WCHLA cancer presentation from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D.

June 01, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Leadership Professional Development & Education 

<p>Discoveries about cancer have led to a better understanding of the enigmatic disease, but according to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., that understanding is merely the tip of the iceberg.</p>
<p>Speaking at the Western Health Care Leadership Academy on Saturday, Dr. Mukherjee, an acclaimed hematologist and oncologist, touched on what he called the three realizations of cancer before leaving the audience to ponder the question: &ldquo;What does our theory of cancer tell us today?&rdquo;</p>
<p>&ldquo;There is no other human disease that we know of that has this level of diversity and complexity,&rdquo; he said, standing in front of the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. &ldquo;Every patient&rsquo;s cancer is his or her own cancer.&rdquo;</p>
<p>Cancer is one of the oldest diseases known to man, despite some contemporary beliefs that it is mostly derived from present-day sources, Dr. Mukherjee said. It is one of the major problems of this century, and innovation in every aspect of cancer medicine is desperately needed to help fight the disease.</p>
<p>Deciphering cancer physiology, in particular, is also vital to understanding the ailment, he said.</p>
<p>&ldquo;We will not move through the barrier of cost, of care, of any of the barriers that currently surround cancer medicine unless we complete this project,&rdquo; Dr. Mukherjee stated.</p>
<p>Dr. Mukherjee noted that there have been three revelations regarding cancer through the course of history. The first was that cancer is a disease of the cells, but eventually scientists discovered that it is also a disease of genes and genomes &mdash; that is, it also involves multiple genes.</p>
<p>These insights have been critical to understanding the nature of cancer, he explained. But again, more effort needs to be made to understand its physiology. Dr. Mukherjee said it is the current and next generations who will need to helm this imperative project.</p>
<p>&ldquo;It is the job of our generation to figure out how to make sense of the entire physiology, and by physiology I mean the human being that has cancer, his or her interactions with his or her particular environments, his or her particular exposures, and then deliver a complete new system of cancer medicine,&rdquo; he said.</p>
<p>Dr. Mukherjee is the author of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning book The <em>Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer</em>, which was also the basis for a Ken Burns-produced documentary that aired on PBS earlier this year. He was one of the keynote speakers at the Western Health Care Leadership Academy, a California Medical Association-led event featuring more than 570 participants this year.</p>


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