A convincing criticism of modern medicine that advocates the reinvention of cancer treatment.



A debut author looks at a rare surgical technique for combating cancer developed over decades. 

With little fanfare, this work begins by condemning Western medicine’s risk-averse approach to cancer treatment. As Kalina explains, while the scientific method may allow for shifting treatment paradigms, the minutiae of research grants and the centralization of medical publishing discourage new methods from being practiced on a large scale. Instead of giving doctors and surgeons the breathing room to develop novel techniques, the fear of malpractice suits and withdrawn funding is used to funnel medical efforts into only a handful of treatments—notably chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Kalina is particularly harsh on both for their “all-in” effects on the body’s immune system. Once patients have undergone chemotherapy, their bodies are often too weak to undergo other treatments, a fact that is often used to suggest that they are ineffective. Kalina wants to encourage fully informed patients and interested doctors to try methods other than chemotherapy (in spite of its popularity). The particular approach Kalina backs was pioneered by Karel Fortýn in Czechoslovakia over 50 years ago. Fortýn’s breakthrough was “devitalization,” a process where tumors are surgically devascularized and left in place, which allows the immune system to mark those dying cancer cells for reabsorption by the body. Kalina’s breakdown of the culture of cancer research and diagnosis is intriguing and persuasive, if slightly verbose (“If we also take into account the immense sums invested independently by pharmaceutical companies worldwide, we determine that never have so many resources been mobilized in such a short time for a single cause or single aim in the medical field without attaining pursued objectives”). The author forcefully argues that the current climate of cancer treatment prevents devitalization from being accepted by practitioners. Most of his references come from medical research rather than the philosophy of science or the social sciences, giving the societal critiques a more anecdotal feel, especially compared to the in-depth surgical sections of the book. But as Kalina moves into a detailed explanation of the technical procedure of devitalization—its effects on different organs and types of cancer, the stitches used, and other compatible treatment techniques—his meticulous writing begins to shine anew. 

A convincing criticism of modern medicine that advocates the reinvention of cancer treatment. 

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5246-7919-4

Page Count: 356

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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