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Rebel Cell: Cancer, Evolution, and the New Science of Life's Oldest Betrayal

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Why do we get cancer? Is it our modern diets and unhealthy habits? Chemicals in the environment? An unwelcome genetic inheritance? Or is it just bad luck? The answer is all of these and none of them. We get cancer because we can't avoid it—it's a bug in the system of life itself. Cancer exists in nearly every animal and has afflicted humans as long as our species has walked Why do we get cancer? Is it our modern diets and unhealthy habits? Chemicals in the environment? An unwelcome genetic inheritance? Or is it just bad luck? The answer is all of these and none of them. We get cancer because we can't avoid it—it's a bug in the system of life itself. Cancer exists in nearly every animal and has afflicted humans as long as our species has walked the earth. In Rebel Cell: Cancer, Evolution, and the New Science of Life's Oldest Betrayal, Kat Arney reveals the secrets of our most formidable medical enemy, most notably the fact that it isn't so much a foreign invader as a double agent: cancer is hardwired into the fundamental processes of life. New evidence shows that this disease is the result of the same evolutionary changes that allowed us to thrive. Evolution helped us outsmart our environment, and it helps cancer outsmart its environment as well—alas, that environment is us. Explaining why "everything we know about cancer is wrong," Arney, a geneticist and award-winning science writer, guides readers with her trademark wit and clarity through the latest research into the cellular mavericks that rebel against the rigid biological "society" of the body and make a leap towards anarchy. We need to be a lot smarter to defeat such a wily foe—smarter even than Darwin himself. In this new world, where we know that every cancer is unique and can evolve its way out of trouble, the old models of treatment have reached their limits. But we are starting to decipher cancer's secret evolutionary playbook, mapping the landscapes in which these rogue cells survive, thrive, or die, and using this knowledge to predict and confound cancer's next move. Rebel Cell is a story about life and death, hope and hubris, nature and nurture. It's about a new way of thinking about what this disease really is and the role it plays in human life. Above all, it's a story about where cancer came from, where it's going, and how we can stop it.


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Why do we get cancer? Is it our modern diets and unhealthy habits? Chemicals in the environment? An unwelcome genetic inheritance? Or is it just bad luck? The answer is all of these and none of them. We get cancer because we can't avoid it—it's a bug in the system of life itself. Cancer exists in nearly every animal and has afflicted humans as long as our species has walked Why do we get cancer? Is it our modern diets and unhealthy habits? Chemicals in the environment? An unwelcome genetic inheritance? Or is it just bad luck? The answer is all of these and none of them. We get cancer because we can't avoid it—it's a bug in the system of life itself. Cancer exists in nearly every animal and has afflicted humans as long as our species has walked the earth. In Rebel Cell: Cancer, Evolution, and the New Science of Life's Oldest Betrayal, Kat Arney reveals the secrets of our most formidable medical enemy, most notably the fact that it isn't so much a foreign invader as a double agent: cancer is hardwired into the fundamental processes of life. New evidence shows that this disease is the result of the same evolutionary changes that allowed us to thrive. Evolution helped us outsmart our environment, and it helps cancer outsmart its environment as well—alas, that environment is us. Explaining why "everything we know about cancer is wrong," Arney, a geneticist and award-winning science writer, guides readers with her trademark wit and clarity through the latest research into the cellular mavericks that rebel against the rigid biological "society" of the body and make a leap towards anarchy. We need to be a lot smarter to defeat such a wily foe—smarter even than Darwin himself. In this new world, where we know that every cancer is unique and can evolve its way out of trouble, the old models of treatment have reached their limits. But we are starting to decipher cancer's secret evolutionary playbook, mapping the landscapes in which these rogue cells survive, thrive, or die, and using this knowledge to predict and confound cancer's next move. Rebel Cell is a story about life and death, hope and hubris, nature and nurture. It's about a new way of thinking about what this disease really is and the role it plays in human life. Above all, it's a story about where cancer came from, where it's going, and how we can stop it.

30 review for Rebel Cell: Cancer, Evolution, and the New Science of Life's Oldest Betrayal

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Wonderful science writing I loved this book. The writing is great, with a conversational tone. The science is clearly explained and Kat Arney writes with a good sense of humor, which is a real balancing act since this book is about cancer. Arney also uses lots of puns and some very clever wording. Read the footnotes: some clarify and some are just entertaining. I found it hard to put the book down. I especially liked the historical discussions. I recommend this book for anyone interested in scien Wonderful science writing I loved this book. The writing is great, with a conversational tone. The science is clearly explained and Kat Arney writes with a good sense of humor, which is a real balancing act since this book is about cancer. Arney also uses lots of puns and some very clever wording. Read the footnotes: some clarify and some are just entertaining. I found it hard to put the book down. I especially liked the historical discussions. I recommend this book for anyone interested in science or medicine. Disclosure: I received a complimentary advance reader copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.

  2. 4 out of 5

    sillypunk

    This whole book is amazing, but the chapter on contagious cancers is particularly amazing: https://blogendorff.com/2020/08/16/bo... This whole book is amazing, but the chapter on contagious cancers is particularly amazing: https://blogendorff.com/2020/08/16/bo...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anett Kovacs

    Just what a popular science book should be Rebel Cell by Kat Arney is a very interesting take on cancer - explaining the disease from an evolutionary standpoint and introducing novel approaches to treat patients. The author touches on the history of cancer research, describes fascinating manifestations of the disease in the world of animals and dives deep into the theory of evolution relating to cancer. The writing is immensely engaging, the scientific aspects are explained very well and are defi Just what a popular science book should be Rebel Cell by Kat Arney is a very interesting take on cancer - explaining the disease from an evolutionary standpoint and introducing novel approaches to treat patients. The author touches on the history of cancer research, describes fascinating manifestations of the disease in the world of animals and dives deep into the theory of evolution relating to cancer. The writing is immensely engaging, the scientific aspects are explained very well and are definitely accessible to a wide audience. All in all a highly recommendable book!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ula

    Wonderful book. Highly recommended for everyone interested in science and medicine, but in particular for anyone who has personal experience with cancer. I remember how disappointed I was with famous "The Emperor of All Maladies" by Siddhartha Mukherjee - don't get me wrong, I don't mean that it is so bad, but despite the subtitle "A Biography of Cancer" the book was focused rather on the history cancer research and people who did it than on the phenomena itself. Here Kat Arney comes to the resc Wonderful book. Highly recommended for everyone interested in science and medicine, but in particular for anyone who has personal experience with cancer. I remember how disappointed I was with famous "The Emperor of All Maladies" by Siddhartha Mukherjee - don't get me wrong, I don't mean that it is so bad, but despite the subtitle "A Biography of Cancer" the book was focused rather on the history cancer research and people who did it than on the phenomena itself. Here Kat Arney comes to the rescue: her brilliant, witty book is exactly "everything you always wanted to know" about cancer, from the origins to molecular mechanisms to newest drugs. She also masterly fights the taboo of this disease, showing that the eponymous rebel cells are a natural consequence of life itself, not a curse or a punishment for our sins. Thanks to the publisher, BenBella Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Fascinating, informative, entertaining... this is my favourite kind of science writing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wildflower Reads

    We get cancer because we can't avoid it-it's a bug in the system of life itself. Based on that sentence, one might think this book would be full of devastation. On the contrary, there are some surprisingly hilarious moments due to Dr. Arney's engaging writing style! The humor that is sprinkled in throughout the book not only kept me interested, it kept me from feeling overwhelming dread. Cancer is an unfortunate fact of life. As mentioned in the book, it is statistically likely that if it's not We get cancer because we can't avoid it-it's a bug in the system of life itself. Based on that sentence, one might think this book would be full of devastation. On the contrary, there are some surprisingly hilarious moments due to Dr. Arney's engaging writing style! The humor that is sprinkled in throughout the book not only kept me interested, it kept me from feeling overwhelming dread. Cancer is an unfortunate fact of life. As mentioned in the book, it is statistically likely that if it's not us it's someone we love. It's a difficult subject matter to put it mildly, but I felt like the author handled it beautifully. I learned so much about what is currently known about cancer, how it's treated, and the future of treatment. Really the only issue I had was that there a few times where the technical jargon was difficult to grasp. For the most part though the author did a really, really good job of explaining things for a non-scientific audience. It was mostly in the middle portion of the book where I found myself re-reading a few sections. I came away from this book with a new level of respect for those who dedicate their lives to cancer research and with renewed hope that although curing it may never happen, we are steadily working towards vastly improving the quality and longevity of life for those who do. An eBook copy of Rebel Cell: Cancer, Evolution, and the New Science of Life's Oldest Betrayal was the only compensation received in exchange for this review. Thank you to NetGalley and BenBella Books for the opportunity to read this book and provide feedback.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mary G.

    A master class in science writing and an exciting look into the world of cancer research! Kat Arney formerly worked in science communications at Cancer Research UK - in this book, she seeks to clear up misconceptions about cancer itself and why we get it, as well as shed light on why personalized medicine hasn't yet led to major long-term survival gains. The tagline "everything we know about cancer is wrong" is a slight exaggeration, but Arney does a great job sorting through cancer research's f A master class in science writing and an exciting look into the world of cancer research! Kat Arney formerly worked in science communications at Cancer Research UK - in this book, she seeks to clear up misconceptions about cancer itself and why we get it, as well as shed light on why personalized medicine hasn't yet led to major long-term survival gains. The tagline "everything we know about cancer is wrong" is a slight exaggeration, but Arney does a great job sorting through cancer research's failures and successes and introducing the reader to researchers who are trying new strategies to attack tumors. I especially enjoyed the sections about combatting tumor evolution using adaptive therapy and game theory. Arney's writing style is wonderfully clear and witty - she does a great job introducing complex concepts without bogging the reader down with unnecessary details. I think that this book will speak to both a general and a specialist audience. I like to think I know a lot about cancer, but I still learned many new things from this book. I highly recommend Rebel Cell to anyone seeking to learn more about cancer. Thank you to BenBella Books for providing an ARC on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bob Blaskiewicz

    Rebel Cell is an accessible and erudite exploration of cancer as an evolutionary phenomenon. It's appropriate for a general audience; it's lively, witty, and exemplifies good science writing by showing you a familiar topic in a completely new light. (I had at least a dozen "a-ha" moments as I read it.) Arney introduces you to the idea that cells have been cheating one another ever since they decided to call a formal truce and joined up to cooperate in bodies. Drawing on her genetics background, Rebel Cell is an accessible and erudite exploration of cancer as an evolutionary phenomenon. It's appropriate for a general audience; it's lively, witty, and exemplifies good science writing by showing you a familiar topic in a completely new light. (I had at least a dozen "a-ha" moments as I read it.) Arney introduces you to the idea that cells have been cheating one another ever since they decided to call a formal truce and joined up to cooperate in bodies. Drawing on her genetics background, she discusses how evolution accounts for the complexity and intractability of cancers. Arney has interviewed the researchers who are using new genetic sequencing technologies to understand the how cancers change over time and across a tumor. I think the most surprising and interesting insights that fall out of thinking about cancer as an evolutionary disease come are the "ecological" solutions to cancer management and treatment. The scientists that Arney has talked to are beginning to explore these sometimes counterintuitive treatments that exploit aggressive cancer cells' natural competitors. Thought provoking, mind-embiggening stuff. Highly recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robert Scott

    The mechanisms of cancer are a smash and grab repurposing of our own cellular processes. In Rebel Cell, Kat Arney expertly guides us through the complicated, and often mis-understood, world of malignancy. In shining a light on the evolutionary processes which allow cancer to form and then develop resistance to drug treatments Kat highlights the limitations of current treatments and points us towards some exciting developments in our approaches to cancer therapy. Rebel Cell is extremely well infor The mechanisms of cancer are a smash and grab repurposing of our own cellular processes. In Rebel Cell, Kat Arney expertly guides us through the complicated, and often mis-understood, world of malignancy. In shining a light on the evolutionary processes which allow cancer to form and then develop resistance to drug treatments Kat highlights the limitations of current treatments and points us towards some exciting developments in our approaches to cancer therapy. Rebel Cell is extremely well informed and written with a clear passion for the topic. Expert story telling and no little amount of well placed humour makes this a refreshingly honest account and an absolute must read for anyone interested in understanding cancer.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    I absolutely LOVED this book. Kat Arney is such a good writer and her personality comes through with every page, ESPECIALLY when she takes on the wellness industry. I learned more about evolution and I was particularly swayed by her argument of viewing cancer in an evolutionary lens and what that means for treatment and therapies going forward. I definitely want to explore more of Kat Arney's bibliography and I'm excited for more publications from her in the future. I absolutely LOVED this book. Kat Arney is such a good writer and her personality comes through with every page, ESPECIALLY when she takes on the wellness industry. I learned more about evolution and I was particularly swayed by her argument of viewing cancer in an evolutionary lens and what that means for treatment and therapies going forward. I definitely want to explore more of Kat Arney's bibliography and I'm excited for more publications from her in the future.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kira Dineen

    Fascinating perspective of cancer from an evolutionary lenses. Makes me question so many of the basics of cancer treatment, curious to follow up in the ideas Dr. Arney presents here!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Donna Huber

    An interesting overview of cancer research. The writing was a little drier than I would like, but it isn't overly academic and should be accessible to the general public. If you are wanting to know where science has been and where it is going in regards to cancer then this would be a good book to read. Read my full review at Girl Who Reads An interesting overview of cancer research. The writing was a little drier than I would like, but it isn't overly academic and should be accessible to the general public. If you are wanting to know where science has been and where it is going in regards to cancer then this would be a good book to read. Read my full review at Girl Who Reads

  13. 5 out of 5

    Benn Archer

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alfred Wong

  15. 4 out of 5

    Madison Graber

  16. 5 out of 5

    D

  17. 5 out of 5

    NitroOxy

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Jordan

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jay R. shepard

  20. 4 out of 5

    Helen Albert

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jesper

  23. 4 out of 5

    Harvey

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Woodcock

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Manaster

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paulinka Królak

  27. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  28. 5 out of 5

    Judy Horsburgh

  29. 4 out of 5

    Konrad Senf

  30. 5 out of 5

    David W. W.

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