The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer


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1. Briefly discuss the relationship between John Bennett and Rudolf Virchow’s researchon a certain type of cancer in the middle 1800’s.

2. How did Virchow’s research findings carry over into today’s oncology languageand concepts? Give examples.

3. Elaborate on the title inference and contents of the historic Fortune magazine 1937 article titled “Cancer: The Great Darkness”

4. Whowas Roswell Park? Why is his work important in the historyof cancer?

I have provided information to help guide you in completing this assignment. To make it easier to follow the multiple parts of the assignment, I have included the questions followed by information to help you address each question.

Briefly discuss the relationship between John Bennett and Rudolf Virchow’s research on a certain type of cancer in the middle 1800’s.

John Bennett was a Scottish physician who encountered a case that perplexed the current medical knowledge of the 1800s. The man had presented with symptoms that did not make sense. Over the course of nearly two years the man had experienced a great lack of energy with any amount of physical exertion. Being a slate-layer this would have been a debilitating condition over time. About 4 months prior to visiting Bennett, a mass was noticed in the area where the spleen is located. The mas grew for several months before stopping. At this point the slate-layer experienced a sudden onset of multiple symptoms, developed more tumors in strategic lymph node areas (arm pit, groin, neck) and died. Upon autopsy Bennett concluded the thick white blood cells were pus and the man died of “spoiled” blood. No signs of pus or infection were found in any other part of the body. Bennett stood by the diagnosis the blood had simply combusted into pus.

Rudolf Virchow could not accept this explanation when a patient presented with similar symptoms. The same thick white layer of cells was visible in the blood and pooling the spleen. However, with the absence of a wound …

Mukherjee has taken great care to illustrate the history of cancer. From the initial emergence to motivators that moved the disease from a hushed “back-room” state into the public view, the history is designed to bring awareness of the struggles and accomplishments of cancer researchers and physicians. This document looks at specific sections of the book and provides discussion to expand the reader’s understanding.