Question: Learning About Cancer From The Ground Up...
gravatar for Ksg
8.9 years ago by
Ksg40 wrote:

Could someone list a set of textbooks (and order) one would read to go from little knowledge of bio (one class in high school and one in college) to being up to speed, for the most part, in the world of cancer research.

I'm interested in cancer research, but don't have the background (background in CS and math). But would like to try to self-teach myself the field over the next decade. Unfortunately, don't have a great idea of where to start, and don't want to do this inefficiently (if that can be avoided).


education cancer • 2.3k views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 8.8 years ago by Russh1.2k • written 8.9 years ago by Ksg40

It's too general and is not a bioinformatics/computational biology question, which is the focus of this site. You'll probably get better recommendations from Amazon reviews.

ADD REPLYlink written 8.9 years ago by Neilfws48k

I disagree that that this question is off-topic, although it is too broad. KSG says he's coming from a CS background. I think helping people who are doing bioinformatics get some pointers to know something about biology-- so they can apply it back to the bioinformatics they're doing-- is a good use of this site. He's not asking for details of a cell line protocol, after all. I'll take a swing at this when I get back from the airport. KSG, you could help by editing your question to clarify why exactly you're interested in cancer and how it relates to an interest in bioinformatics.

ADD REPLYlink written 8.9 years ago by David Quigley11k

Why was this closed?

ADD REPLYlink written 8.9 years ago by Ksg40

I really think this question is way too broad. There is no "textbook" to help you understand cancer because we barely understand the disease as it stands. There are so many different aspects of molecular biology associated with cancer that the answers to this question will be completely subjective. For example, there's single nucleotide variations, copy number variations, alternative splicing, gene expression, small RNA (ie. miRNA), lncRNA's, DNA methylation and histone modifications. Without having a defined a specific area of interest this question is useless.

ADD REPLYlink written 8.9 years ago by Gww2.7k

Furthermore, you really need to have a basic foundation in molecular biology / biochemistry / cell biology to really understand the cellular changes that result in tumorigenesis. I'd really focus on reading a few college level bio textbooks (or if you can pick up a few college level courses in night school). I can guarantee you that you won't regret it.

ADD REPLYlink written 8.9 years ago by Gww2.7k
gravatar for David Quigley
8.9 years ago by
David Quigley11k
San Francisco
David Quigley11k wrote:

As you get your feet wet with cancer research, you find out that it encompasses all of biology. I'll focus on genetics, because it's what I know something about and the deep relationship between quantitative genetics and statistics gives an obvious point of entrance for someone coming from a quantitative background.

Still, you need cell biology (and physiology, and pathology, and organic chem, but start with cell biology). I keep coming back to Molecular Biology of the Cell (Alberts et al), discovering every few years that the bits I had skimmed over last time turn out to be fundmental. Pay close attention to DNA itself, DNA replication and repair, the cell cycle, apoptosis, cell adhesion, innate immunity, and signal transduction (RAS and PI3K signaling particularly). Everything else is also important, but that gives you something to get started with. For elementary genetics, I liked An Introduction to Genetic Analysis (Griffiths et al) as a grad student coming to biology for the first time; read that whole book or the equivalent.

Introduction to the Cellular and Molecular Biology of Cancer, edited by Knowles and Selby, is a bit closer to the literature than MBoC, but it's very approachable for cancer biology. The chapters are written by experts in the areas, and you get both basic biology as well as clinical topics such as chemotherapy. If you absorb that book, you'll be competent to read well-written general review articles.

If you're focusing on Genetics, my next stop would be Nature Reviews: Genetics and Nature Reviews: Cancer. Their sets of articles on particular topics (look for the "Article Series" links) are quite good. Although there is more opinion in most reviews than a non-scientist might expect, the large reviews in NRG are usually comprehensive, well-illustrated, and authoritative. Pick a few topics to dive into, say susceptibility to sporadic cancers for a look at germline genetics and applications of next-generation sequencing approaches to sequencing tumors for somatic genetics, and start reading. Reviews in Nature and Science are also quite good (and usually have the major benefit of being shorter and more general), though they're much rarer. Reading reviews is harder than textbooks, because some reviews are actually quite focused, and you'll need some context in the field to know how general and objective a review really is. However, if you're serious, it won't be long before you put down textbooks.

For books on bioinformatics itself, I recommend the comprehensive lists posted by Khader and others in response to a request for books on bioionformatics

ADD COMMENTlink modified 8 months ago by RamRS27k • written 8.9 years ago by David Quigley11k

Hi David, this is much appreciated. I think this is exactly what I needed, and your background sounds similar to mine. Again, much appreciated.

ADD REPLYlink written 8.9 years ago by Ksg40
gravatar for Russh
8.9 years ago by
U. Liverpool
Russh1.2k wrote:

First thing you should read is 'One renegade cell'. It won't take you a decade. In fact Weinberg's undergrad textbook is also a pretty top notch intro to cancer biology.

ADD COMMENTlink written 8.9 years ago by Russh1.2k

Thanks Russ. This book and his text do look really interesting. I started reading Molecular Biology of the Cell yesterday, but may take a detour and read this book over the weekend, and then get back to MBotC next week!

ADD REPLYlink written 8.9 years ago by Ksg40
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