The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

May 9 19:24 2012 Roberto Sedycias Print This Article

Cancer is a worldwide scourge as it affects more than 600,000 Americans and seven million elsewhere and it is a disease that has been with us since the dawn of writing when historians recorded the generations of medical steps we have taken to control this plague.


Cancer is a worldwide scourge as it affects more than 600,Guest Posting000 Americans and seven million elsewhere and it is a disease that has been with us since the dawn of writing when historians recorded the generations of medical steps we have taken to control this plague.

At one time, in fact, says The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by award-winning science writer, researcher and doctor Siddhartha Mukherjee, about three decades ago, we even believed that an effort similar to the one that put man on the moon would erase cancer from our medical vocabulary.

But, that "cancer race," if you will, failed and instead of gaining on this deadly disease in giant steps, it has been the small steps that have led to the cures that have been achieved so far.

The "Biography of Cancer" pays its homage to the "Emperor of All Maladies," as Dr. Mukherjee's clear, lean style goes back 5,000 years to the first steps at self-cures where a ruler has her slave remove a breast to halt the spread of the disease. Each generation's work builds on the work of the previous work and Dr. Mukherjee's spare, yet eloquent style discusses the steps through the ages down to his own patients so that they are not nameless, faceless statistics, but real people.

It takes quite a writer to tackle a subject as broad as cancer and make it understandable to the reading public. No, cancer is not a fun subject, nor is it a remotely entertaining subject, but it is a subject that touches all of our lives and Dr. Mukherjee's style makes it quite clear that, despite the "space race" approach to conquering cancer (throwing tons of money at it and research) a three-decade-long program that has had some successes, some failures and many false starts and stops.

Yet, it is the same program that has produced things such as Interferon A and B, both of which cleanly recognize the diverse nature of even a set of "rules" against which the types of cancer operate.

Dr. Mukherjee won the December 2010 Amazon "Book of the Month" club award for a clear, clean style that literally drags the reader into the work and keeps you there, even though it is not the type of work that most people would want to find on their Kindle or under their tree at Christmas, yet it is a story that must be told and Dr. Mukherjee has done it showing you not only the ancient steps in treatment to today's multi-chemical cocktails through the early steps in using radiation to today's surgical techniques and preventative steps as well.

Dr. Mukherjee deserves the plaudits he has received as he is not only a strong writer, but he is a tenacious in showing us -- his readers -- just what he means when he says it.

One may think that it is weird to be writing a "biography" of such a seasoned disease and killer but when you think about it, it is really the only way you can approach this topic. As noted, the early histories and stories place the first attempts at controlling this deadly illness at 5,000 years ago and that there have been rich successes far beyond those which one can expect modest steps to have had, while there have been setbacks of equal vigor.

That's why this is the "Emperor of all Maladies" because it will do what it wants to do when it wants to do it. That, after all, is one of the prerogatives of an absolute ruler, which, in reality this "emperor" really is.

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Roberto Sedycias
Roberto Sedycias

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Roberto Sedycias works as an IT consultant for http://www.polomercantil.com.br


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