A last example of Mukherjee's majestic cancer prose

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A final section from Siddhartha Mukherjee's magnificent biography of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies:


"Perhaps cancer defines the inherent outer limit of our survival. As our cells divide and our bodies age, and as mutations accumulate inexorably upon mutations, cancer might well be the final terminus in our development as organisms … It is possible that we are fatally conjoined to this ancient illness, forced to play its cat-and-mouse game for the foreseeable future of our species. But if cancer deaths can be prevented before old age, if the terrifying game of treatment, resistance, recurrence and more treatment can be stretched out longer and longer, then it will transform the way we imagine this ancient illness ... Given what we know about cancer, even this would represent a technological victory unlike any other in our history. It would be a victory over our own inevitability—a victory over our genomes."

I also want to draw attention to his dynamite-- if not-so-subtle-- allusion to the famous opening lines of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina on page 452:

"Normal cells are identically normal; malignant cells become unhappily malignant in unique ways."

Best cancer biography ever written, for now.

By Ross Bonander

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