Oxford University Press, £33.99
There is an increasing demand for current information about the molecular biology of cancer. The third edition of this book is impressive in that it condenses the key features of the subject into just over 300 pages.
The author addresses in detail those aspects which are essential to understanding the overall picture, including the special hallmarks of cancer, the processes where malfunction produces uncontrolled growth, and how the protective functions of normal cells, when disrupted, can lead to malignant changes. Pecorino develops her theme using Hanahan and Weinberg's 2011 review, The Hallmarks of Cancer.
Pivotal aspects of cancer are proto- oncogenes and tumour suppressing genes, which play a critical role in carcinogenesis by encoding many kinds of proteins involved in cell growth and proliferation. When they mutate they can produce proteins that override the G1 restriction of the cell cycle, and lead to unregulated cell growth and proliferation.
Because there are so many pathways linked to the cell cycle, such as growth control, apoptosis, tumour suppression, metastasis and immune suppression, it is evident that there is an increasing number of locations at which new drugs can act, and gene therapy is now used increasingly to pinpoint molecular targets.
Many of the current strategies will doubtless be superseded in the light of new knowledge. But because this is such an excellent introduction to the subject, the book's special appeal lies in its ability to stimulate both learning and investigation, which I hope will be its lasting legacy.
Dr Graham Godfrey FSB