Cancer World

Steven Shapin in The New Yorker:

“The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Can Mukherjee’s book has the vividness of an insider’s account. It evokes what it feels like to be at the forefront of modern biomedicine and to bring new knowledge and technologies into the clinic. Take Mukherjee’s account of Sidney Farber in 1947, waiting for his first supply of the antifolate drug aminopterin and watching a two-year-old leukemia patient’s condition deteriorate as another drug failed: The patient “turned increasingly lethargic. He developed a limp, the result of leukemia pressing down on his spinal cord. Joint aches appeared, and violent, migrating pains. Then the leukemia burst through one of the bones in his thigh, causing a fracture and unleashing a blindingly intense, indescribable pain.” Mukherjee can also summon up the texture of previous systems of understanding, even of what it must have been like for Halsted to feel that he was right. It’s hard to think of many books for a general audience that have rendered any area of modern science and technology with such intelligence, accessibility, and compassion. “The Emperor of All Maladies” is an extraordinary achievement.

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