Monday, September 19, 2016

Book on Cancer

I just pushed through Siddhartha Mukherjee's "The Emperor of All Maladies."  As my readers may have observed, although I am not afraid of attacking thick tomes, I am not by nature engaged to tackle the fatties devoted to hard science topics.  But since my new office is at the NC BioTech Center, and we are circulating amongst lots of entrepreneurs who are developing drugs and the like, I figured it behooved me to educate myself about this kinda stuff.

I was inspired in particular by a conversation with the CFO of a small, speculative firm that works in the drug discovery space, who has a platform to help other companies facilitate the development of molecules (yes, you read that correctly). He was also not native to the drug world, and allowed that transitioning into it had been a particularly steep learning curve.

So I read this book. It was not light reading. Cancer kills lots of people, and has been doing so for a long time. (Just this morning I was texting with a client whose husband was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer which had metastasized some. He was in the hospital for chemo).  The "war on cancer" has been fought on many fronts for centuries, and while there has been a lot of progress on some fronts, on others there's been much less forward motion.

Let's be honest, it was an excruciatingly difficult book for someone like myself, being averse to medical detail. Particularly the chapters about super-aggressive radical mastectomies, of which I will spare you the details.  It was rough reading. And the lack of forward motion along many research vectors was disheartening as we moved into pages 300-350.

And then, finally, some really effective drugs targeting breast cancer, lymphoma, and some specific types of leukemia!  Ahh, it is beautiful.

Mostly, I must say, the book reminded me, as if I needed reminded, of the vastness of what I don't know, and the number of workaholic geniuses out there trying to solve problems. And the complexity of funding research for diseases that occur rarely. What do you do when you need $100 million to attach a cancer of which maybe 100 a year pop up?  It's a tough sale.

So, in the end, it was a fine book. One I'm glad to be done with.

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