Wistar Welcomes Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author

Wistar Welcomes Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author

Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The long-running Wistar Authors Series is no stranger to hosting award-winning science and medical writers, but the Institute’s latest guest set a standard that might be difficult to top. 

This spring, the Institute welcomed Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, at Mukherjee’s first public lecture after it was announced that the book had won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Mukherjee is a practicing cancer physician and an active researcher on the relationship between cancer cells and stem cells, with appointments on the faculty of Columbia University Medical School and the staff of Columbia University Medical Center. 

Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., speaking at WistarHe apologized at the beginning of his talk for being (understandably) sleep deprived, given his burden of responsibilities and, now, fame. “The phones started ringing at five in the morning, [they] began early,” Mukherjee said. “So I’ve been giving interviews from five to seven, taken my daughter to school and then trying to get to the laboratory and get my life in order.”  

Mukherjee described how the book evolved from his personal journal, begun as a postdoctoral fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “As physicians, we are not really told the story of cancer. You can go to the bookstore and buy a book on cancer — and there are thousands of them — and yet none of them contained the story I was looking for about cancer from its birth to its contemporary manifestation,” said Mukherjee, “and the central [theme] behind all of it, which is the lives of patients.”

“Who were these people who soldiered through not just one kind of therapy, but several? Who put themselves up for the first clinical trials and at what cost? My attempt was trying to get to that story,” Mukherjee explained. 

Following his talk, Mukherjee took part in a panel discussion with scientists Dario Altieri, M.D., director of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center; Meenhard Herlyn, D.V.M., D.Sc., director of The Wistar Institute Melanoma Research Center; and Bin Chen, Ph.D., of the University of the Sciences.