Friday, June 01, 2012

The Emperor of All Maladies



Things I learned from The Emperor of All Maladies, a book about cancer:

  • Curing cancer almost sounds futile. Cancer cells behave like normal cells. The challenge is to find chemicals that would know how to differentiate the two.
  • The problem is cancer cells are smart-asses. Aside from mimicking normal cells, they replicate like crazy and they can move to or hijack other organs. On a molecular level, there are cancer cells that are so smooth so cancer-killing chemicals can't anchor onto them. Scientists have to inspect them even more closely just to find a trench or a pocket into which their drugs may fit. This also means they need to discover/create drugs whose molecular structure and shape would fit into such trenches.
  • Yes, it's that complicated. (What's that about your Facebook relationship status again?)
  • In ancient Egypt, a queen felt so much pain from her breast cancer she ordered her slave to cut off her breasts.
  • In the late 1800s, radical mastectomy was the norm. Pioneered by William Halstead, the surgery meant to remove not just the breast but as much of the tissues and muscles surrounding the breast, chest, shoulders, and armpits. Women who underwent the procedure were left severely disfigured and hollow in those areas. The Halstead surgery persisted  as recently as the 1950s.
  • We have come a long way since then in a shorter period of time. 
  • The book's author thus argues that it may take this generation (or the next) even much shorter time to find a cancer cure.
  • By the way, it's impossible to have one cure for all cancer types. All must be dealt with differently.
  • In my view, if you've survived cancer, you are extremely lucky. It took a series a fortunate events and accidents for that to have happened.
  • In my case, if ever I get it, I hope I can be as graceful as this article suggests: How Doctors Die 
  • I learned a lot but yeah, why did I read this book?




11 * :

carlo said...


Thankfully, all the people I know and who are close to me survived cancer.  

There are a lot of reasons why I am more into the Mediterranean diet, particularly Italian.  Tomato sauce or cooked tomatoes have lycopene.  Naturally, red wine is a must, especially if you have company.  The "side effect" of this diet is that your skin has more protection from the sun (ergo, anti-aging) but it also fights bad cells that could cause cancer. 

p.s. I LOVE the fact that you used the postcard that I sent you!

doc_tobey76 said...


interesting book c:

Jason D. said...


Any one from your immediate family? Thanks for the tips - I'm starting to think Vitamin C just won't cut it anymore.

And I can't believe your handwriting is still as gorgeous as it was in HS. 

Jason D. said...


Yeah, it should be even more interesting for you, Doc. :-)

carlo said...


Yes, J.  My Mom's sister was also a cancer survivor and my Aunt, (my Mom's brother's ex wife), was another cancer survivor.  Our pastor here in Salzburg is yet another person whom I know who luckily survived breast cancer.

Jason D. said...


That's good to know. My lola wasn't so lucky, but thankfully, the rest of my family, relatives and friends are doing quite well.

Jay Salvador said...


Why did you read the book nga ba? Just wondering. Better na rin yan. Sabi nga ni Ka Ernie (RIP), knowledge is power.

In related news, http://www.feelguide.com/2012/06/01/huge-cancer-breakthrough-known-as-the-magic-bullet-opening-new-era-in-cures-and-treatments/

Jason D. said...


Hi Jay, it got positive reviews and won the Pulitzer too. And also, yeah, to add to my database.

Thanks for the link. Some of the info discussed in the MSN link are included in the book :-)

Vince said...


hey jason. :) let us hope they find a cure soon both for this and hiv. i've lost count of how many of my relatives have been claimed by cancer.  i think about five or six already. thankfully two or three survived. antaas ng prevalence sa mga kamag-anak ko ano? i should be more scared than you. lol.  early detection is key -- unfortunately as cancer is genetic, i suspect an aversion to doctors also runs in our family's genes. xD vince

Jason D. said...


Sorry to hear about your relatives. All the more you should start becoming friends with doctors!

My heart breaks when I see the HIV stats for PH :-( It just doesn't make sense for a country with a relatively high literacy rate.

Carlo said...


J, I just remembered that sadly, one of the people who believe in me, died of breast cancer.  

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