Book Reviews

Multiple Myeloma

Multiple Myeloma Survivor and Advocate Shares 12-Step Program: How Not to Die of Cancer

Ronald Piana  /  June 10, 2024

Facing mortality can be a paralyzing experience for some people, but for others, it may ignite a passion to accelerate life. One such person is Kathy Giusti, cofounder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), where she served as Chief Executive Officer and President for nearly 20 years. I...

Issues in Oncology

A Near-Future Look at Medicine When AI Has a Mind of Its Own

Ronald Piana  /  September 10, 2023

“Dr. Hope Kestrel was the only person who knew the patient in Room 132 wasn’t responding to the algorithm-selected treatment. She shuffled forward in the hospital security line, wanting to ger her day started already yet dreading how she’d tell her patient the unexpected and devastating news.” So be...

Hematologic Malignancies

New Updated Edition of a Classic in Hematology Literature

Ronald Piana  /  September 10, 2023

Hematologic malignancies make about 10% of all cancer types in the United States, and the multidisciplinary care of these malignancies has evolved rapidly over the past 20 years. In fact, death rates across all blood cancers have been reduced, and once rapidly fatal diseases such as chronic myeloid ...


Homage to a Giant in Hematology: The Fascinating Story of the Quest to Cure Leukemia

Ronald Piana  /  April 25, 2023

Bone marrow transplantation in leukemia is one of the great success stories in the history of oncology, as is that of the late Nobel Laureate E. Donnall Thomas, MD, the pioneering clinical researcher whose name is synonymous with life-saving marrow transplantation. Dr. Thomas, who was born in the su...

A Pioneering Oncologist, a Pilot, and a Choral Singer, Among Other Things

Ronald Piana  /  March 25, 2023

“There is and always has been, more to me than medicine. Ever since the university, I have loved flying. Ever since school, I have adored choral singing,” writes John F. Smyth, MD, in his memoir Taming the Beast: Memoirs of a Pioneering Cancer Physician. Dr. Smyth is Emeritus Professor of Medical On...

How Do You Move Forward With a Life You Didn’t Choose After a Cancer Diagnosis?

Ronald Piana  /  December 25, 2022

“I was in bed in the surgical wing of Duke University Hospital when the doctor popped his head in and smiled apologetically before flicking on the fluorescent lights. It was 4:00 AM, the end of my second night in the hospital, but nobody sleeps in the conventional sense,” writes Kate Bowler in the o...

Heartbreak and a Second Chance at Love and Life

Ronald Piana  /  December 10, 2022

“I knew my husband was dying in June. He’d been living with a terminal diagnosis for 6 years, but suddenly his cancer turned aggressive…. The last time we saw the oncologist, he sent us home with a DNR order and told me to put it on the refrigerator, because that’s where the EMTs look,” writes Delia...

An Oncologist and His Patient With Cancer Look at the Intimate Experience of Life and Death

Ronald Piana  /  August 25, 2022

"This e-mail is different from my usual. No smiley faces or funny cartoons, for I have moved on to another location…. My place in the long line of life has suddenly been jumped up to the head of the queue, and now I have a boarding pass,” notes Harry, a patient with end-stage lung cancer who has com...

An Oncology Nurse Becomes a Cancer Survivor

Ronald Piana  /  August 10, 2022

In 2016, Theresa Brown, RN, wrote The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives, a vivid real-time description of an oncology nurse’s standard 12-hour shift on a hospital cancer ward. It was an excellent book, which was reviewed on these pages and highly recommended for readers of The ASC...

Solid Tumors

An Emergency Room Physician Offers Hands-on Perspective for Treating Patients With Cancer

Ronald Piana  /  May 25, 2022

According to research in the literature, adults with cancer generate high rates of emergency department visits, leading to hospitalization roughly 60% of the time—nearly four times the rate of the general population. Although many of these visits could be prevented, this phenomenon offers numerable ...

A Second Edition Adds New Value to Personalized Medicine

Ronald Piana  /  May 25, 2022

Since the publication of the first draft of the human genome, genotyping and genomics have been integrated into standard clinical care for select cancers. But as precision medicine in oncology develops to comprise big data, proteomics, transcriptomics, molecular imaging, and more, there are numerous...


From Iran to Silicon Valley, a Cancer Survivor Shares Her Story

Ronald Piana  /  April 25, 2022

The Iranian revolution of 1979 transformed Iran from an absolute monarchy under Shah Mohammad Pahlavi to an Islamist republic under Ayatollah Khomeini. The author of a new book called The Magic of Normal, Maky Zanganeh, PhD, was born in Iran in 1970. As a young woman, she experienced the war in her ...

A Lifetime of Pioneering Biologic Research Leads to a New History of Evolution

Ronald Piana  /  April 10, 2022

Although The Social Conquest of Earth was published a decade ago, it is worth revisiting, because, as oncology luminary Harold Varmus, MD, stressed: “It is a tour de force that we ignore at our planet’s peril.” Its author, Edward O. Wilson, PhD, known as “the father of sociobiology,” died at the end...

A Guide for Patients With Breast Cancer, Their Families, and Their Oncologists

Ronald Piana  /  January 25, 2022

Writing a comprehensive book about breast cancer that is also concise and highly readable is no easy task. However, the authors of The Breast Cancer Book: A Trusted Guide for You and Your Loved Ones have done that and more by deftly communicating science and medical content for the lay public. Writt...

Pain Management

The High Price of Pain

Ronald Piana  /  December 10, 2021

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1999 to 2019, nearly 247,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids in the United States. According to the CDC, the problem can be broken into three waves. The first began with an increase in prescribing opioi...

Reclaiming a Complicated Genius Who Pursued Cancer With Single-Minded Fury

Ronald Piana  /  December 10, 2021

The Nobel Laureate Otto Warburg was regarded as one of the most significant biochemists of the 20th century, whose exhaustive research led to an understanding of cancer that remains significant to this day. Warburg was also one of the most despised figures in his homeland of Nazi Germany. As a Jewis...

Erudition and Assessment on the Longest War in the Modern Era

Ronald Piana  /  December 10, 2021

A little after noon on December 23, 1971, President Richard Nixon entered the White House state dining room. Before 137 esteemed guests from government, science, and industry, he signed the landmark National Cancer Act. It was, in short, a national commitment to conquer cancer. President Nixon would...

Glancing Back and Looking Forward in the Fight Against Cancer

Ronald Piana  /  October 10, 2021

“I vividly remember watching television with my older sister, Suzy, and marveling at President Nixon’s signing of the National Cancer Act in December 1971, and thinking ‘for me, this was like a man going to the moon,’” writes Nancy G. Brinker in the foreword to the recently published Centers of the ...

Supportive Care

A Guide to End-of-Life Care by a Veteran in Hospice

Ronald Piana  /  October 10, 2021

Given that death is a certain outcome in life, we seek the best way out as possible. What is a good death? According to Jeff Spiess, MD, author of the book Dying With Ease: A Compassionate Guide to Making Wiser End-of-Life Decisions, a good death is one in which pain and suffering are minimized and ...

Breathing Properly May Help You Live Longer

Ronald Piana  /  September 25, 2021

Every system in the body relies on oxygen. From cognition to digestion, effective breathing not only provides us with a greater sense of mental clarity, but it can also help us sleep better, digest food more efficiently, improve our body’s immune response, and reduce stress levels. According to Jame...

A Deadly Superbug Launches a Medical Life-and-Death Drama

Ronald Piana  /  September 25, 2021

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today. These highly resistant bacteria cause more than 750,000 deaths worldwide every year, a number that is predicted to rise dramatically. Although...


A Scientific Detective Tale With Consequences for the Future of Our Species

Ronald Piana  /  September 10, 2021

With completion of the Human Genome Project, medicine hit a turning point that enabled scientists to approach genetic diseases like cancer with new tools such as disruptive technologies like CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) gene editing. Progress in this novel techn...

An Oncologist’s Prescription: Humanity and Love

Ronald Piana  /  September 10, 2021

Cancer care is one of the most technical and scientific of all medical disciplines. Oncologists must keep abreast of a dizzying array of novel treatment options coming out of the laboratory while delivering empathetic care for the physical and emotional needs of their patients with cancer. According...

The Compelling Story of Cystic Fibrosis and the Dawn of Precision Medicine

Ronald Piana  /  July 25, 2021

Woe to the child who tastes salty from a kiss on the brow” was a forbidding prophecy from Medieval Europe, presaging unknown disease. Today, we know that salty skin is a telltale sign of cystic fibrosis in children, a disease that eluded medical identification until 1938, when an American pathologis...


A Seasoned Journalist Seeking Answers Reports From the Front Lines of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ronald Piana  /  May 25, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic remains a global health issue, putting unprecedented stress on health-care systems, with important implications for cancer care. Although at this stage the data are fairly limited, we know that patients with cancer are far more vulnerable to worse outcomes, including a greater ...

Enduring Cancer and Its Treatment With Resilience and Humor

Ronald Piana  /  May 25, 2021

Most cancer memoirs have a similar thread: life suddenly interrupted by arguably the three most dreaded words in the English language, “You have cancer.” Readers anticipate the high-drama uncertainty leading to diagnosis, treatment, and hopefully survivorship, with multiple human storylines woven in...

A Gritty Journey Into a Rare Cancer and Back

Ronald Piana  /  October 25, 2020

Over the past decade, a prolific number of cancer memoirs have been published, and some have been award-winning bestsellers. When entering a crowded genre, it is best to have something that sets your story apart. Judith Dwyer Fugate did just that with a memoir about a rare tumor that has rarely if e...

Turning Confusion Into Clarity: Lessons Learned From Autism Spectrum Disorder

Ronald Piana  /  April 25, 2021

Autism spectrum disorder refers to a group of conditions characterized by difficulty in navigating normal social situations and having all-absorbing repetitive behaviors or stereotyped interests. At the milder end of the spectrum is Asperger’s syndrome, generally confined to people with higher funct...

Breast Cancer

An Oncologist and His Wife Share a Personal Cancer Story

Ronald Piana  /  April 10, 2021

Gastrointestinal oncologist John Marshall, MD, is well known for his candid observations about cancer treatment and research. In 2006, all the scientific intricacies and sociopolitical dramas of oncology coalesced in Dr. Marshall’s life when his 43-year-old wife, Liza, was diagnosed with breast canc...

It All Began With a Lump in the Throat

Ronald Piana  /  January 25, 2021

BOOKMARK Title: Milkshakes and Morphine: A Memoir of Love and LifeAuthor: Genevieve FoxPublisher: VintagePublication date: January 2019Price: $15.95, paperback, 384 pages “It doesn’t hurt, but I know it is there and I know it shouldn’t be. Interloper. I have touched it a couple of times already,...

Cancer Survivor Offers Roadmap for Managing the Turmoil of Diagnosis and Treatment

Ronald Piana  /  December 25, 2020

Although the field of psychosocial oncology had its roots in the 1970s, it wasn’t until 2007 that the Institute of Medicine acted on the growing data describing the impact of emotional well-being and physical recovery on quality of life, establishing guideline standards requiring that the psychosoci...

Facing Life’s Adversities, Even Cancer, From the Back of a Horse Named Buddy

Ronald Piana  /  December 10, 2020

“A bald eagle skims along the bluff where windblown Douglas firs, their exposed roots like talons, grip the eroding cliffs. Gulls circle and warn the bird of prey not to get too close. One hundred fifty feet below, the Salish Sea crashes and stretches west to the Pacific.” So begins Wild Ride Home: ...

An Emergency Room Physician Explores Her Own Healing Through a Life of Medical Service

Ronald Piana  /  November 10, 2020

Medical memoir dramas, especially those centered in the emergency room (ER), are often met with the anticipation of top-rated medical shows portrayed on TV, in which there is nonstop blood-and-guts action and sizzling tensions between shouting doctors and nurses. In her recently published memoir, Th...

A Doctor Shares His Rich Life in Medicine and Cancer Research

Ronald Piana  /  November 10, 2020

“What am I doing here? This question kept running through my mind as the incoming freshman medical students at the University of Chicago assembled for the first time.” The person asking the introspective question was Marvin Stone, fresh out of college, recently married to his wife, Jill, and now a n...

The Secret History of Cancer Chemotherapy

Ronald Piana  /  October 25, 2020

“The summons came in the middle of the night. He was awake at the first harsh jangle of the telephone…. Always a light sleeper, Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Francis Alexander attributed the trait to his father, an old-fashioned family practitioner whose response to every late-night distress call was t...

A Health-Care Journalist Explores Breast Cancer in America, Through the Lens of Her Own Diagnosis

Ronald Piana  /  August 10, 2020

Great strides in research and clinical practice have decreased breast cancer mortality rates by more than 35% since 1990, yet about 40,000 American women die of the disease each year. In Radical: The Science, Culture, and History of Breast Cancer in America, health-care journalist Kate Pickert write...

Cultivating Emotional Equanimity: Pause, Reflect, and Feel Meaning in Life, No Matter What

Ronald Piana  /  July 25, 2020

For many cultures that are addicted to the relentless quest to feel happy, perhaps as an unconscious attempt to bypass disavowed misery, grief is sort of a taboo, often pathologized and avoided by multiple means of denial. When we grieve, we’re told by well-meaning friends and relatives to “think po...

A Doctor Battles a Deadly Disease and Turns Hope Into Action

Ronald Piana  /  July 10, 2020

From his early days, David Fajgenbaum, MD, was an overachiever in academics and sports, funneling his relentless drive and laser-like focus into everything he did. He dreamed of becoming a quarterback at a division I school, which he achieved, garnering a full scholarship to Georgetown University, w...

Palliative Care

A Palliative Care Specialist Explores What It Means to Live and Die With Dignity and Purpose

Ronald Piana  /  July 10, 2020

Palliative care’s road to acceptance as standard-of-care practice has been a remarkably unsmooth one, given its core mission: improving the quality of life of patients and their families by relieving the pain, symptoms, and stress of a serious or life-limiting illness. A person’s relationship with m...

An Honored Poet Explores a Lust for Life on the Boundaries of Near Death

Ronald Piana  /  June 25, 2020

"When the technician leaves the room, I turn my head toward the screen to interpret neoplasms, the webs of nerves, the small lit fonts in which my pathology and/or future or future end might be written. The first tumor I ever saw was a darkness on that screen, round with a long craggy finger jutting...

Breast Cancer
Issues in Oncology

Comprehensive Overview of How to Start or Improve a Breast Cancer Unit on the Global Stage

Ronald Piana  /  June 10, 2020

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide. As populations age, the incidence of cancer inevitably increases—the World Health Organization has predicted a dramatic increase in global breast cancer cases during the next 15 years. Moreover, breast cancer is increasing in ...

The Story of Three Patients With Leukemia

Ronald Piana  /  May 25, 2020

The human drama within the oncology world is a never-ending story of triumph, tragedy, and all of the valiant efforts and human emotions in between. The doctor-patient relationship in oncology is deeper and longer than in most medical specialties due to the life-and-death stakes at play after a canc...

The Opioid Crisis as Told From the Streets to the Clinics and Its Unintended Consequences

Ronald Piana  /  March 25, 2020

The history of drug addictions and epidemics in the United States dates back to the Civil War, when morphine was introduced as a pain medication for wounded soldiers. Regular off-label use of morphine quickly spread from war hospitals to the general public. It is estimated that more than 400,000 Ame...

Attempt to Transform Venipuncture: A Brilliant Idea Made From Smoke and Mirrors

Ronald Piana  /  March 10, 2020

Venipuncture is the most commonly performed invasive procedure in hospitals daily. The risk of this procedure is nerve damage or an arterial nick. Of course, there are other possible issues, such as hematoma and injection-site infection. Then there’s dealing with caterwauling children and swooning a...

A Caregiver’s Tale of Struggle and Lingering Questions

Ronald Piana  /  January 25, 2020

The role of caregiver in the cancer scenario is complicated by various emotions and circumstances beyond the control of the caregiver and the person with cancer. Caregiver stress occurs when there isn’t the time to do all that’s asked or expected of one. Caregiver stress evolves into burnout when on...

A Deeper Understanding of the Miracle of the Human Body

Ronald Piana  /  January 25, 2020

Despite millennia of anatomic and biomedical search and discovery, there are parts and functions of the human body that remain a mystery. For years, medical students were taught that there are 78 organs in the human body. In February 2017, that number was revised, with the announcement of a new orga...

Issues in Oncology

The Rise and Fall of Tobacco Products in the United States

Ronald Piana  /  December 25, 2019

It was a press conference on a cold Saturday in January 1964 that had garnered international attention, but the trappings were those of a secret government meeting, behind locked doors secured by uniformed guards. To the chagrin of the reporters, “no smoking” signs had been hastily posted around the...

An Oncologist’s Thoughtful Examination of Cancer and Personal Loss

Ronald Piana  /  November 25, 2019

“I could not have written this book when I was 30 years old. It is not because of any great discoveries I have made or research papers I have published since. It is because of the experience the intervening decades have given me as I cared for thousands of cancer patients and accompanied many to the...

Not for the Squeamish: Surgery in the 19th Century

Ronald Piana  /  September 10, 2019

Imagine undergoing major surgery in a grimy operating room without any form of antisepsis. That was the grim reality in the 1800s, when the ruling theory was that damage from “bad air” was responsible for infections in surgical wounds. Hospitals simply aired out the surgical wards at midday to avoid...

A Vigorous Life Through the Prism of Impending Death

Ronald Piana  /  September 10, 2019

“Live while you’re living, friends,” writes Julie Yip-­Williams in her memoir, The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After. It was The New York Times bestseller when she died of stage IV colon cancer at the age of 42. She is the most recent of several debut...