by Robert Weinberg ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 16, 1998
Weinberg, a leading cancer researcher (Biology/MIT), neatly lays out the current state of the science and what that portends for future therapies. Essentially, he points to two keys to understanding cancer. One is genetics--not in the sense of inheritance, but in the sense that cancer occurs when a cell's genetic machinery, its DNA, gets mangled, allowing the cell to multiply without restraint. The second key lies in cell-cell communication; there are a myriad of traffic signals that a cell translates into behavior. These two keys are useful in illustrating the dynamism and time span of the process of a normal cell turning renegade: Cancer doesn't happen overnight; it takes multiple ""hits"" to the DNA and multiple signals that are weighed by the cell in deciding whether to reproduce. At various times, built-in DNA repair processes can forestall the road to malignancy. The result is that scientists now can catalogue sets of normal genes that can become cancer-causing oncogenes. They know we have numerous tumor-suppressor genes--but also that someone who is born with a mutation in one of the tumor-suppressor genes has a heightened susceptibility to cancer. Traffic into the cell is also affected by ingredients in foods, by chemicals in tobacco smoke, by ionizing radiation. At the same time, the behavior of the cancerous cell--how it builds its blood supply and how it connives to move from the parent site to seed other tumors are also under intense investigation. The hope is that with so many steps required, some unique to cancer, therapies can be designed that will derail one or another critical process and target the tumor cells uniquely for destruction, maybe even causing them to commit suicide. The more selective the therapy, the more patients will be spared the side effects of cancer treatments that all too often kill the good with the bad. In this short work, Weinberg achieves a remarkably lucid summary of complex research, giving due credit to past and present leaders in the field, while modestly alluding to his own contributions.
Pub Date: Nov. 16, 1998
Page Count: 176
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998
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