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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer Paperback – August 9, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: "In 2010, about six hundred thousand Americans, and more than 7 million humans around the world, will die of cancer." With this sobering statistic, physician and researcher Siddhartha Mukherjee begins his comprehensive and eloquent "biography" of one of the most virulent diseases of our time. An exhaustive account of cancer's origins, The Emperor of All Maladies illustrates how modern treatments--multi-pronged chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, as well as preventative care--came into existence thanks to a century's worth of research, trials, and small, essential breakthroughs around the globe. While The Emperor of All Maladies is rich with the science and history behind the fight against cancer, it is also a meditation on illness, medical ethics, and the complex, intertwining lives of doctors and patients. Mukherjee's profound compassion--for cancer patients, their families, as well as the oncologists who, all too often, can offer little hope--makes this book a very human history of an elusive and complicated disease. --Lynette Mong
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Mukherjee's magisterial history of cancer research is poorly served by Stephen Hoye's impersonal, tone-deaf narration. Mukherjee is a practicing oncologist, and his is a deeply personal account, replete with stories of his own patients and practice, that begs for an intimate reading. But Hoye is pedantic, dry, stentorian-everything that this book isn't-and his newscaster's delivery cannot convey the author's compassion for his patients or the suspense and thrill of scientific discovery that the book so brilliantly describes. A Scribner hardcover. (Nov.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I gave this book a 4/5 because I, myself, am in healthcare and learned most (if not majority) of the history and treatments of certain cancers. I feel that this book is exceptionally good for someone who is just beginning to understand cancer or whoever is not familiar with cancer. For oncologists, I feel that it was more of a "review book" of what we already know. Being in medicine, there is nothing wrong with constant review, but there was something lacking in it that I cannot put my finger on.
That being said, I do not want to dismiss Dr. M's superb book. This is THE 21st century book of cancer. It's definitely a must-read for anyone remotely interested in oncology: the more educated and aware our generation is about the cancer... the closer we are at etching away at the mysterious disease we know as cancer.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As a biologist and as a general reader, I must admit that this book is one of the best...Read more