Home » Books » The End of Illness

The End of Illness


The End of Illness

The End of Illness, David B. Agus

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Perhaps my hopes were a little high for this book.  After all, if someone really had a recipe for avoiding illness into old age there’d probably be a little more fanfare.  Agus is a renowned oncologist and founder of a number of revolutionary medical companies, but rather than really advising you on illnesses he focuses more on your health and ways in which to maintain it into old age.  It was definitely an enlightening read, some of the fact-based studies on the uselessness of vitamin supplements – something which one of my favorite books In Defense of Food also points out – was educational.  And the discussion of how much of your genetic makeup is responsible for a host of debilitating disease was also quite startling, although I don’t know if I’m going to go getting my genetic predispositions screened anytime soon, as Agus suggests to do.  What was really disappointing for me, however, and definitely detracted from the positive aspects of the book, was the way in which Agus consistently self-promotes technologies and testing that his own companies offer.  By the end of the book I was quite tired of reading about the possibilities associated with the very nascent field of proteomics which – surprise, surprise – is the focus of one of Agus’ companies.  An educational and beneficial read, all the same.

Kirkus Reviews: Oncologist Agus (Medicine and Engineering/University of Southern California) predicts that the application of advanced technology for modeling complex systems will transform 21st-century medicine. The author writes that a remark Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann made to him in 2009—“Look at cancer as a system”—transformed the way he views his own specialty and the entire field of preventative medicine. It made him realize that “[r]ather than honoring the body as the exceedingly complex system that it is, we keep looking for the individual gene that has gone awry, or for the one ‘secret’ that can improve our health.” Agus writes that although the ability to sequence the entire human genome is a great step forward, it is insufficient for achieving a significant breakthrough. Even though it may start with a mutation, cancer “is a dynamic process that’s happening…far from the confines of a static piece of DNA”—it involves the body’s immune system, its ability to regulate cell growth, metabolism and more. Agus directs his university’s Center for Applied Molecular Medicine and is the co-founder of two personalized medicine companies, Applied Proteomics and Navigenics. His hope is that their research will contribute to developing better analytical tools for preventative medicine and for the treatment of cancers. These will address the functioning of the body as a whole, applying digital technology already used by physicists to provide virtual models of cancers and model the action of proteins that regulate cell communication in the body. He also hopes to develop tools that will provide information on the concentration of different proteins in a drop of blood taken from a patient, which may reveal the onset of disease. The author also includes some guiding principles and warnings about certain healthy practices that may not be so healthy. A refreshing change of pace in the medical field, but by venturing beyond his field of expertise to pontificate on a wide range of subjects, Agus makes his otherwise intriguing narrative difficult to follow.

The End of Illness  

Related Posts

About the author