Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

I began reading The Emperor of all Maladies with reservations.  After all, how entertaining can a book about cancer be?  To my surprise, the author, Siddhartha Mukherjee swept me into his world and kept my attention for the entire book.  The work is intended for lay readers, but it manages to relay a tremendous amount of medical information without becoming tedious.  Mukherjee carries the history of cancer from ancient societies centuries before the birth of Christ to modern times, emphasizing the slow and tedious pace of advancement and the courage or perhaps cohones would better define the actions of the healers who dared to balk at traditional standards of care to push untried therapies that carried great risks but offered hope where none had existed.  He brings to life his very real characters by emphasizing their personalities and the conflicts that they faced.  I particularly enjoyed learning how mustard gas that maimed and killed thousands of people during WWI became one of the first chemotherapeutic agents during WWII.  It had attacked the bone marrow and destroyed the white blood cells of soldiers so why couldn’t it abolish malignant white blood cells in patients with lymphoma?

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