To Dance with the Devil

Karen Stabiner, Author
Karen Stabiner, Author Delacorte Press $25.95 (544p) ISBN 978-0-385-31284-4
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997
Release date: 03/01/1997
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Among cancers, breast cancer is one of the least predictable but most pernicious forms. This year, according to journalist Stabiner, ""over 182,000 women will get breast cancer, and about 46,000 will die of it."" Yet, despite such statistics, before 1990 little effort was made on the part of researchers or health-care professionals to stop the disease. In a compelling book that combines the elements of a medical detective story with political journalism, Stabiner chronicles the developments in breast cancer research in the '90s by tracking cancer patients from diagnosis to treatment and by following a number of doctors and researchers through the maze of cancer research. Stabiner spends more than a year tracking the career of Dr. Susan Love, a preeminent voice in the field of breast cancer research, from her early work with the UCLA Breast Center, one of the country's first centers devoted exclusively to the treatment of breast cancer, to Love's eventual disillusionment with a bureaucratic managed-care system that interfered with her ability to treat patients. Stabiner also reports on the political intrigue and the intense competition of medical research as she covers the race to isolate BRCA-1, the breast cancer gene. Her stories of courageous women dealing with the emotional and physical scars of radical mastectomy and the sometimes terminal nature of their disease are inspiring, but her book is distinguished above all for its disturbing look at a field where cost-benefit analyses have become more important than human life, and for its exhilarating report on ways that ingenious and dedicated scientists have overcome a short-sighted medical bureaucracy. (May)
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