How cancers begin and spread, by the scientist responsible for the major recent research breakthroughs
Cancer research has reached a major turning point. The amount of information gathered in the past twenty years about the origins of the disease is without equal in the history of biomedical research. In this book one of America's most eminent scientists explains to the general reader the step-by-step process by which cancers arise, and more importantly, how they spread.
Robert Weinberg explains how normal genes control the conventional growth of the cell, how, in their mutated form, they enable cancers to arise, and why these genes have such life-and-death power over us. Drawing from information that simply was not available until recently, One Renegade Cell explains this insidious disease as no other book as ever been able to do.
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.