Sue Armstrong’s new book, p53: The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code, is a fascinating summary of the many people and discoveries which led to our modern knowledge about p53. The book goes into detail about the conceptual struggles and breakthroughs which occurred over a period of several decades. The path to our current understanding was not linear and still continues to be a challenge. The best part about these accounts is the spirit and language with which Armstrong writes. She transforms a subject heavy with biological jargon into a great tale accessible to anyone with a general understanding of biology and genetics.

The book mentions several possible paths for the future of cancer therapy. I think the most interesting are those of prevention and finding a molecular band-aide. The efforts at cancer prevention should really be encouraged and insurance companies should start requiring yearly screenings. If we can achieve rates of discovery around 50-75%, that is solving half the problem. A molecular approach to stabilizing the p53 mutant sounds, to me, like an optimal solution. For an example, see this paper. The discovery of molecules which could safely enter the body and stabilize the mutant p53 — making it behave normally — would be a discovery of a lifetime.