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addabook - The Emperor of All Maladies
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The Emperor of All Maladies
A Biography of Cancer
Siddhartha Mukherjee
read on January 1, 2011

Despite cancer being the number two cause of death in the USA, and even despite knowing personal friends and family members who have had cancer and died of cancer, I knew amazingly little about cancer before reading this book. I didn't even know what chemotherapy actually was, just that it makes people feel like hell as their hair falls out.

Chemotherapy is just that - chemicals either injected or ingested, meant to kill the cancer. It is literally poison. It kills cancer by killing everything, pretty much. The idea in a nutshell is to get as close as you can to poisoning a person to death, and hope that they survive and that the cancer doesn't. Hell, it was discovered by trail and error! A bunch of leukemia kids with zero hope of survival were just fed dozens of different poisons on a hunch that something interesting might happen to them. Almost everybody died - but over thirty years of mixing and matching the chemicals, we've ended up with a crazy amalgam that stands a chance of stopping cancer.

The book covered quite a bit - and despite trying to have a happy ending, it was pretty depressing. Pretty much, we're all going to get cancer and die from it eventually. Still, it was a great narrative, and a great look at the history of the disease.

Author Bio:

Siddhartha Mukherjee is the author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction, and The Laws of Medicine. He is the editor of Best Science Writing 2013. Mukherjee is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician and researcher. A Rhodes scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School. He has published articles in Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times, and Cell. He lives in New York with his wife and daughters.