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Wafik S. El-Deiry, editor. Humana Press: Totowa, New Jersey. 2003. Vol. 6; 504 pp. $135 0-89603-986-2; Vol. 6; , 657 pp. $145 0-89603-987-0.
Tumor suppressor genes can no longer be viewed simply as targets for mutations that cause rare, inherited cancer syndromes. They control signal transduction pathways that mediate every process in cell biology. Moreover, cell signaling pathways are not simple, linear circuits but rather are vastly complex communication networks. For this reason, cancer biologists find themselves increasingly challenged to expand their knowledge about cell signal transduction to molecules outside their familiar model systems. This two-volume work, Tumor Suppressor Genes, edited by Wafik S. El-Deiry, is a timely core reference for cancer biologists who want to explore a new avenue of research. Dr. El-Deiry has brought together an impressive panel of the world’s leading authorities on tumor suppressor genes to create this informative text.
Volume 1 (Pathways and Isolation Strategies) is divided into 2 parts, Part I, Known Tumor Suppressor Genes and Pathways, and Part II, Identification of Tumor Suppressor Genes. Part I provides critical, up-to-date reviews of known tumor suppressor genes and the signaling pathways they govern. The rapid pace of discovery in cancer genetics will, of course, make these reviews outdated soon after publication. Nevertheless, the broad concepts outlined for each signaling pathway and the molecular components involved provide intellectual scaffolds upon which readers can build more advanced concepts by adding new data in the future. The readability of Part I is enhanced by the fact that the individual chapters are not recitations of the authors’ personal research but rather are compendia of major advances and fundamental concepts for each tumor suppressor. Part II provides detailed laboratory protocols that have been used to identify tumor suppressor genes. These protocols are not merely of historical interest but are state-of-the art methods for identifying novel tumor suppressors.
Volume 2 (Regulation, Function, and Medicinal Applications) is also divided into two parts, Part I, Understanding the Function and Regulation of Tumor Suppressor Genes, and Part II, Medicinal Applications of Tumor Suppressors. The chapters in Part I provide experimental strategies and detailed laboratory protocols for the molecular biologist who, having identified a tumor suppressor gene after a protracted gene discovery project, faces the challenge of understanding the biochemical function of the encoded protein. Having reached this crucial juncture, geneticists often find it necessary to acquire new research skills and tools. Part I comprises a valuable resource guide to redirect their efforts. Part II of Volume 2 offers the reader an exciting view into the future of experimental therapeutics and drug discovery. The authors outline strategies for mining the human genome database to identify novel targets for anticancer drugs and to predict patient-to-patient variation in disease susceptibility and drug sensitivity. One chapter is a fascinating discussion about modern drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry and how combinatorial chemistry is integrated with structure-based drug design in this process. Other chapters describe how the various cell processes regulated by tumor suppressor genes (apoptosis, angiogenesis, differentiation) may be exploited to develop new methods of treating cancer.
This book will appeal to laboratory professionals who are actively involved in cancer research and who want to expand their repertoire of molecular methods. On the other hand, the detailed experimental protocols detract from the book’s appeal for beginning graduate students or medical students seeking an introduction to the role of tumor suppressor genes in cancer. Medical oncologists will not find this work of practical value in treating patients, but they will be enlightened about how the accelerated pace of drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry is bringing more drugs into clinical trials. The book is well organized, with the broad overviews of signaling pathways compartmentalized from the detailed laboratory protocols. This organizational scheme makes it possible for goal-oriented readers to extract the desired information quickly and easily. The bibliography is a complete and accurate compilation of literature references covering an enormous body of scientific investigation. In achieving the ambitious goal of writing a comprehensive textbook of such broad scope, El-Deiry has not generated a ponderous tome but rather created a practical research reference that concludes with a glimpse into the promising future of cancer therapeutics.