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One Renegade Cell: The Quest For The Origin Of Cancer [Paperback]

Robert A. Weinberg
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 8 1999 Science Masters
One of the leading cancer researchers in the world, Robert A. Weinberg is perfectly suited to describe the search for cancer's origins from the early days of this century to the present. Presuming little knowledge of biology, he tells how a cancer-causing virus was first discovered in 1909, how the correlation was made between chemical carcinogens and cancer, and how oncogenes (the genes that can turn a cell malignant) work. He explains clearly how malignant cells send messages to one another and also block the messages of normal cells. Finally, Weinberg predicts that cancer prevention may depend on our ability to understand the mysterious chemical clock that regulates our cells' most basic functions. One Renegade Cell offers a concise, accessible route into the complex and often daunting world of cancer and cancer research.

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One Renegade Cell: The Quest For The Origin Of Cancer + The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer + The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery
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From Amazon

"Cancer wreaks havoc in almost every part of the human body"--Robert Weinberg's opening remark is a chilling reminder of the pervasiveness of an all-too-familiar disease. Cancer touches most families, and if you have ever wondered why, despite so much time, effort, and money, it has proved such a seemingly intractable problem, then read One Renegade Cell, Robert Weinberg's masterful explanation. As director of the Oncology Research Laboratory at the Whitehead Institute and professor of Biology at MIT, Weinberg has been at the forefront of cancer research for well over a decade.

Unlike most diseases, cancerous tumors are not foreign invaders but "take on the appearance of alien life forms, invaders that enter the body through stealth and begin their programs of destruction from within." But as Weinberg shows, these are deceptive appearances. And since he is foremost a scientist, he finds the truth "subtle and endlessly interesting" and manages to convey fascination for something that most of us dread--cancer. Much of the present increase in cancer is due to increased longevity because "given enough time, cancer will strike every human body."

By telling the story of the historical discovery of cancer, Weinberg is able to introduce gradually the intricacies and complications of the genes and proteins involved (oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, etc.) for the general reader. He characterizes cancer cells as renegade because, unlike normal body cells, they "disregard the needs of the community of cells," they are "selfish and unsociable," and are only interested in "their own proliferative advantage." By comparison, normal cells hold down cell numbers by "inducing them to commit suicide" (apoptosis).

The understanding of cancer has been developed enormously over the last few decades by Weinberg and the worldwide community of researchers. As Weinberg eloquently shows, cancer research and its related disciplines "have moved from substantial ignorance to deep insight." --Douglas Palmer, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The last 20 years have brought a revolution in cancer research that will profoundly change diagnosis and treatment of the disease, writes Weinberg in this comprehensive but rigorous introduction to the subject. Weinberg, founder of the Whitehead Institute for Cancer Research and a biology professor at MIT, traces the development of previous theories of cancer, and explains that scientists are now certain that cancer is caused when genes are damaged through a succession of mutations. These can result from damage to a cell's DNA inflicted by mutagens (which can be of foreign origin, such as tobacco smoke, or of internal origin); from normal mistakes made when DNA is copied during cell growth; or from defects in the body's DNA repair machinery. Weinberg discusses the roles of chemical carcinogens, retroviruses and heredity in developing cancer, and explains the body's intricate defenses against tumor growth. Though he argues that cancer will never be fully eradicated because so many mutations occur during long lifetimes ("Given enough time, cancer will strike every human body"), Weinberg is optimistic that increasingly sophisticated understanding of cellular functions will yield more effective treatments for those cancers that cannot be prevented. Though some readers might find the technical sections of the book difficult, it readily conveys the challenge and excitement of scientific discovery. Two illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable information! Feb. 12 2004
Extremely informative, written in interesting form like a scientific novel, a systematic mini-survey of the molecular biology of cancer. Takes you through 30 years of discovery, explaining how false expectations were replaced by the discovery in laboratories of right pathways. Among the useful pieces of information you'll pick up: cancer cells are not destroyed by chemo and radiation, only some DNA damage occurs. Unless the p53 gene is little enough damaged, then the tumor is not stopped, and Weinberg explains why. He fully describes the 6 mutations that are required, over time, to produce a metastasizing tumor. My wish: that Weinberg would next write a book about cancer treatments.
I end with an aside for those who are in love with the red herring called "holism", and imagine that "reductionism" is dead and of little or no use in the elucidation of complexity. The entire field of genetic and cancer discoveries, all of microbiology, is nothing but plain ol' reductionism applied to very long molecules, molecules so long and often disordered in shape that new techniques of chemical analysis had to be invented (like PCR). This book and any standard text on molecular biology provides full evidence for the truth of my assertion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cancer, we shall conquer thee! Aug. 6 2000
What we know about cancer has increased dramatically in the past 20 years, and the author has played a part in many of the major discoveries that have occurred. Weinberg goes through the path of discovery in a largely chronological order, showing the initial theories on the workings of cancer, and then bringing in the revisions to these theories, revealing aspects of cell biology at the appropriate times, so that the reader does not become overwhelmed by excess information at the start of the book, a fault that seems to be common in many popular science books.
Overall, I feel that this is one of the best books in the Science Masters series, and a must read for anyone interested in cancer. I feel that it would also make valuable reading for anyone whose work relates to the health sciences in any way, since after reading this book, you have a rather thorough understanding of cancer in a general sense, without all of the technical details which would only be of interest to a researcher or doctor specialising in cancer. There is also the possibility that this book would be of value to a cancer sufferer, since understanding an illness can often help a person to better cope with it, and this book would really let the patient understand what was happening in their body, and why, and understand why various treatments work for some types of cancer, but not others.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Explaining cancer and the science behind it July 23 2014
I love this book for two reasons. First, it clearly explains (albeit in technical terms) what cancer is. It's not an infectious disease. It's not a foreign agent invading our body. It is, quite simply, a cell who's DNA gets damaged or mutated to a point where it ignores an important rule of multicellular life: don't keep reproducing yourself. Unlike bacteria, who can grow unchecked, if cells within a multicellular organism keep growing, the organism does too. If the cells in your fingers kept growing, your fingers would grow like your finger nails do. Clearly, that's not a viable way to "build" a body. So our cells are programmed to only grow under the right conditions, and to turn off growth (and even commit suicide) when they receive the right chemical signals. When you have cancer, the ability to respond to those signals, as well as the internal settings to stop growing, all go out the window. Which is one reason it's so hard to treat- you are literally trying to target and kill a part of your own body that's just a little bit different from the rest. Deadly different, but it's still essentially part of you.

All of that is fascinating to read, and clearly illustrates the nature of cancer. But there's another reason I really enjoyed this book. It's a brilliant science book. The importance of basic research is clearly stated here. Who would have thought that studying sex amongst tiny worms was worth spending research dollars on? Well, it was because it illustrated some of the crucial mechanisms that underlie cell growth and death. Without that knowledge, a deep understanding of cancer (and its cure) would have been impossible. So this book not only educates about cancer, but about basic science in general.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A lucid, insightful account of biology gone bad March 15 2000
By A Customer
Having read several books on the history and casues of cancer, I can honestly say that this was the most entertaining and insightfull. With the skill of a master technician, Weinberg carefully constructs step by step the processes that cause a normal human cell to turn rogue. He effortlessly weaves such topics as the viralological, carcinogenic and genetic causes of cancer to give the reader a clear and concise overview of the reasons for cancers existence. Along the way he also debunks several common myths about cancer (IE. that enviromental pollutnats are responsible for a large portion of human cancers). While its is not necessary to have a degree in biology to read this book, a general understanding of physiology and genetics (basic) certainly makes it more enjoyable. My only regret with this book was that it was a mere 170 pages long.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars understanding cancer
Having just finished reading this on July 15/03, I found it very informative and enjoyable to read. This is a must read if you really want to understand the mechanisms of cancer! Read more
Published 15 months ago by Kim
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent entry to cancer biology
There are very few books out that give the reader an overview modern cancer biology. This short book gives a clear picture of a complex and current subject. Read more
Published on April 10 2004 by David Fourer
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have: great intro and overview of current research
No prior knowledge of cell biology or genetics is required. I have gained an appreciation for the complexity of cancer research thanks to the book. I highly recommend it. Read more
Published on Oct. 16 2002 by Canay
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!!
The aspect I liked most about the book is the lucid writing. A vast topic such as cancer has been masterfully explained in simplistic terms. Read more
Published on Aug. 21 2002 by "19785542"
5.0 out of 5 stars The more we know the more the hope
It is amazing to find out that we know so much about how cell biology and cancer works. I would have thought that these details would be all that is needed to find a cure for... Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2001 by Albert Vara
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
this is a great book for people who know nothing about cancer and want to know. I had a chance to meet the author after he gave a lecture about his research and it was really... Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars "Cancer 101"
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, I frantically read everything I could lay my hands on to try to understand what was happening to her. Read more
Published on Aug. 25 2000 by Renaaah
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview for the nonscientist and scientist
As a scientist, I am familiar with most of the discoveries in cancer research discussed in the book. Read more
Published on Nov. 16 1999 by John Fetter, Ph. D. in Biochemistry
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