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Publisher's Summary

When the woman he loved was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer, science writer George Johnson embarked on a journey to learn everything he could about the disease and the people who dedicate their lives to understanding and combating it. What he discovered is a revolution under way - an explosion of new ideas about what cancer really is and where it comes from. In a provocative and intellectually vibrant exploration, he takes us on an adventure through the history and recent advances of cancer research that will challenge everything you thought you knew about the disease.
Deftly excavating and illuminating decades of investigation and analysis, he reveals what we know and don’t know about cancer, showing why a cure remains such a slippery concept. We follow him as he combs through the realms of epidemiology, clinical trials, laboratory experiments, and scientific hypotheses - rooted in every discipline from evolutionary biology to game theory and physics. Cogently extracting fact from a towering canon of myth and hype, he describes tumors that evolve like alien creatures inside the body, paleo-oncologists who uncover petrified tumors clinging to the skeletons of dinosaurs and ancient human ancestors, and the surprising reversals in science’s comprehension of the causes of cancer, with the foods we eat and environmental toxins playing a lesser role. Perhaps most fascinating of all is how cancer borrows natural processes involved in the healing of a wound or the unfolding of a human embryo and turns them, jujitsu-like, against the body.
Throughout his pursuit, Johnson clarifies the human experience of cancer with elegiac grace, bearing witness to the punishing gauntlet of consultations, surgeries, targeted therapies, and other treatments. He finds compassion, solace, and community among a vast network of patients and professionals committed to the fight and wrestles to comprehend the cruel randomness cancer metes out in his own family. For anyone whose life has been affected by cancer and has found themselves asking why? this book provides a new understanding. In good company with the works of Atul Gawande, Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Abraham Verghese, The Cancer Chronicles is endlessly surprising and as radiant in its prose as it is authoritative in its eye-opening science.
©2013 George Johnson (P)2013 Random House Audio
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Critic Reviews

"This elegant and insightful chronicle is at once intensely personal and meticulously studious.... This is extraordinary scholarship delivered with an intimate poignancy." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Digital Dilema on 09-06-13

A quick read - hard to put down

Despite the macabre subject, the journey through one man's understanding filled with intricate details around the current progress and inner workings of cancer was very fascinating. While it is clear the author reached closure; his contribution to demystify the topic, devoid of elitism attitude only speaks volumes when approached from an outside perspective. It is very clear, nano-technology holds the quickest relief but no less effort to unlock the inner workings of cells should be taken. Cancer holds the key to immortality.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Debbie on 08-10-14

Read it Before You Treat It

What did you love best about The Cancer Chronicles?

The honesty, the challenge of the status quo with its treatment "musts" (myths), the science, the outting of euphemisms and nearly complete lack of progress towards understanding or treating cancer.

Which scene was your favorite?

More than scenes it is the author's inner journey. And it is all wonderfully presented. Compelling. Uniquely informative while sharing a riveting story. The early morning plane flight made me laugh - in that "it is so idiotic" way. Yet what stands out is the whole of this worthwhile book.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes and I am going to read it again to concentrate a bit more on some of the scientific aspects.

Any additional comments?

A wonderful book on a horrible topic. Highly recommend to anyone facing a cancer diagnosis or about to journey with a loved one who is. Further, read it before treatment. Push down the panic the doctors will encourage to rush to treatment. Read and educate first. There is time. One cannot undo treatments - many of which cause more harm. First do no harm — read this book!

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