December 10, 2018

Preventing Chronic Disease

#32 – Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., Ph.D.: new frontiers in cancer therapy, medicine, and the writing process

“The fundamental rule that works for me is just to throw something at the world. The first line, the first experiment, the first idea, and then, keep at it.” —Siddhartha Mukherjee

Read Time 50 minutes

In this episode, Siddhartha Mukherjee, oncologist, researcher, and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, discusses his writing process, his thoughts about medicine, cancer, immunotherapy, and his recent collaboration on a study combining a ketogenic diet with a drug in mice that provided remarkable and encouraging results.


We discuss:

  • Sid’s background [5:00];
  • How Sid and Peter met [6:00];
  • Sid’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book: The Emperor of All Maladies [8:00];
  • Sid’s writing process: the tenets of writing [12:30];
  • Our struggle to find preventable, human, chemical carcinogens of substantial impact [23:30];
  • The three laws of medicine — Law #1: A strong intuition is much more powerful than a weak test [26:30];
  • Law #2 of medicine: “Normals” teach us rules; “outliers” teach us laws [32:00];
  • Law #3 of medicine: For every perfect medical experiment, there is a perfect human bias [35:00];
  • The excitement around immunotherapy [38:15];
  • The story of Gleevec [46:00];
  • How does the body’s metabolic state affect cancer? [49:30];
  • Can a nutritional state be exploited and/or a drug sensitivity be exploited through a nutritional intervention? [52:00];
  • How does Sid balance his family, writing, research, laboratory, and patients? [1:00:30]; and
  • More.

Featured image source: Nanotech Magazine



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Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., Ph.D.

Siddhartha Mukherjee is the author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction, and The Laws of Medicine. He is the editor of Best Science Writing 2013.

Siddhartha Mukherjee’s THE GENE: An Intimate History is his latest work – the story of the quest to decipher the master-code of instructions that makes and defines humans, that governs our form, function, and fate and determines the future of our children.

Mukherjee is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician and researcher. A Rhodes scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School. He has published articles in Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times, and Cell. He lives in New York with his wife and daughters.

Sid on Twitter: @DrSidMukherjee

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  1. I am an RN very interested in all aspects of most cancers, and I study a lot on my own. In a way, I view Cancer, cap “C,” a bit differently and wish we could de-fang it somewhat, and not give it this exalted place as, Dr M calls it, “the enemy.” I think we need to jump up, grab it by the tail, bring it down to earth, accept it, and learn about it, as opposed to necessarily being afraid of it. To me, that’s our work. We are not and certainly I am not there yet. That’s just my goal.

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