The story of cancer, as well as a coming-of-age tale of a renowned oncologist.
Cancer physician Mukherjee (Medicine/Columbia Univ.) began this book in 2003 while completing a residency in medicine and graduate work in cancer immunology. He shapes the narrative as a heroic contest between two adversaries—cancer and the brave patients who fight for their lives, despite horrendous nausea from chemotherapy and other painful effects of the disease and the treatment. Only since the 1950s have cancer victims had a reasonable chance of surviving and returning to normal life, and even then surgical treatment often left patients disabled while halting but not stopping the spread of metastatic cancers. In addition, researchers had to consider the effects of radiation in destroying healthy tissue and causing leukemia and pernicious anemia. The side effects of both radiation and chemotherapy were frequently deadly. Mukherjee traces the refinement of treatments over the past 50 years and the development of early detection, as well as the growing understanding of the relationship between genetic abnormalities and environmental carcinogens in causing cancers. In 2005, significant advances and progress were noted by the scientific community. “The mortality for nearly every major form of cancer,” writes the author, “had continuously dropped for fifteen straight years.” Mukherjee also looks optimistically to the future when the Human Genome Project completes “The Cancer Genome Atlas,” which will become “a compendium of every gene mutated in the most common forms of cancer.”
An inspiring account of a very personal battle against “the plague of our generation.”