All of us have lurking in our DNA a most remarkable gene, which has a crucial job – it protects us from cancer. Known simply as p53, this gene constantly scans our cells to ensure that they grow and divide without mishap, as part of the routine maintenance of our bodies. If a cell makes a mistake in copying its DNA during the process of division, p53 stops it in its tracks, summoning a repair team before allowing the cell to carry on dividing. If the mistake is irreparable and the rogue cell threatens to grow out of control, p53 commands the cell to commit suicide. Cancer cannot develop unless p53 itself is damaged or prevented from functioning normally. Perhaps unsurprisingly, p53 is the most studied single gene in history.
p53: The Gene That Cracked the Cancer Code tells the story of medical science's mission to unravel the mysteries of this crucial gene, and to get to the heart of what happens in our cells when they turn cancerous. Through the personal accounts of key researchers, p53: The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code reveals the fascination of the quest for scientific understanding, as well as the huge excitement of the chase for new cures – the hype, the enthusiasm, the lost opportunities, the blind alleys, and the thrilling breakthroughs. And as the long-anticipated revolution in cancer treatment tailored to each individual patient's symptoms begins to take off at last, p53 remains at the cutting edge.
This timely tale of scientific discovery highlights the tremendous recent advances made in our understanding of cancer, a disease that affects more than one in three of us at some point in our lives.
"One of the best accounts I've read of how science is actually performed."
– Peter Forbes, The Guardian
"A succinct, accessible study of humanity's genetic bulwark against cancer."
"She makes accessible to the public a scientific mystery that she personally finds fascinating"
– Publishers Weekly
"Armstrong adroitly untangles the complex story of this impressive gene."
"Armstrong has rendered, from what easily could have become a tangled web of complex science, a readable story of discovery. As in the best travel writing, it's not the destination that's important here, but the journey. This is not only a story about the gene on chromosome 17, nor only about the nature of cancer, but also about how science works."
– Ellen Bartlett, Boston Globe
"A well-written examination of the complex world of scientific research, focusing on a specific gene in the human body."
– Kirkus Reviews
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Sue Armstrong is a science writer and broadcaster based in Edinburgh. She has worked for a variety of media organisations, including New Scientist, and since the 1980s has undertaken regular assignments for the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS, writing about women's health issues and the AIDS pandemic, among many other topics, and reporting from the frontline in countries as diverse as Haiti, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Thailand, Namibia and Serbia. Sue has been involved, as presenter, writer and researcher, in several major medical documentaries for BBC Radio 4.