Edited by John Mendolsohn, MD, Peter M. Howley, MD, Mark A. Israel, MD, and Lance A. Liotta, MD, PhD, The Molecular Basis of Cancer is designed for students, researchers, and physicians in a variety of disciplines. It does not provide a detailed description of the clinical manifestations of human neoplasia. There is, instead, an extensive presentation of the scientific basis of cancer development and therapy. The book includes the contributions of 61 authors, virtually all of whom are recognized experts in their respective fields, from throughout the United States and Europe. The references are comprehensive and relatively current, given the lag time in going to press. The book will certainly benefit both basic scientists and clinicians alike.
The book is divided into four main sections: malignant transformation, growth and spread of cancer, molecular pathogenesis of specific malignancies, and molecular basis of cancer therapy. This orderly progression from pathogenesis to therapy facilitates reading the text from cover to cover. It should be noted that each chapter could stand alone in its treatment of the subject matter.
The first section, on malignant transformation, includes a comprehensive discussion of the genetic abnormalities present in cancer as well as the associated perturbations of the cell cycle and apoptosis. Furthermore, there are superb chapters on viral carcinogenesis and the signal transduction pathway alterations present in the malignant cell. The chapters on two recently discovered developmental processes involving the Hedgehog-patched and Wnt signaling pathways are highly informative and provide information crucial to the understanding of normal cellular processes that regulate cellular functioning. It has become apparent that as our understanding of these complicated events expands, the complexities grow even more rapidly.
The next section, on the growth and spread of cancer, provides cutting-edge insight into the complex mechanisms that are required for transformed cells to grow into tumor masses and obtain new blood supply as they invade surrounding tissue and finally metastasize. As new efforts are under way to develop therapies aimed at interfering with angiogenesis and metastases, this section will provide important insights into potential therapeutic applications.
The section dealing with the molecular pathogenesis of specific malignancies, although not as comprehensive as other sections, is still an excellent source of information about the molecular biology of particular malignancies. The extensively presented paradigms transcend specific tumor types and provide for a more unified understanding of the malignant phenotype. The chapters on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and colon cancer are particularly well written and superbly illustrated. The rapid advances in defining molecular abnormalities of lymphomas and leukemias will enable more precise classification of these malignancies.
Finally, the section on the molecular basis of cancer therapy will be especially useful to clinicians and other professionals who manage cancer patients. timely coverage of tumor vaccine strategies and gene therapy is sorely needed. Such information provides a foundation on which to critically evaluate the plethora of novel therapies being introduced into the clinic with the biotechnology revolution.
In general, the book is well edited and eminently readable. There is room for improvement in the quality of the illustrations in certain chapters. Overall, however, there is adequate use of graphics and illustrations, which help to clarify difficult concepts. The ability of this text to provide both detailed and relevant descriptions of the molecular basis of cancer to both clinicians and researchers is truly a remarkable feat.