Commotion in the Blood: Life, Death, and the Immune System

Stephen S. Hall, Author
Stephen S. Hall, Author Henry Holt & Company $32 (544p) ISBN 978-0-8050-3796-8
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 500 pages - 978-0-8050-5841-3
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While guiding readers through a century of immunological breakthroughs related to the treatment of cancer, Hall (Mapping the Next Millennium) focuses on the high stakes, big money and oversized egos of the last 30 years. He details the pressures these scientist-doctors are under from constantly treating terminally ill patients, competing to be the one to make the next major research breakthrough or attempting to convince a governmental panel to permit the next experiment to be performed. The descriptions of their actual work, while comprehensive and clear, are not for the casual reader; technical details abound, making it easy to confuse interferon with interleukin or a ""monoclonal anti-idiotype antibody"" with an antigen. More effective is Hall's characterization of the role the media and the drug companies play in manipulating the research agenda. Too much attention focused too early on a potentially productive treatment, he says, has repeatedly created false expectations and influenced the flow of research money. Drug companies have, he claims, ignored certain successful forms of therapy because the profit margins have not been large enough. This is an impressive, if not entirely successful, look at scientists' understanding of the immune system, and at the marketing culture that now surrounds it. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to Atlantic Monthly; rights (except electronic) Melanie Jackson. (June)
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