Pulitzer Prize-winning Author, Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, Lectures on the History of Cancer at Northwestern University

On May 1, 2012, nearly 600 guests from the Northwestern University and Evanston community gathered in the Ryan Family Auditorium to journey through the history of cancer with oncologist and Pulitzer-prize winning author, Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Mukherjee is well-known for ambitiously tackling the 4,000-year recorded history of cancer in his first book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. The book has been widely hailed by critics as an ambitious, important, and unique contribution to the history of the social and scientific responses to cancer.

Mukherjee regaled a captivated audience with vignettes from both his own work and those of historically significant characters of cancer research, illustrating the often surprising and seemingly antithetical origins of treatment and diagnosis. At times both humorous and weighty, Mukherjee’s talk highlighted the intricate nature of both cancer and its effect on patients’ lives. A lively Q&A session followed the talk.
Mukherjee is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center. In addition to the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction, “The Emperor of All Maladies” (Scribner, 2010) was named by The New York Times as one of the “10 Best Books of 2010.”
The free public lecture was offered by the Northwestern University Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (PS-OC) as part of an effort to enrich the intellectual life on campus and to engage the larger community in the discussion regarding the future of cancer research.
The PS-OC, one of 12 established nationwide by the National Cancer Institute in 2009, is a joint effort between the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. As Mukherjee’s book illustrates, many of the most important breakthroughs in cancer research have arisen from discoveries outside of the field of cancer research.
Brought together through the PS-OC, physical scientists and cancer biologists from across the University are focused on genes and their role in cancer. The unique perspective of physical scientists broadens the lens with which the PS-OC addresses most fundamental questions regarding the regulation of gene expression in normal health and development and in cancer. A better understanding of these mechanisms could lead to better diagnostics and therapeutics as well as open up new directions for research.