Cancer and the Gene: Past, Present and Future

Posted on Feb 19 by SEASONS Magazine

“The Gene” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, courtesy of UCSB Arts & Lectures

On Thursday, February 23, UCSB Arts & lectures presents a lecture titled Cancer and the Gene: Past, Present and Future by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., Ph.d., at 7:30 p.m. at UCSB Campbell Hall.

Boston Globe proclaims, “Mukherjee [has] a rightful place alongside Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, and Stephen Hawking in the pantheon of our epoch’s great explicators.”

Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See, says of Mukherjee’s lecture, “This is perhaps the best detective story ever told – a millennia-long search, led by a thousand explorers for the question marks at the center of every living cell.”

Mukherjee’s latest book, The Gene: An Intimate History, debuting at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list, discloses the biography of the gene as brilliant and enlightening as his biography of cancer and an answer to the question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to read and write our own genetic information? Incorporating his own family history of mental illness into his narrative, he evokes questions that surround our ability to convert the genetics form the laboratory to the real world. Describing centuries of research and experimentation, from Aristotle and Pythagoras through the 21st century innovators who mapped the human genome, this book is a must-read for anybody concerned about the definition and future of humanity.

Mukherjee’s preceding book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, was named one of the 100 most influential books written in the English language since 1923 by Time magazine and is a captivating view into the origins and causes of cancer. The New Yorker says of Mukherjee’s first book, “It’s hard to think of many books for a general audience that have rendered any area of modern science and technology with such intelligence, accessibility and compassion…An extraordinary achievement.” Winning him a Pulitzer Prize and many other literary awards, this novel was written over ten years and was made into a PBS documentary by Ken Burns. It spans from the first known source of cancer on an Egyptian scroll to the present-day battles to overcome it, touching on the intelligence, persistence and fortuitous discoveries that made scientific history and leading to a revolutionary understanding of cancer’s nature.

A leading cancer physician and researcher, Mukherjee graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Medical School. He was a Fellow at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and an attending physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, with published articles in Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, Neuron, Journal of Clinical Investigation, The New York Times and The New Republic. Currently, he is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician at the CU/NYU Presbyterian Hospital.

During his lecture, Mukherjee will combine material from both books and inspect the past and future suggestions of cancer and of the gene with both a biologist’s accuracy and a historian’s point of view. Guests will be touched by Mukherjee’s review about his own maturity as a physician, most notably his caring and compassionate consideration of his patients as they fight through poisonous and exhausting procedures to battle a relentless illness that fully encircles their lives.

For tickets and more information, call 805/893-3535 or visit

—Kathryn Shim


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