Sid Mukherjee Solicits New Ideas for Bestselling Book

Nick Mulcahy

January 06, 2020

Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, DPhil, author of The Emperor of All Maladies, wants your help. He recently announced that new chapters will be added to his bestselling book about cancer and went on social media to solicit ideas for the would-be content.

The current book, which covers the history of cancer treatment and includes a chapter on advances in modern oncology, was published in 2010.

It won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, and Mukherjee discussed the book in a 2014 interview with Eric Topol, MD, Medscape editor-in-chief.

A lot has happened in the field since then, and Mukherjee is now planning to update the book.

On December 19, he (@DrSidMukherjee) tweeted:

In effect, Mukherjee crowdsourced ideas for the book update among his nearly 47,000 Twitter followers, including many physicians, healthcare professionals, scientists, and cancer patients. He received nearly 600 responses.

Proposals for new content ranged from the broad concepts such as the cost of cancer care to the highly specific ideas, such as this from Susan Love, MD (@DrSusanLove), who is chair of her own research foundation: "How we are re-evaluating the idea of 'early detection' in breast cancer with evidence from liquid biopsies showing circulating cells/tumor dna."

Some respondents aimed to educate Mukherjee, the erudite storyteller and assistant professor at Columbia University in New York City, about his word and content choices.

Julia Maues (@itsnot_pink), who lives with metastatic breast cancer, rebuked Mukherjee's shorthand description of the new chapters: "Prevention is a myth. The correct term is RISK REDUCTION. 'Prevention' has the terrible implication that it's the patient's fault...." Other patients echoed the comment, saying even the healthiest lives can be undone by cancer.

Some comments were critical of parts of the current version of the book. Michael Joyner, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, tweeted (@DrMJoyner): "...The first edition was great [but] a bit too much genomic KoolAid at the end."

Multiple respondents urged Mukherjee to address the "hype" surrounding both genomic testing (as a guide to drug therapies) and immunotherapies.

Numerous radiation oncologists lobbied for greater inclusion in the new chapters. David Ball, MD (@DavidDbal), spoke for many: "The role of radiotherapy was seriously underdone in the first edition."

Ideas repeatedly proposed for Mukherjee's new content included the following: financial toxicity; liquid biopsies; survivorship and late effects from treatment; the links between cancer risk and lifestyle (nutrition, stress, alcohol, exercise, sleep, smoking, etc); environmental causes of cancer, such as chemical exposure and pollution; and the role of patient advocacy/the empowered patient.

Parag Mahale, MBBS, PhD, MPH, epidemiologist, National Cancer Institute, had a novel proposal for Mukherjee. He (@Vagrant_Feet) tweeted: "So much more to cover! Maybe you can write a second book instead of two additional chapters."

Kate Lloyd, a spokesperson for Scribner, publisher of The Emperor of All Maladies, said that they "hope to have the revised edition in 2020 or early 2021." The new chapters will also be included in some international editions, she added.

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