Review of “The Gene: An Intimate History” by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Review of 'The Gene: An Intimate History' by Siddhartha MukherjeeI’ve been looking forward to reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s latest book, “The Gene: An Intimate History”, since it was published last year.

His Pulitzer prize-winning “The Emperor of All Maladies” is one of the most interesting and informative books about cancer that I’ve read. In addition, now that genome sequencing and other forms of genetic testing are becoming more accessible and more common, I hoped this new book would provide some insights about¬†where we are in all of this and what we might realistically expect from more expansive genetic testing in the years to come.

The implications of what has been learned about the gene and what it means for future generations are very personal for Mukherjee, as he reveals in sharing the stories of several family members who have been affected by mental illness. He comes back to these stories and how they relate to our growing understanding of the biology of inherited disease risk at various times in the book. Continue reading

Review of “The Death of Cancer” by Vincent T. DeVita Jr. and Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn

The Death of CancerThe title of this book certainly got my attention and made me curious about what the author had to say. Is the “death” of cancer, or the end of cancer as a deadly disease, really possible? Can we actually win the war on cancer, which has been pronounced a failure by many?

Dr. Vincent T. DeVita Jr. joined the National Cancer Institute as a new doctor during the 1960s. There, he worked directly on some of the most important developments in cancer research coming out of that decade, including the development of a cure for Hodgkin’s lymphoma using combination chemotherapy, a treatment approach that was viewed as exceedingly radical at the time. Continue reading

Review of “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande

In "Being Mortal," Atul Gawande says we can be much better prepared than we are to make end-of-life decisions.“Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” by Atul Gawande speaks to much of what my family went through a few years ago when it became clear that our parents would not be able to continue to manage on their own.

If we had been able to read this book back then I think we would at least have had a better understanding of what was going on, and perhaps have been better prepared to navigate through the situations that developed and the decisions that had to be made.

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Review of “Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History” by Florence Williams

In "Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History," Florence Williams examines what it is about breasts that makes them so susceptible to cancer.The toll of breast cancer in terms of worldwide mortality has reached a stunning 521,000 deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization.

With this level of mortality, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women globally.

Yet, we still don’t know very much about what actually causes breast cancer. And knowing that it is the leading cause of cancer death for women seems to beg the question: what is it about breasts that make them so susceptible to cancer?

In “Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History,” Florence Williams attempts to provide some insights into that question.

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Review of “The Truth in Small Doses” by Clifton Leaf

In "The Truth in Small Doses," Clifton Leaf explains that the culture around cancer research has slowed progress.Last December, for the first time, I attended the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium as a patient advocate. Each year, thousands of oncologists and cancer researchers go to this event to hear about advances in breast cancer research and breaking results from important clinical trials.

I was excited to be attending, but was soon struck by the contrast between the enormous gains that are being made in understanding the biology of breast cancer, and the slow progress in translating these remarkable findings into clinical application. Reading Clifton Leaf’s book, “The Truth in Small Doses: Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer–and How to Win It,” has given me some food for thought as to why we may be facing this situation.

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