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Editor’s Note

“A Microbial Adversary...”

Acclaimed science author Mukherjee tells the story of humanity’s most formidable adversary with the passion of a biographer in this Pulitzer Prize-winner.
Mallory F.
Scribd Editor
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence. Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.

From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave may have cut off her diseased breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease.

Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.

Topics: Cancer, Disease, Genetics, Evolution, and Politics

Published: Scribner on Nov 16, 2010
ISBN: 9781439181713
List price: $13.99
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Parts are slow but overall very enjoyable and informative.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A significant work, richly supported and including a helpful glossary, a useful index and an interview with the author. While geared for the layperson, the detail should also interest the healthcare professional.

For those with little science background, the work may be at times too technical, but there is much that speaks to the heart as well as the mind.

For me, the book recalls a long portion of my working life as part of a team in the nursing division at M.D. Anderson Hospital. Many of the characters in this book are people I was privileged to meet and work alongside.

Like many, the book strikes personal notes as well. My own sister faced Stage III ovarian cancer in her twenties and underwent three surgeries and grueling chemotherapy while finishing a college degree and starting graduate school.

Her prognosis for cure at the time was only 30% but she is alive over 25 years later thanks to expert treatment at MDAH.

And last year, I found myself in the court of the Emperor of All Diseases when a routine mammogram turned out to be not so routine. This book illustrates the history of oncology that lead to both the very early diagnosis of Stage Zero breast cancer, the breast sparing surgery, the prognostic indicators of my tumor receptors and the ongoing protection of an estrogen blocker.

Few will go through life without having cancer touch their own life or someone close to them. Hence, this book is valuable to all. I recommend it highly. Knowledge is a great antidote to fear.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The Good Stuff * I won't lie, when I opened up the mail and saw this my first thought was WTF - pulizter prize winner, hello this is not my thing. I am not an overly intelligent women and well quite frankly was thinking dullsville. Well, I was very, very wrong! * This is brilliantly written and relatively easy to understand -- even for me * I was so fascinated and learned so much I actually found it difficult to put down * Medical information is in depth, interesting and written in more layman terms - which very much surprising * Incredibly well researched & some fantastic notes and detailed index (yes I know its geeky but I am an anal Library Technician * Fascinating to see the denial through history of the connection between tobacco and cancer -- especially from educated medical personal * Horrified and disgusted at times of all the research done on unsuspecting patients, even knowing the benefits it had in the medical field * Actually teared up a couple of times which very much surprised me * The author has a very honest, sensitive and personal manner which is a rarity in a Dr (Trust me I have spent my whole life surrounded by those in the medical profession) * The writing is almost lyrical which again surprised me * Cancer really does suck ass & hopefully one day we will kick its assThe Not so Good Stuff * At times it jumps from time frame to time frame which was a little disconcerting * Some noticeable repetition - better editing would have made it a tighter piece of writingFavorite Quotes/Passages"As a doctor learning to tend cancer patients, I had only a partial glimpse of this confinement. But even skirting its periphery, I could still feel its power-the dense, insistent gravitational tug that pulls everything and everyone into the orbit of cancer.""When Wynder presented his preliminary ideas at a conference on lung biology in Memphis, not a singles question or comment came from the members of the audience, most of whom had apparently slept through the talk or cared too little about the topic to be roused. IN contrast, the presentation that followed Wynder's, on an obscure disease called pulmonary adenomatosis in sheep, generated a lively, half hour debate.""Germaine fought cancer obsessively, cannily, desperately, fiercely, madly, brilliantly, and zealously - as if channeling all the fierce, inventive energy of generations of men and women who had fought cancer in the past and would fight it in the future."Who should/shouldn't read * Anyone who has been affected in any way by Cancer * All medical professional dealing with Cancer * So yeah, its pretty much required reading for everyone over the age of 16 (Terminology and subject matter might be hard to deal with by those younger than 16)4.5 Dewey'sI received this from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest reviewread more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

Parts are slow but overall very enjoyable and informative.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A significant work, richly supported and including a helpful glossary, a useful index and an interview with the author. While geared for the layperson, the detail should also interest the healthcare professional.

For those with little science background, the work may be at times too technical, but there is much that speaks to the heart as well as the mind.

For me, the book recalls a long portion of my working life as part of a team in the nursing division at M.D. Anderson Hospital. Many of the characters in this book are people I was privileged to meet and work alongside.

Like many, the book strikes personal notes as well. My own sister faced Stage III ovarian cancer in her twenties and underwent three surgeries and grueling chemotherapy while finishing a college degree and starting graduate school.

Her prognosis for cure at the time was only 30% but she is alive over 25 years later thanks to expert treatment at MDAH.

And last year, I found myself in the court of the Emperor of All Diseases when a routine mammogram turned out to be not so routine. This book illustrates the history of oncology that lead to both the very early diagnosis of Stage Zero breast cancer, the breast sparing surgery, the prognostic indicators of my tumor receptors and the ongoing protection of an estrogen blocker.

Few will go through life without having cancer touch their own life or someone close to them. Hence, this book is valuable to all. I recommend it highly. Knowledge is a great antidote to fear.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The Good Stuff * I won't lie, when I opened up the mail and saw this my first thought was WTF - pulizter prize winner, hello this is not my thing. I am not an overly intelligent women and well quite frankly was thinking dullsville. Well, I was very, very wrong! * This is brilliantly written and relatively easy to understand -- even for me * I was so fascinated and learned so much I actually found it difficult to put down * Medical information is in depth, interesting and written in more layman terms - which very much surprising * Incredibly well researched & some fantastic notes and detailed index (yes I know its geeky but I am an anal Library Technician * Fascinating to see the denial through history of the connection between tobacco and cancer -- especially from educated medical personal * Horrified and disgusted at times of all the research done on unsuspecting patients, even knowing the benefits it had in the medical field * Actually teared up a couple of times which very much surprised me * The author has a very honest, sensitive and personal manner which is a rarity in a Dr (Trust me I have spent my whole life surrounded by those in the medical profession) * The writing is almost lyrical which again surprised me * Cancer really does suck ass & hopefully one day we will kick its assThe Not so Good Stuff * At times it jumps from time frame to time frame which was a little disconcerting * Some noticeable repetition - better editing would have made it a tighter piece of writingFavorite Quotes/Passages"As a doctor learning to tend cancer patients, I had only a partial glimpse of this confinement. But even skirting its periphery, I could still feel its power-the dense, insistent gravitational tug that pulls everything and everyone into the orbit of cancer.""When Wynder presented his preliminary ideas at a conference on lung biology in Memphis, not a singles question or comment came from the members of the audience, most of whom had apparently slept through the talk or cared too little about the topic to be roused. IN contrast, the presentation that followed Wynder's, on an obscure disease called pulmonary adenomatosis in sheep, generated a lively, half hour debate.""Germaine fought cancer obsessively, cannily, desperately, fiercely, madly, brilliantly, and zealously - as if channeling all the fierce, inventive energy of generations of men and women who had fought cancer in the past and would fight it in the future."Who should/shouldn't read * Anyone who has been affected in any way by Cancer * All medical professional dealing with Cancer * So yeah, its pretty much required reading for everyone over the age of 16 (Terminology and subject matter might be hard to deal with by those younger than 16)4.5 Dewey'sI received this from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
One of the most brilliant books I've read. He traces cancer's story and the story of our attempts to cure it. We began with a blunt understanding of cancer as a single illness and searched for a single cure. Treatments were equally blunt - dangerous, radical surgeries to remove cancerous growth, followed by almost inevitable relapse and death; toxic chemotherapies that might kill the patient before saving him. In the last few decades, scientists have finally achieved basic understanding of cancer biology and revealed it to be extremely complex and varied - not a single disease but a singular disease. Each individuals' cancer is composed of a unique set of hundreds of genetic mutations. This understanding has prompted more specific, less devastating cures. Yet even as our cures improve, our understanding of cancer's complexity expands --- we begin to see mountains beyond those just climbed. Cancer will always remain elusive despite our most concerted efforts. We must run in place just to maintain our ground.
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Incredibly well written and inspiring! Mukherjee illuminates our changing perceptions of the disease and the truly astounding advances that have been made in its identification and treatment. I can't imagine anyone, unless you have absolutely zero interest in biology/medicine/cancer, not finding this book fascinating.
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Fascinating, at times gruesome, and very informative. It's easy to read, though it might get a little technical in later chapters if modern biology is not your thing. It's arranged as a history, with developments in understanding the disease and its treatments, starting with Imhotep in 2500BC. (Yes, he was a real person, not actually an evil mummy.) The earlier part is quite horrifying - early attempts at cures, surgery without anaesthesia and all that. It's more optimistic later, though. It's quite amazing what kind of progress that can be made once we get clearer on the mechanisms, and how tricky it can be.
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