JK Buolamwini and AA Adjei (eds)
Published by Humana Press (2003)
ISBN: 0-8690-3963-3. 342 pages plus index.
I thought this book was full of new chemotherapy recipes, but it contains recipes of another kind. It is an eclectic collection of methods for the laboratory assessment of anticancer drugs: protocols for measurement (mostly) of intermediate endpoints of drug effects or “biomarkers”. It covers a broad gamut: antiangiogenesis; pharmacogenetics; signal transuction; microarrays; PET scanning; and flow cytometry among others. It is not clear why some methods were chosen, for example measurement of tumour DNA in plasma, and not others. A good method is certainly worth its weight in gold. A practical setting out of instructions (in “recipe” format) often contains information, that cannot be extracted from the methods section. The utility of this book is limited by the impossibility of a comprehensive coverage (all novel protocols), and the availability of standard protocols via other medium, especially the internet. What this book needs is a Jamie Oliver or a Nigella Lawson (depending on your sexual preference) to add some excitement and perspective. The introductory chapter outlining the range of possible targets and some inhibitors attempted to explain a large number of complex pathways and didn’t even have any pictures!
One useful thing a book like this could do is to provide a perspective about the use of competing techniques in preclinical models. This was done well in the chapter on single nucleotide polymorphisms and quite poorly in most others. Despite the uneven chapters and the criticisms above, I quite enjoyed this book. It is fun to flip through recipes you are never going to cook, and it does give you an idea of what is possible. This is perhaps the only real usefulness of a book like this. If you are really interested in angiogenesis methods, you will want a more focused volume. If you are interested in drug-development more generally, you will probably want more perspective. The field of biomarkers for drug effects faces enormous challenges. No doubt there are lessons to be learned from methods, which are technically possible, but turn out to be unhelpful. There are also lessons from drugs that have “failed” clinically despite effective biomarkers or because of lack of them. Inhibition of EGFR, PKC-a and matrix metalloproteinases spring to mind in this regard. This book doesn’t take on board any of these lessons (with the chapter on PET a possible exception). I would pocket the $125 and eat out at a good restaurant instead.
Southern Sydney Cancer Services