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The sixth edition of Russell and Rubinstein's Pathology of Tumours of The Nervous System has appeared in 1998, 39 years after the first edition. For the first time it is divided into two volumes, which together contain nearly 1400 pages. It is now edited by three North American pathologists who have assembled a team of 30 authors, most of them also from North America but with a few from elsewhere. By contrast with the highly individual stamp imparted by Lucien Rubinstein on the previous few editions, we now have a book in which most of the 23 chapters are multiauthored. The result is a book that bears virtually no resemblance to its preceding editions despite the full quotation in the preface from the memorial tribute to Lucien Rubinstein and the inclusion of some figures from previous editions.
The first volume deals mainly with general aspects of the biology of nervous system tumours—their epidemiology, the factors that are known to influence their growth, invasion, and metastasis and the numerous relevant experimental studies of neurocarcinogenesis. These chapters are a very useful source of information and are, like the rest of the book, very thoroughly referenced at least up to 1996. A tremendous body of data has been assembled now on experimental aspects of nervous system tumours and these are well covered in the early chapters of the book. The first volume also contains chapters on cellular immunology and immunohistochemistry and the first chapter on pathological anatomy of tumours of central neuroepithelial origin. This chapter alone occupies more than 200 pages and has well over 1000 references. Volume 2 contains chapters covering all the other tumour types encountered in the central and peripheral nervous system and in the pituitary gland in a similarly comprehensive fashion, as well as chapters on the effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and on cerebrospinal fluid cytology, flow cytometry, and DNA ploidy.
Thus, the book represents a formidable effort in assembling a vast amount of information. For whom is it intended and how useful will it be to its users? The intended readership is not clearly spelt out by the editors but at its core must be the clinical neuropathologists charged with reaching pathological diagnoses in individual cases. For them there is undoubtedly a wealth of relevant information available but I do wonder if some of it may be hard to find because of the additional detail, not as yet translatable into clinical diagnostic relevance.
Illustrations are of great importance to diagnostic neuropathologists. As you might expect there is a wealth of macroscopic and microscopic images, many of them in colour. There are also a large number of radiological and MR images, and electron micrographs. Most of the illustrations are excellent but some have not printed well and have a muddy appearance or an intrusive grid-like overlay, perhaps reflecting a video image source. The book is generally well put together. Typographical errors are few. Both volumes sensibly have a full index. It is less easy to understand why they both need the preface. The running heads are not always quite as helpful as they might be—the same one is used for chapters 2, 3, and 4.
Overall, this book is an essential reference text for clinical neuropathologists and it will be of considerable use to neurosurgeons and tumour biologists interested in nervous system tumours. But for this reader it is not updated Russell and Rubinstein but something else altogether!
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