. You are also very angry. I asked myself was there something I had done in my past that was going to deprive me seeing my two sons grow up into happy young men and dads. The first two weeks go by in a weird nightmare. Day 17 your hair falls out. Your peeing orange from the chemo drugs, which have put me off lucozade for life. You double check all your insurances are up to date and update a well to make sure my wife does not have any hassles with the tax authorities. At the age of 44 you are very angry. You realise you are likely going to die. You are angry because you have no idea what is doing it. What you planned for when you were older is all meaningless. But, thanks to certain stubbornness and amazing treatment and care, and a generous sift of life from a German donor of life giving stem cells, I am alive.
This book helps explain many of the questions I had. It does it in a way that makes sense if you don't have a degree in science. What was until recently a death sentence is no longer the case. The battle against cancer was waged by intrepid individuals, and this book explains the war so far. It outlines the causes of cancer, whether it is a virus, bacteria, induced by smoking or chemicals, or just our own body playing up and turning on itself. It explains how our own understanding is still basic but advancing year by year, and treatments, if not cures, are being found for many, although not all cancers.
I learned that was once a death sentence is not the case today. I am looking forward to see my sons become men. This book gave me clarity, it gave me hope.
Across the book, we are also introduced to ways of fighting or stalling the advance of cancer: radical surgery and radical mastectomy, X-rays, cytotoxics, monoclonal antibodies, tyrosine kinase inhibitors and S. Mukherjee explains really well how all of the above function (or don't function in some cases). One of the strengths of the book is that it gives a behind the scenes look at how certain drugs or procedures came to be (Druker's struggles with developing imatinib) or how other procedures were proven to be too radical and changed such as Halsted's radical mastectomy.
The fight to find a cure for cancer has triggered enormous social forces in the 20th century and in the book we are introduced to some of the main characters: Sidney Farber and the Jimmy Fund, Mary Lasker and the American Cancer Society both determined to enact policy changes that will get more resources allocated to the war against cancer. These are just a few figures in this war, but there were other forces as well that fought for cigarette labeling for example, or more personal struggles related to compassionate drug use.
S. Mukherjee ends the book on a more positive note. All throughout the book we get the impression that primitive forces are battling a very complex disease, using disfiguring surgery or drugs that oftentimes end up causing cancer themselves. The final few chapters are not so gloomy, he takes a molecular biologist's view of the disease and explains our current understanding of the processes and pathways involved and you do get the impression that by 2050 we will be able to target the specific pathways and mutations that make up a particular form of cancer.
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My only slight criticism is that it is very US-centric, skating over the huge influence UK, European and Asian science had on cancer diagnosis and treatment. And as an immunologist I would have liked more on the transformative effects immunotherapy has had on targeted cancer treatment. However I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the anatomy, history and treatment of cancer.
Many words or adjectives come to mind after reading this book, including detailed, long, very intense, upsetting, disturbing, depressing yet informative. I think the most accurate description would be highly informative. Author has filled the pages with years of experience and his complete knowledge of the subject. Reading this book ensures a better understanding of cancer and how it has affected the journey of medicine in treatment of cancer.
From the beginning of the story Author dives into history of cancer and the way it is portrayed as the story goes, it seems more like an actual person and not an illness. More like a super powerful villain who is here for human extinction or advancement of human race. It’s literally do or die situation for human race against cancer.
“In writing this book, I started off by imagining my project as a “history” of cancer. But it felt, inescapably, as if I were writing not about something but about someone. My subject daily morphed into something that resembled an individual—an enigmatic, if somewhat deranged, image in a mirror. This was not so much a medical history of an illness, but something more personal, more visceral: its biography.” –Siddhartha Mukherjee
Author reveals how cancer has been around much longer than we thought by showing examples of exhumed corpses from ancient Egypt and other archeological sites. Once mankind realized how aggressive and fast growing cancer is, the historical treatments were equally zealous and intense with the goal to find a cure and get rid of the cancerous tissue as soon as they can.
Cancer is an expansionist disease; it invades through tissues, sets up colonies in hostile landscapes, seeking “sanctuary” in one organ and then immigrating to another. It lives desperately, inventively, fiercely, territorially, cannily, and defensively—at times, as if teaching us how to survive. To confront cancer is to encounter a parallel species, one perhaps more adapted to survival than even we are.―Siddhartha Mukherjee
The emperor of Maladies – the title captures ones interest and this no doubt has proven to a book which sticks with you even after you finish reading it. To conclude, the book sheds new light on the future of war on cancer, Medicine and science has come a long way in the past decades and new treatments continue to be discovered and tested. The war on cancer is far from over, however based on the knowledge from this history; we surely are equipped to face it head on.
"We are so close to a cure for cancer. We lack only the will and the kind of money and comprehensive planning that went into putting a man on the moon" -Dr. Sidney Farber
This book does an excellent job, as far as my knowledge extends, in providing a historical guide to the ways in which cancer has been treated and the growing understanding of what cancer actually is. The two have not necessarily gone hand in hand, and it is comparatively recently that the understanding of the biology of cancer has produced targeted treatments.
The flip side of that understanding, though, is that it is quite likely there will never be a magic 'cure' for cancer. In some ways, as the book explains, everyone's cancer at the genetic level is unique, though it appears there are certain genes which are likely to be drivers of cancer. But with an aging population, cancer may be, like wrinkles, a feature of old age. The good news is that cancers that affect the young have been the ones where the treatment has been most effective.
Some of the chapters in the book that deal with the biology of cancer at the chromosome level are a little hard going for a non-biologist. A diagram may have been useful in places. But, ultimately, the book is worth the effort and the information within it should help dispel some of the fear and dread that surrounds mention of the disease.