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Views & Reviews Review of the Week

A chronology of cancer

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 13 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2259
  1. D Ross Camidge, associate professor of medicine/oncology, University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado, USA
  1. Ross.Camidge{at}

This comprehensive book describes a disease that kills seven million people globally a year. The stories of key doctors and patients, says D Ross Camidge, enrich this tale of cancer, from its first documentation to hypotheses about future treatment

Quite possibly, all generations believe that they are the generation—the one that will make a difference. Such a belief can only be sustained when the past is ignored or overlooked. To read The Emperor of All Maladies is not just a way to open up the history of oncology, it is a way to relive it. The reader experiences simultaneously the thrill of feeling that we have entered the golden age of oncology, and the sobering realisation that so many generations before us have felt the same, and despite new and exciting victories, the war against cancer may never be truly won.

This so called biography of cancer tracks the disease’s long interplay with humanity, from its first distinctive nibble marks on an ancient corpse through to its piecemeal tumble into the molecular biology grinder of the modern …

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