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Brain tumors: an encyclopedic approach, 2nd edn
  1. Ian Whittle

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    Edited by Andrew H Kaye and Edward Laws Jr (Pp 1052, £175). Published by Harcourt Publishers Ltd, London, 2001. ISBN 0-4430-4261

    This is the second edition of the highly acclaimed textbook on tumours of the central nervous system written by a constellation of mainly North American and Australian neuroclinicians. In the five years between editions there have been many advances in molecular and genetic understanding of brain tumours, results from experimental and clinical trials, and major innovations in the technology used in operative neurosurgery. Unfortunately, as many of the contributing authors point out, the prognosis for many intracranial tumours remains bleak. Critical analysis of many papers shows continuing uncertainty as to the best management of many tumours. There remains, however, the seductive hope that genetic analysis of tumours may assist in more logical management in the future.

    The strength of this textbook is its logical and multidisciplinary approach to intracranial tumours. Tumour biology, diagnosis, and therapy are comprehensively recounted. This does cause some repetition of detail but it is not too intrusive. Each of the chapters in the first section on basic principles builds a foundation for reading of the second section that comprises separate analysis of each of the main intracranial tumours by World Health Organization subtype. Indeed, it is in the areas of molecular and cellular tumour biology that the explosion in knowledge has occurred. The sections on neurogenetics, molecular biology, immunology, and gene therapy will contribute hugely to continuing professional development in established neuroclinicians as well as those in training. It is also a source from which to direct further reading. Most chapters describing treatment are prudently critical of previous studies that have not been randomised controlled trials and relate the many ongoing dilemmas and difficulties in the clinical management of many tumour types.

    Refreshingly, most of the chapters are free of dogma and dictactes about brain tumours. The reader perceives that neuro-oncology is coming of age as a scientific discipline, that it has a particular dynamism and momentum, and that the contents of many sections of this edition will require substantial revision by the time a further edition is published in some years. This dynamism is particularly apparent in the basic principles section and contrasts with the relative lack of progress in terms of translating scientific advances into more effective treatments. Hopefully, by the time the next edition is due many of the therapeutic difficulties now facing neuroclinicians in their day to day work will have evidence based solutions. The editors are to be congratulated for transforming their continuing enthusiasm in neuro-oncology into a stimulating, and well written and illustrated encyclopaedia. I can only add to the many accolades that reviewers for other journals have already bestowed upon this edition.

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