2002 Year Book of Oncology


PJ Loehrer et al (eds)
Published by Mosby (2002)
ISBN:  0-3230-1510-7.  396 pages plus index.
RRP:  A$245.56

The Year Book of Oncology used to be one of my favourites. The 2002 edition is no exception, but it’s losing its impact.

The book is 437 pages, divided into 19 sections ranging from epidemiology, ethics, the usual solid tumors and hematology to paediatric oncology. Seven reviewers/editors surveyed approximately 500 journals, and from these they selected what they felt were important articles from 74 separate journals – all English-speaking – to be abstracted in the 2002 edition. Each article is presented in abstract form. Some are extended with the inclusion of tables, graphs and radiology.  Each article is put in perspective by one of the editors, and in some cases commented on by multiple editors. Some papers are grouped together in a theme and then a comment is made pertaining to all of them.  The papers chosen vary from observational pieces to large randomised trials. I have to admit that some of the articles thought to be important by an editor would not attract my attention.  All of the quoted papers have been published in 2000 or 2001, and herein lies the weakness of these books.

With oncology literature now so vast and the number of journals ever-increasing, even the best motivated and studious oncologist has difficulty in keeping up-to-date, if not in their sub-specialty, certainly in the area of general oncology. These year books are aimed at general oncologists who don’t have the time to read articles that fall outside their area of expertise, published in more obscure, difficult-to-access journals, that don’t make it to the high impact ones. They are very useful in filling gaps, and allow exposure to related work that may have bearing on their specialty.

The main limitation of the year books is that they are one to two years behind, and the reader is already aware of many of the quoted articles and, in some cases, the impact on their clinical practice. Alternate, faster information can be obtained through various electronic search engines that are making the usefulness of these series redundant.  Nonetheless there were many articles that I would not have read otherwise.

How to improve these books?  More timely publication, say within three months of the subsequent year, would make a year book more useful. This could occur by increasing the number of editors and sharing the workload. 

The 2002 Year Book of Oncology is a good book to read from cover to cover to maintain a broad knowledge of recent literature in oncology, but not the source to go to, to look up a specific topic, to answer a clinical question, or to keep current in your interest. Oncology units and hospital libraries should have a copy. Some oncologists may enjoy having their own copy if they have $246 to spare; most won’t.

T Bonaventura
Dept of Medical Oncology
Newcastle Mater Misericordiae Hospital
Newcastle, NSW

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