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Francis Ali-Osman Humana Press: Totowa, New Jersey. 2005 393 pp. $150.00 1-58829-042-5.
The last 20 years have witnessed a remarkable series of advances in our understanding of the mechanisms of oncogenesis, and they have directly led to new classes of cancer therapies. Brain cancer is no exception to this statement. New information from studies in cell biology, genetics, immunology, epidemiology, and radiobiology has generated a large number of new therapeutic opportunities for these particularly intractable tumors. This situation has created the need for well-written, timely reviews that address these new advances in the field. Several such texts are available. However, in their attempt to be comprehensive, they become somewhat encyclopedic, and they can be intimidating and overwhelming to investigators who are looking for a more concise and focused review. There has thus been an unmet need for a more user-friendly text in neuro-oncology that can satisfy both newcomers to the field as well as experienced investigators who are looking to fill a gap in their knowledge base.
Brain Tumors, edited by Francis Ali-Osman, satisfies this need, and does so admirably. Contributors to this monograph include leaders in brain tumor epidemiology, surgery, genetics, model development, immunobiology, radiobiology, experimental therapeutics, and clinical investigation. The book is divided into three parts that taken together address the three components of investigative neuro-oncology: basic scientific investigation in brain tumor biology, translational applications in preclinical models, and clinical investigations of patients who are afflicted with primary and secondary brain tumors. The first part reviews the epidemiology, biology, genetics, and pathobiology of brain tumors; the second discusses how these scientific disciplines provide us with insight into the mechanisms of tumor formation and progression; and the third concludes with chapters that apply this information in the context of new therapies. Genes associated with gliomagenesis are covered from both epidemiologic and molecular genetic points of view in the first two chapters of part I. The discussion of genetic abnormalities from these two perspectives provides a good foundation for appreciating subsequent chapters on glioma pathogenesis and on genetic modeling of gliomagenesis in rodent models. These in turn lead to subsequent chapters on neural precursor cells, the biology of primitive neuroectodermal tumors, and brain metastases. Part II focuses on mechanisms and pathways that produce brain tumor phenotypes and that serve as the basis for the translational approaches detailed further in part III. Chapters on the blood-brain barrier, immunology, tumor invasion, DNA damage and repair, and cell cycle regulation and apoptosis highlight the intense interest that these areas have received in recent years as potential guides to new therapies. While the reader will note that several concepts introduced in part I are repeated here, this repetition serves to place these concepts in the context of potential therapeutic applications discussed in part III. Thus, understanding the biology of the blood-brain barrier provides background for the discussion of drug delivery strategies. Likewise, the discussion of the genetic pathways that lead to glioma formation serves as a primer for the discussion in part III on rational drug design and targeted therapeutics.
Finally, part III brings the focus to the ultimate goal of investigative neuro-oncology—the development of new rational therapies based on the biology of brain tumors. The state of the art in radiation therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, drug design, and drug delivery is presented within the context of prior studies that have modified each of these approaches. New therapies, many of which are in clinical trial at the time of publication, are related directly back to the relevant basic and translational studies that are covered in parts I and II.
In recent years, the field of neuro-oncology has attracted talented investigators from diverse disciplines who have been interested in applying their skills in basic, translational, and clinical research to the problem of brain malignancies. Brain Tumors provides these newcomers to the field, as well as more experienced investigators, with an up-to-date and comprehensive review of neuro-oncology that is concise, yet thorough enough to provide a solid foundation for further investigations. As such, Brain Tumors should serve as a valuable guide for scientists and clinicians alike to the complex, challenging, and rapidly evolving field of neuro-oncology.