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Publisher's Summary

A fundamental and groundbreaking reassessment of how we view and manage cancer

When we think of the forces driving cancer, we don’t necessarily think of evolution. But evolution and cancer are closely linked, for the historical processes that created life also created cancer. The Cheating Cell delves into this extraordinary relationship, and shows that by understanding cancer’s evolutionary origins, researchers can come up with more effective, revolutionary treatments. 

Athena Aktipis goes back billions of years to explore when unicellular forms became multicellular organisms. Within these bodies of cooperating cells, cheating ones arose, overusing resources and replicating out of control, giving rise to cancer. Aktipis illustrates how evolution has paved the way for cancer’s ubiquity, and why it will exist as long as multicellular life does. Even so, she argues, this doesn’t mean we should give up on treating cancer - in fact, evolutionary approaches offer new and promising options for the disease’s prevention and treatments that aim at long-term management rather than simple eradication. Looking across species - from sponges and cacti to dogs and elephants - we are discovering new mechanisms of tumor suppression and the many ways that multicellular life-forms have evolved to keep cancer under control. By accepting that cancer is a part of our biological past, present, and future - and that we cannot win a war against evolution - treatments can become smarter, more strategic, and more humane. 

Unifying the latest research from biology, ecology, medicine, and social science, The Cheating Cell challenges us to rethink cancer’s fundamental nature and our relationship to it.

©2020 Athena Aktipis (P)2020 Princeton University Press

Critic Reviews

"This wise, erudite, and engaging book will change how we think about cancer and life itself. Brilliantly illuminating how cancer is a form of evolution gone awry within our bodies, Athena Aktipis shows that we need an evolutionary approach to not only fight the disease but also live with it." (Daniel E. Lieberman, author of The Story of the Human Body)

"The Cheating Cell is an instant classic - a book that will transform how physicians and their patients understand cancer, how investigators develop therapies, and how we as a society can work together to reduce the global burden of this disease. Masterful, powerful, and absolutely essential reading for anyone who truly wants to understand the nature of cancer, The Cheating Cell is a tour de force." (Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD, coauthor of Zoobiquity)

"Trying to keep cheating cells at bay is a problem that connects humans, elephants, Tasmanian devils, and cacti alike. In The Cheating Cell, Athena Aktipis uses clear explanations and riveting examples to show how viewing cancer through an ecological and evolutionary lens allows us to better understand the disease, and can lead to more effective ways of lengthening lifespans in our ongoing battle with this most ancient of foes." (Kelly Weinersmith, coauthor of Soonish)

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  • 13-07-20

A well written and read book

I would recommend this book. It was well written and narrated, however, I don’t feel that it lived up to the promise of providing any radical new insights into cancer that we’re not currently aware of.