A Wall Street Journal science reporter's colorful, people-centered account of the fierce competition among scientists to find the genetic causes of cancer. Waldholz (coauthor, with Jerry Bishop, of Genome, 1990) focuses on Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins University, who developed the tumor-suppressor theory of cancer that has become the foundation of cancer research today; Mary-Claire King, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, who proved the existence of a breast cancer gene on chromosome 17 in 1990, although she couldn't pinpoint its precise location; Francis Collins, a researcher at the University of Michigan, who joined forces with King in the hunt for the elusive gene; and Mark Skolnick, a Utah geneticist who found BRCA1, the breast cancer gene, in 1994. Through interviews with these and other scientists who worked with them or competed against them, Waldholz shows the pressure of the race to be first. He reveals these denizens of the labs to be fierce competitors, often skilled at manipulating people, keeping secrets, and working the press. His secondary story, one fraught with quite different emotions, concerns the women in ``Family 15,'' the raw material used by a group of scientists tracking down the breast cancer gene. Through them Waldholz explores the ethical problems created when scientists are able to tell a woman that she has the gene but physicians are unable to either prevent or cure the cancer. Despite his optimistic title, Waldholz makes clear that curing cancer remains ``a lengthy and risky enterprise.'' He also touches on the problems and possible conflict-of-interest issues posed by the burgeoning number of biotechnology companies that are exploiting university research. Vivid portrayals of the principal players combined with clear descriptions of the science involved.