cover image P53: The Gene That Cracked the Cancer Code

P53: The Gene That Cracked the Cancer Code

Sue Armstrong. Bloomsbury/Sigma, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4729-1051-6

Science writer Armstrong (A Matter of Life and Death: Inside the Hidden World of the Pathologist) conveys all the excitement and determination of the scientists who have relentlessly chipped away at the mystery of a workhorse gene known as p53, “the common denominator of cancers,” in hopes of improving cancer research and treatment. Armstrong writes that scientists “working on the front line” of p53 research “believe we are on the threshold of a golden age in cancer prevention and cure.” She makes accessible to the public a scientific mystery that she personally finds fascinating, speaking directly to many of the key players involved in p53 research and adeptly unwinding the difficulties confronting them since the gene’s discovery in 1979. Armstrong takes fascinating side trips along the way, relating how p53 was used in “nailing Big Tobacco”—by proving the link between smoking and cancer—and revealing its role in the relationship between cancer and aging. She succeeds in her goal to “stand clear of those ledgers full of data as far as possible and tell the story of some of the curious, obsessive, competitive minds that [helped] to unravel the deepest mysteries of cancer.” [em](Feb.) [/em]