Here’s a book that I would recommend to those people interested in learning a bit about the beginnings of cancer. In One Renegade Cell, Robert Weinberg has written an informative narrative on the history of cancer and molecular biology research, focusing on the theories and evidence behind the early days of this field: the 1970’s and 80’s.
Weinberg’s focus is on what he knows best: the mechanisms that promote and regulate the proliferation of normal and malignant cells. And for that, his explanations are the best out there. These explanations take up the first half of the book, corresponds to the early events in the development of a tumor, and makes up a coherent story. For example, he covers oncogenes, tumor suppressors, apoptosis, and to a lesser extent DNA repair, in relatively easy-to-follow language.
In the second half of the book, Weinberg refers to other aspects of cancer progression, more reflective of the later stages of cancer – angiogenesis, immune evasion and metastasis. He essentially provides the highlight reel for these aspects of cancer, and I felt that the transitions to such topics could have used some work.
Weinberg also avoids using overwhelmingly long lists of references that are typical of more scientific writing, as well as skipping over the many highly-technical details that are involved in actually conducting such research, making it more accessible to non-experts. Indeed, he defines every term in a way that probably only requires a minimal background in biology to understand.