John Han-Chih Chang, MD
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: November 1, 2001
|Author: Michael Waldholz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, New York, 1997 (First Touchstone Edition 1999)
ISBN: 0-684-81125-1 hardback, 0-684-84802-3 paperback
Michael Waldholz is a staff reporter at The Wall Street Journal. He has written numerous articles, and another book, about the exciting world of genetic research entitled "Curing Cancer: Solving one of the Greatest Medical Mysteries of Our Time." He writes his latest book about the scientists who strive to understand cancer and hope to discover a cure.
This book "Curing Cancer: The Story Of The Men And Women Unlocking The Secrets Of Our Deadliest Illness" is fascinating, and reads like an action-packed novel, offering a glimpse into the intense world of cancer research. It does contain some scientific information, but can easily be understood by a layperson. For instance, the author explains complex subjects such as the structure of DNA, or techniques such as Southerns or the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR); in such a way that anyone can understand.
The book unfolds with the story of how, in 1993, cells from former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey's bladder cancer led to the discovery of the exact genetic mutation that led to the cancer (a p53 mutation), 16 years after his death! The author goes on to narrate the story of Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Barbara Weber at the University of Michigan, who came upon the idea that one can study the genetic make-up of a family with a high incidence of breast cancer to determine who will be susceptible. This is an amazing story, illustrating the fact that research can have a profound and immediate affect on people's lives.
The book describes many other interesting discoveries. Another example is the story of Mary-Claire King, who demonstrated that breast cancer could be caused by inheriting a single mutated gene. These stories are all fascinating to read. The author conveys to the reader that science, which often seems abstract to the layperson, really does affect our day-to-day lives. The author also manages to cleverly weave these stories into one fabric, showing the reader that discoveries are not made in a single day by a single person. Rather, they are the composite of many small steps made by numerous scientists all over the world.
This book is fun to read, and very easy to understand. It does not provide much scientific information, but it does offer a list of references for each chapter should the reader feel compelled to find out more.