Posted on January 25, 2011 by

The Emperor of All Maladies, a book by Siddhartha Mukerjee M.D. a physician oncologist is subtitled a “biography of cancer”. It appears to be an historical overview of the disease. I say appears because I have not read it yet. What caught my eye was the title of the book review of Dr. M’s book: “The Mind of a Disease.”  (NYT Sunday Book Review 11.14.10).When I read the title, I said to myself “aha, a book by a physician trying to understand the actual mind–the internal being of a disease, a metaphorical way of knowing the disease in order to understand it well enough to  manage or cure it. Dr. M’s book is not  that, but the author of the book review, a professor of medical journalism, does refer to this theme–the idea of trying to understand the way a disease thinks and interacts with human biological systems beyond the mere language of biochemistry or the lexicon of cell structure. It is much more. It is pattern and path recognition like the close study of a pitcher in baseball for the way he positions the laces of the ball in his fingers and his flow and movement on release of the curve. It is more than just a tool for studying disease process and I have noted that over the past couple of years, it has been referred to within the field of data mining predictive modeling and in the study of the human genome. We are  beginning to decipher the workings and language of disease at the most basic levels and the early communications of chemicals as the disease begins the errant processes which have a logic and rationality as sure and straight as the logic of mathematics itself.

Obviously, the more we know about the normal bodily systems and cell function, the more we can learn about abnormal processes and this systemic approach is now being individualized to the patient. I am not really speak about that, however and I assume all of that for the purpose of this discussion. How do researchers create an approach to understanding the mechanisms of alzheimers disease, for example. This is what I want to know.

This week, there was an article in news about the melding of art and science in which the basic structures of life are being depicted by 3-D films  in ways that allow  researcher to understand the complex structures  and their interactions in different ways. This is another example of ways in which most basic mechanisms of life are coming to light in ways that will provide practical benefits in relative short order as it relates to disease treatment.

A couple of years ago, I needed to help a family member who was diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder which resulted in too few red cells being produced. In examining the structures of the different components of the blood, I needed to create a memory enhancement mechanism that would allow me to understand and recall the purpose and function of each blood component. I created a war and battle scenario in which each blood part played a different role. Leukocytes; the first responders—l Marines sent in to establish beachheads seeking out the enemy protein bacteria and viruses, bonding to their proteins for eventual removal. Second wave; the granulocytes and macrophages, main force units arriving to surround and destroy enemy cells by cutting off their nutrients. The hemoglobin, transport units in the blood, carrying all the needed oxygen to every part of our body. Simplistic at best but I could hear each speak to me and interact and communicate in an organized way and the language of the blood as clearly as I hear the language of my partners at work.

So, when I saw the title of the book review The Mind of a Disease came to my attention I hoped it was about a book in which the mind of human science was reaching out to understand the language of particular diseases in a fashion that would allow two way communication. Science fiction. No fact. The idea is not new. I intend on exploring it and will report to you seasonably on what I find.

This is a hallmark week for me. I am leaving my law firm in order to re-establish my own firm, to give me more time to work on business projects related to science and medicine. I am not “leaving the law” but I have an intense thirst to learn more about chronic illness and the methods by which we approach finding new therapies. It is a passion, really, an obsession which captures my mind in ways that allow me to lose myself in thought and study in ways the law never has.

Comments (1)


  1. Dear Mr. Newman, I dicovered this website while researcching Siddartha Mukerjee MD and his book The Emperor of All Maladies:A Biography of Cancer. I was diagnosed and treated in 2002. I share a philosophy with Dr Mukerjee, always considered cancer as part of my genetic makeup and not as an enemy. In April 2010 I had a book published, Bodenomics:Your Body Is Your Business and You are the CEO. We believe that if you treat your body like a successful business you can maintain a better state of physical/fiscal health. I left a career as a registered nurse to devote myself full time to researching material for the book. We walk people through how a cell works(a factory) and how all 75 trillion cells make for good and productive industry. In terms of basic explanation, all of our reviews have been A+. Please check out our website. Viki Goldberg/Wendy Schweifler

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