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Accessible guide to targeted cancer treatments rich in scientific content

A detailed introduction to an emerging field of health science. 

Targeted Cancer Treatments book cover

A Beginner’s Guide To Targeted Cancer Treatments

By Elaine Vickers. Pp xii + 343. £39.99. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester; 2018. ISBN 978-1-11912-679-9

Targeted cancer treatments bind proteins on the surface of cancer cells; block faulty or overactive enzymes in the cell cytoplasm; take advantage of faulty processes in cancer cells; and create or boost a cancer-fighting immune response.

The title of this new book on targeted cancer treatments by Elaine Vickers does not do it justice — it is much more than a beginner’s guide. The subject matter is complex and the book includes a great deal of scientific content.

However, the author is a molecular biologist and advances in radiotherapy or surgery are deliberately omitted. Likewise, the book does not cover advances in the design or use of chemotherapy, as this form of treatment is relatively untargeted.

This guide offers the latest insights into cancer biology and provides a broad understanding of targeted cancer treatments. It describes the resistance mechanisms to many new treatments, including explanations of how cancer cells diversify and evolve, and the complex environment in which they live.

Each chapter describes how new cancer drugs work, along with their benefits and limitations. A brief description of the contents of each chapter is presented at the beginning and over 100 original colour illustrations can be found throughout the book. The opening chapter offers a general overview of cancer biology followed by an introduction to targeted cancer treatments, primarily monoclonal antibodies and kinase inhibitors.

Further chapters describe targeted treatments for common solid tumors and haematological cancers; immunotherapies for cancer; treatments that block proteins involved in cell communications; and drugs that target diverse cell processes and proteins such as angiogenesis inhibitors, which halt the process through which new blood vessels are formed.

The author claims to have written this book for anyone who encounters cancer patients, cancer data or cancer terminology, but has no more than a passing knowledge of cell biology. Unusually, it is written in the ‘first person’ and the text sometimes gives the impression that the reader is attending a lecture. But this is not to detract from an excellent book that will be of great value to pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who work in or have a passing interest in this complex area of medicine, and will also be of use to those who teach this challenging subject.

Laurence A Goldberg

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205563

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