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About the book
  • Published: 29 August 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448156979
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

The Cancer Chronicles

Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery

A vibrantly informative and provocative look at the war against cancer - from the age of dinosaurs through to today and beyond.

When the woman he loved was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer, science-writer George Johnson embarked on a journey to learn everything he could about the disease and the people who dedicate their lives to understanding and combating it. What he discovered is that a revolution is now under way – an explosion of new ideas about what cancer really is and where it comes from.

He combs through the realms of epidemiology, clinical trials, laboratory experiments and scientific hypotheses, to reveal what we know and don’t know about cancer, showing why a cure remains such a slippery concept. His luminous accounts describe tumors that evolve like alien creatures inside the body, paleo-oncologists who uncover petrified tumors clinging to the skeletons of dinosaurs and ancient human ancestors, and the surprising reversals in science’s comprehension of the causes of cancer, with the foods we eat and environmental toxins playing a lesser role. Perhaps most fascinating of all is how cancer borrows natural processes involved in the healing of a wound or the unfolding of a human embryo and turns them against the body.

Throughout his pursuit, Johnson illuminates the human experience with elegiac grace, bearing witness to the punishing gauntlet of consultations, surgeries, targeted therapies and other treatments. Provocative and intellectually vibrant, The Cancer Chronicles will challenge everything you thought you knew about the disease – and provide hope for tomorrow and the future.

  • Pub date: 29 August 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448156979
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

About the Author

George Johnson

George Johnson is a science writer for the New York Times. He is a former Alicia Patterson Fellow, a finalist for the prestigious Aventis Prize, and a recipient of the Science Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Praise for The Cancer Chronicles

“Rich and sweeping...this is a book for anyone whose life has been touched by cancer, which is just about everyone”

Barbara Ehrenreich

“Compact, elegant...gripping... Everyone who is concerned about cancer – that is every thinking adult – should read The Cancer Chronicles”

Charles C. Mann

“A highly captivating book that meticulously explains the current scientific understanding of cancer”

Times Literary Supplement

“A fascinating compilation of selected discoveries in cancer research that helped shape his deeper understanding of the disease process”

Mary L. Disis, Science

“Johnson elegantly tells a fascinating chronological tale of cancer”

British Journal of General Practice

“He explains cancer in clear – and terrifying – terms. He has a lively scientific mind”

Evening Standard

“A wonderful and yet very sad book. It weaves together an immense amount of detail on this devastating disease with a very personal and touching story”

Royal Society Winton Prize judges

“Tightly argued, data-rich”

Nicholas Blincoe, Telegraph

“Gripping, illuminating and affecting… It turns out that Mr Johnson’s deceptively casual narrative route is cannily chosen. He wanders everywhere, an intelligent, skeptical, interested and saddened observer with no particular prejudices or axes to grind’”

New York Times

“In a provocative and intellectually vibrant exploration, [Johnson] takes us on an adventure through the history and recent advances of cancer research that will challenge everything you thought you knew about the disease… In good company with the works of Atul Gawande, Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Abraham Verghese, The Cancer Chronicles is endlessly surprising and as radiant in its prose as it is authoritative in its eye-opening science”

Money Science

“The ideal primer for those who want to know the real story of cancer, rather than the version that is usually presented in the media”


“Not only is Johnson an excellent explainer, but he can really write. His language is direct, his tone conversational”

David Quammen, Scotsman

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