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Edited by Ross Pinkerton, Piers N Plowman, Rob Pieters. London: Arnold, 2004, £145.00 (hardback), pp 728. ISBN 034080775
The first thing that struck me as a newcomer to this 3rd edition of Paediatric oncology is the heavy alliteration of title and editors. The next was that is exactly the book I have been looking for—both to have with me in the clinic and on the ward, and to dip into at night. It is a good size: heavy enough to promise sufficiently detailed information as to be of real use; and yet light enough to be carried in the hand. The paper is pleasingly thick, so that the print is easily legible, and both the black and white photographs and the colour plates are very clear. As a haematologist, I could have wished for a little more morphology, but overall the balance between picture and print is good. The layout makes the chapters readable, and even the sections which looked rather daunting with prose running in unbroken paragraphs over several columns were in practice simple to read.
The content is broken up into five parts: Scientific and diagnostic principles; Diagnosis and management of individual cancers; Advances in therapy: megatherapy; Advances in therapy: targeted therapy; and Late effects and supportive care. Each part is then divided into appropriate chapters. I particularly liked the use of boxes at the end of each chapter to recap key points. The reference lists are extensive and helpful in pointing to significant papers.
The text and the references have all been updated, and, given the length of time needed to get such a tome to press, are reasonably current. The list of contributors represents recognised experts in the various fields, and is drawn predominantly from the United Kingdom, making this a very relevant book for clinical practice here. However, I found the main chapter on acute leukaemia a little disappointing. I felt the discussion rather overlooked the UKALL trials, concentrating instead on other protocols, and in particular the ALL-BFM trials—reflecting the author’s own experience. This is, of course, relevant and of interest; but, given that this is the most common childhood malignancy, and that this book is presumably aimed predominantly at a British audience, seemed to be a significant weakness.
This book is already a standard on the shelf of paediatric oncologists and haematologists. Would I recommend it for a general paediatrician or a haematologist working in a district general hospital? Yes, definitely. Is it worth upgrading from the last edition? Again, yes—for two reasons: firstly, this is a rapidly changing field, and the old edition is now out of date; and secondly, the quality of this edition, especially the photographs, makes it a delight to read.
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