Quicklet on Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

by Fraser Sherman

What's in the book?

Quicklets: Your reading sidekick!

    • About the Book
    • About the Author
    • Synopsis
    • Important People
    • Key Terms and Definitions
    • Chapter-By-Chapter Commentary & Summary
    • Additional Resources



The Emperor of All Maladies not only describes the nature and biology of cancer, it discusses a topic most readers care just as much, if not more about: The possibility of a cure. For close to a century, doctors have been hoping for and working on creating a “magic bullet,” a single approach or wonder drug that will completely end the war on cancer. Mukherjee’s book demonstrates that while oncology has made amazing progress in allowing cancer patients longer, healthier, happier lives, the long sought-after magic bullet cure for cancer remains nowhere in sight.


Born in England, now happily living in Durham, NC, I have 15 years experience as a reporter, 20 published fantasy/SF stories and I'm the author of three film reference books, most recently "Screen Enemies of the American Way." I love film, history and science, and I'm involved in theater non-professionally when I get a chance. You can find my blog at http://frasersherman.wordpress.com/


After a prologue recounting some of Mukherjee’s personal experiences as a rookie oncologist, his “biography” opens in the year 1947. Mukherjee introduces readers to pathologist Dr. Sidney Farber as Farber waited for the delivery of aminopterin, a drug he believed could help cure childhood leukemia—something oncologists of the time believed impossible.

Emperor then shifts further back in time to those 19th-century researchers who first realized the white blood cells swarming through some patients’ veins weren’t fighting disease: They were the disease. In leukemia, the cancer sits in the bone marrow, churning out defective white blood cells that in turn smother the normal, healthy cells in the blood stream.

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