The Long Fight Against Cancer
"Book reviewing can breed a sort of cynicism about the publishing business. You open the envelopes, scan the covers: He wrote another book about…Does she really think anyone cares that…Out the galleys go, onto the stoop, orphans to soak in the rain and bake in the sun. Rare (at least for me) is the book you love so much that you write about it not simply to fill a hungry page with words but because of a genuine conviction that people need to read this thing.
Well, Clifton Leaf’s The Truth In Small Does: Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer – and How to Win It is precisely such a book, which is why I am writing about it for a third time. I first covered it in June, for The Wire’s summer book preview. Later, I wrote an online essay for The New Yorker comparing his book to Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, a Pulitzer Prize-winning “biography” of cancer..."
—ALEXANDER NAZARYAN in THE ATLANTIC WIRE
"Why have we made so little progress in the War on Cancer?” Clifton Leaf wrote in Fortune in 2004. His groundbreaking story went on to describe the failures of researchers and drugmakers alike, and a system so focused on
incremental improvements in the treatment of the disease that it could not arrange itself to tackle the roots of a persistent (and still growing) problem. For a decade Leaf has followed the story, and though we are no closer to “curing” cancer, we can now imagine —thanks to his lucid and fascinating work—what that solution might look like. In Leaf’s brilliant new book, he reframes the challenge as one of engineering, not science. As Leaf writes,“Science determines the limits of the possible. Engineering lets us reach them."
How to cure cancer? A review of “The Truth in Small Doses”
“Leaf’s book serves as a powerful call-to-action that our current system is too structurally flawed to provide the transformation in cancer care we all seek. Leaf has forcefully articulated the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ for winning the war on cancer; now it’s time to focus on the ‘how.’ ”
—FRANK DAVID, PHARMAGELLAN BLOG
**Featured in The Atlantic Wire’s “Books to Read This Summer” June 12, 2013**
"It matters because: We’ve been at war with cancer since 1971, and despite endless promises, are not much closer to truly winning that battle. In this refreshingly impassioned volume, Leaf explains why while offering a path forward."
"Perfect for: Anyone curious about the history of medicine, as well as the fraught intersection of pharmacology, public policy and the corporate world."
—THE ATLANTIC WIRE
**Scientific American “Recommended” Book**
And The Truth in Small Doses is also now an official entry in Scientific American’s online Summer Reading poll (please vote!).
The U.S. Congress declared a “war on cancer” with the 1971 National Cancer Act and poured money into fighting the disease. Yet ever since, new cancer cases have risen three times faster than the U.S. population. According to Leaf, a journalist and cancer survivor, the act failed because of the flawed research culture it spawned. In this history of the fight against cancer, he describes how scientists often cannot secure funding for risky research in a culture that rewards competition over collaboration. The final section is a call to shift funding from narrow projects to broadly skilled researchers and urges patients to become better advocates for progressive change. Without such steps, Leaf says, the war on cancer has no chance of being won.
"Publishers Weekly online review, July 8**
“Through flowing prose Leaf delivers, alongside facts and data, stories on personalities involved in research, the fascinating process of solving an unusual and highly deadly cancer in Africa, and the heartbreaking realities of cancer treatment in children today. Leaf's extensively investigated treatise will resonate with researchers and patients frustrated by the bureaucratic woes he delineates. Public policy makers, grant reviewers, and pharmaceutical researchers alike must consider Leaf's indictment and proposed solutions."
"[An] eye-opening look at why the U.S. is losing the war on cancer...The Emperor of All Maladies got Americans talking about the stalled battle against cancer. Leaf’s book keeps the conversation on track."
"In this brave and important book, Clifton Leaf explains the state of cancer research today, traces the battles we have won and lost in the war on cancer, and most importantly shows the ways in which doctors, researchers, and even patients might improve what we are doing to combat this disease. Leaf’s own path—from cancer patient to journalist to author—is an inspiring story itself, and his book will benefit both patient and doctor alike. The Truth in Small Doses will be the most important ‘discovery’ in cancer this year."
—David B. Agus, M.D., author of The End of Illness
"As a cancer patient and advocate, I applaud Clifton Leaf for so boldly pulling back the curtain on the ‘cancer culture’ to reveal why we've made limited progress toward cures. The Truth in Small Doses, a book told with the rigor of a brilliant journalist but with the heart of a cancer survivor, is certain to disrupt the conversation on the state of cancer research and inspire new approaches to win this war."
—Kathy Giusti, founder and CEO, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium
"In this lucid, convincing, and gripping book, Clifton Leaf lays out, in heartbreaking detail, why our well-intentioned war on cancer has produced such dispiriting results. Leaf's command of the science is masterful, his passion is palpable, and his critique of a broken research system is utterly convincing. But, like the best advocacy journalism, The Truth in Small Doses is ultimately inspiring, pointing the way toward a more hopeful future. It is a landmark achievement."
—Jason Tanz, executive editor of WIRED
"Beautifully written, with the twists, turns and suspense of a great novel, The Truth in Small Doses tells the tale of the great individual successes and collective failure of both government and the pharmaceutical industry to impact the increasing number of cancer diagnoses and deaths in the U.S. But Clifton Leaf offers more than a history of our national cancer effort: He provides a vision and a roadmap for a creative and bold national cancer strategy."
—Frank M. Torti, MD, MPH, Dean, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, former director Wake Forest Comprehensive Cancer Center and former acting commissioner of the FDA