《Bran-New + Hardcover Edition + Refreshing Detour From The Ubiquitous "Let's Cure Cancer" Mindset》George Johnson - THE CANCER CHRONICLES : Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery
This New York Times Notable Book of 2013 in hardcover edition is a bran-new book and still wrapped with new-book plastic wrapper. The original new book is sold at usual price RM109.49 (Hardcover). Now here Only at RM28. When the woman he loved was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer, science writer George Johnson embarked on a journey to learn everything he could about the disease and the people who dedicate their lives to understanding and combating it. What he discovered is a revolution under way—an explosion of new ideas about what cancer really is and where it comes from. In a provocative and intellectually vibrant exploration, he takes us on an adventure through the history and recent advances of cancer research that will challenge everything you thought you knew about the disease. Deftly excavating and illuminating decades of investigation and analysis, he reveals what we know and don’t know about cancer, showing why a cure remains such a slippery concept. We follow him as he combs through the realms of epidemiology, clinical trials, laboratory experiments, and scientific hypotheses—rooted in every discipline from evolutionary biology to game theory and physics. Cogently extracting fact from a towering canon of myth and hype, he describes tumors that evolve like alien creatures inside the body, paleo-oncologists who uncover petrified tumors clinging to the skeletons of dinosaurs and ancient human ancestors, and the surprising reversals in science’s comprehension of the causes of cancer, with the foods we eat and environmental toxins playing a lesser role. Perhaps most fascinating of all is how cancer borrows natural processes involved in the healing of a wound or the unfolding of a human embryo and turns them, jujitsu-like, against the body. Throughout his pursuit, Johnson clarifies the human experience of cancer with elegiac grace, bearing witness to the punishing gauntlet of consultations, surgeries, targeted therapies, and other treatments. He finds compassion, solace, and community among a vast network of patients and professionals committed to the fight and wrestles to comprehend the cruel randomness cancer metes out in his own family. For anyone whose life has been affected by cancer and has found themselves asking why?, this book provides a new understanding. In good company with the works of Atul Gawande, Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Abraham Verghese, The Cancer Chronicles is endlessly surprising and as radiant in its prose as it is authoritative in its eye-opening science. Science writer Johnson (The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, 2008) tackles cancer on a technical and personal level. He concludes that “cancer is a disease of information.” Although a single renegade cell can kindle a tumor, that cell still has hurdles to overcome—avoiding apoptosis (programmed cell death) and growing its own blood supply (angiogenesis). ➽ Cancers can be caused by chemicals, radiation, and viruses, but certain behaviors are instigators, too. ➽ Tobacco use accounts for as many as 30 percent of cases. ➽ A sedentary lifestyle and obesity increase your chances of the disease. ➽ Dinosaurs with malignancies, rebellious mitochondria, and other attention-grabbing characters populate the book. Sadly fascinating are the rare medical personnel who’ve accidentally inoculated themselves with cancer cells and acquired the disease (including a woman who developed colon cancer in her hand). Johnson’s discussion of the science of cancer is entwined with two tales of loss. Despite aggressive treatment, his youngest brother dies from cancer of the head and neck. His wife is diagnosed with uterine cancer and recovers, but their 17-year marriage ends. -------------------------------------------------- The New York Times Review: Lives of the Cells Cancer would seem a dreary, frightful topic if it weren’t also such a universal one. In this era of longer human life spans, it’s almost as inevitable as death and taxes. Most of us will experience some form of cancer — if not in our own bodies then at close remove, through the suffering of loved ones — and therefore none of us can afford to ignore it. Knowledge is better than ignorant dread, and good writing based on keen reporting is far better than medical jargon, garbled hearsay or misinformation from the Web. That’s just one reason for reading George Johnson’s graceful book, “The Cancer Chronicles.” Another is that the biological details of just what cancer is and how it occurs are (forgive me for saying so) fascinating. And not just fascinating but also, as handled by Johnson, revealing of certain deep truths about life itself. Those truths involve two elemental concepts, familiar (if dimly) from high school biology and physics: mitosis and entropy. More on that fateful pair in a moment. For starters I’ll just say that, among a small cluster of very good recent books on cancer, including “The Emperor of All Maladies,” by Siddhartha Mukherjee; “The Philadelphia Chromosome,” by Jessica Wapner; and “The Truth in Small Doses,” by Clifton Leaf, Johnson’s stands out as especially illuminating, forceful and, in its own quiet way, profound. He tells two stories, woven together like a cable of copper and silk: a story of research in the laboratories and a personal story about the uterine cancer that struck his wife, Nancy, in 2003. He writes from two perspectives, as a husband and as a reporter (who has often written for The New York Times), but his voice is steady throughout. He’s a pilgrim as well as a guide who moves easily through the arcana of journal papers, the blur of statistics in official reports, the historical and prehistoric records (going back to a dinosaur that suffered a bone tumor 150 million years ago), the interviews with experts and onward along his and his wife’s journey through the hospital corridors, the waiting rooms of busy oncologists and surgeons, the chemo lounge with its cheerless Christmas decorations, such as await us all. When it comes time for Nancy’s radiation treatments, though, she must enter the lead-lined chamber by herself, a reminder to Johnson, and to us, that even the most sympathetic spouse and the most assiduous reporter can’t apprehend cancer the way a patient does. What a chronicler can do, if not share the pain, is observe and ponder and explicate, and Johnson delivers. He busts myths and clarifies realities about what seems to cause, or to help prevent, cancer. Carcinogenic things we consume? Tobacco is still damned, alcohol and coffee are suspicious, but even black pepper in sufficient quantity can yield tumors in mice; celery, parsnips and figs contain carcinogens too. Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, contrary to what you’ve heard, has no great protective power, unless maybe it fills your stomach and cuts down on your appetite for fat, since obesity is a risk factor. (So is tallness, but you can scarcely control that.) Radiation from nuclear plants, from old bomb tests or catastrophic leaks, from the natural radon gas in your basement? Microwaves from your cellphone? The evidence in those categories is ambiguous. There are piles of data, trends and reversals, analyses and dissents and always a chance that a new study will contradict the last. Johnson offers the case of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who was visiting Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and survived the bombing. Burned and half deafened, the poor man went home to Nagasaki and survived that blast too. He died in 2010, at the age of 93, of stomach cancer, possibly triggered by a diet of salted fish. The moral is, you never know. The moral is, there is no moral. Cancer is unpredictable and, to a considerable degree, Johnson tells us, random. Such practical concerns about risk factors and personal behavior — what to do, what to avoid — seem minor compared with this book’s deeper business, which is to illuminate what cancer is and why it’s a natural, inescapable aspect of our lives. Now we’re back to mitosis and entropy. Mitosis is cell replication, wherein the nuclear DNA copies itself, more or less accurately, and one cell divides into two. Mistakes are made. Entropy is, in Johnson’s words, “the natural tendency for order to give way to disorder.” This is the concept in its slightly metaphorical sense, connoting not just energy dissipation but also Murphy’s law. Mistakes accumulate. Cells change. Safeguards against runaway replication, evolved over hundreds of millions of years, are overcome. Multicellular creatures can’t afford that; we need our cells to constrain themselves and play their assigned, differentiated roles for the good of the whole. When those constraints fail, we call it cancer. Following this line of thought, Johnson invokes Robert A. Weinberg, the eminent cancer biologist who led the discovery of oncogenes (cancer-causing genes) and co-authored a seminal paper on what makes cancer cancerous. “Weinberg once estimated that every second four million of the cells in our body are dividing, copying their DNA. With every division there are imperfections. That is the nature of living in a universe dominated by entropy.” Entropy × mitosis × time = breakdown, which is why cancer mainly afflicts elders. According to Weinberg, the author reports, “if we lived long enough . . . we all would eventually get cancer.” Not only is Johnson an excellent explainer, but unlike some of our most esteemed explainers, he can really write. He knows that economy, poetry and rhythm are to be valued as well as clarity, even in a book of science. His language is direct, his tone conversational, whether he’s sketching big ideas or his wife’s latest surgery. Teasing away a tangle of variables and apparent contradictions — “Longevity has soared along with the manufacture of cigarettes” — he notes that “running beneath the surface there is a core rate of cancer, the legacy of being multicellular creatures in an imperfect world.” He returns to the matter of chance like a koan, and sees that “randomness can be complexity too deep to understand.” On a topic as complicated as tumor suppressor genes, he’s blunt: “If you want to start a cancer, take down p53.” At moments he writes of his wife’s mortal ordeal with such vivid clarity it’s almost unsettling: “Radiation shines through the bowel, creating a sunburn inside.” None of us will ever know whether she was a lucky woman or not, this Nancy, to have such a sharp observer at her side. The scientific story Johnson tells, in so few pages, is large and rich. The personal story is a sad and anguished one, partly in ways you wouldn’t expect — a tale of misery unto death, and of survival, with a surprise ending I won’t give away. George Johnson himself doesn’t anguish on the page, doesn’t emote, makes no claims on our sympathy for himself. But he earns that sympathy, as a writer and a man, by producing such a forthright and human and exhilaratingly gloomy book. ------------------------------------------------ About the Author George Johnson writes regularly about science for The New York Times. He has also written for National Geographic, Slate, Discover, Scientific American, Wired, and The Atlantic, and his work has been included in The Best American Science Writing. A former Alicia Patterson fellow, he has received awards from PEN and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and his books were twice finalists for the Royal Society’s book prize. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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