THE SIEGE OF CANCER by June Goodfield


Email this review


June Goodfield is a British professor-lecturer-researcher with considerable literary skills at her command; she has written the only overall perspective that we know of on cancer and its multi-phasic scientific problems, particularly in vitro. There are only two short case histories at the close which personalize the casualties of this ""great failure of medicine"" although in the last twenty years we have come a little way toward treating the disease in specific areas while not understanding the nature of that undisciplined cell which now affects one in four and takes the life of one in six. Dr. Goodfield's approach is fascinatingly eclectic, beginning with a visit to the Caspian where the Turkomans for some reason (historical, evolutionary) have the highest incidence of oesophageal cancer which is diminished when they move to urbanized areas. On to Sloan-Kettering where she discusses the viral approach with two leading investigators--our best facility which had its ""aberrant moment"" with the appointment of Summerlin on the basis of his fraudulent findings--Summerlin the ""immunological Uri Geller."" There is a section on the biological approach, the most demanding, and one on the use of drugs--particularly the ""platinum blues"" which seem to have worked for mice rather than men. Another on the questions of funding and politics (our National Institute of Health) and the disenchanted conclusion of one participant--""Ultimately all cancer related activities become malignant themselves."" At the end we're left with the still more disheartening remark of another dedicated researcher--""Science is the art of the soluble""--which may or may not come to pass. In the meantime we must learn to live and die with the disease with less fear and more humanity. If Dr. Goodfield succeeds, as she does, in subduing our phobic avoidance while enlightening us, she also leaves room for alternatives, partial hopes and possibilities or just the lucky ""chance [that] favors the prepared mind.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1975
Publisher: Random House