Find out "How Cancer Works" in 100 pages!

Robert's picture
Submitted by Robert on Fri, 2006-03-03 04:37

How Cancer Works is a book by Lauren Sompayrac designed to deliver an overview of this topic to first year students and the educated layman.

Cancer is an insidious disease in which your own cells turn against you. It kills 600,000 people a year in the US alone, and I'll bet that everybody who reads this knows someone who has been "touched" by cancer. There are many reasons that scientists and laymen would want to learn more about the disease. If you are a US taxpayer you are contributing to the estimated $70 billion of tax-payer-funded research conducted by the National Cancer Institute since 1937! If for nothing else, it'd be interesting to find out where all the loot has gone!

The problem in understanding cancer is that cancer-research incorporates knowledge from every specialty in the biology field from anatomy to genetics and protein biochemistry to medicine and zoology. And, if you want to understand the mechanics of cancer-treatment then you'd better dabble in organic chemistry and nuclear physics too! Test the waters of cancer-knowledge you risk being drowned in an ocean of detail whipped up by a storm of obscure Latin- and contemporary genetics jargon.

There are a number of good University textbooks available to help ease you into the topic. But, seeing as these are normally 1,000 pages plus, you'll need steroids to help you lift them if you intend to read the book in bed. And even then, if you survive the dry and dusty prose, you'll have to scale sand-dunes of data. At least that was the task facing me as I embarked on a career at the periphery of mainstream cancer research when I took a Post Doctoral position at The University of Kansas.

Prior to that, I'd been working on cell-wall proteins from bread-mould fungi and photosynthetic bacteria. I'd never studied anatomy or higher eukaryotic organisms (animals and plants) and so I needed to find a book that could give me an overview of this vast topic and pronto! Then along comes Lauren Sompayrac, a retired Professor from the University of Colorado. The good doctor has talent very few teachers possess: he can write and think clearly and concisely!

Nine breezily-written lectures, taking up just 100 A4 pages, are all he needs to distill the entire topic of cancer down to the bare essentials. Sompayrac describes nine sets of "model" cancers, one set per lecture, in order to communicate a clear picture about the way cancers appear, propagate and (if undetected and untreated) kill. There is just enough detail in each lecture so that the skeletal overview has the right amount of meat to aid your mental digestion. And the entire book is ordered and organized so well that, after reading it, you will instantly be able orientate yourself the next time you hear about cancer, be it in the main-stream-media or the professional literature or even in polite conversation. The book retails for about $25 second hand on Amazon and is well worth a read.

Hell, if you fly Continental Airlines, you may find my first copy of this book stuffed in the seat pocket in front of you. Yes, the book was so damned useful and enjoyable to read that I just had to get a replacement copy.

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