The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last

Azra Raza. Basic, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5416-9952-6
Raza, a Columbia University professor of medicine and practicing oncologist, offers a passionate account of how humans grapple with the scourge of cancer. She masterfully explains how her research science work intersects with her job treating dying patients on a daily basis: “Nowhere is the science of medicine replaced by the art of caring as in the final days of a terminal illness.” She also explains why using animal models to search for new cancer treatments is unlikely to work, as cancer is so variable and dependent on the specific environment in which it grows. Meanwhile, most new cancer drugs, if they work at all, add months to life and are accompanied by severe costs, both financial and physiological. Her message is as simple as it is paradigm-shifting: rather than trying to kill every last cancer cell, medicine needs to focus on finding the first occurring cancer cells. Progress is being made on this front, she shows, but only a small percentage of available research dollars are being spent on it. Showing that compassion is just as important for cancer patients as the drugs administered to them, Raza’s deeply personal work brings understanding and empathy to the fore in a way that a purely scientific explication never could. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/06/2019
Release date: 10/15/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-1-5416-9950-2
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