Diving Deeper into Clinical Research: Recommended Reading for Research Staff

Meghan Hosely
November 21st, 2019

In the clinical research industry, the variety of topics to know about are endless – and, at times, can seem overwhelming. While it’s important to stay up-to-date in the latest patient recruitment techniques, or running an efficient clinical trial management system (CTMS), it’s also equally as important to know and understand key historical moments surrounding clinical research.

The reading list below includes books you may be familiar with, and possibly new reads to dig into. Familiarizing yourself with the history of clinical research can help you understand many of the policies and procedures in place today.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

“Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out ‘war against cancer.’ The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.”

Simon & Schuster

Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz

“Eva Mozes Kor was 10 years old when she arrived in Auschwitz.

While her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, she and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man known as the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele. Mengele’s twins were granted the ‘privileges’ of keeping their own clothes and hair, but they were also subjected to sadistic medical experiments and forced to fight daily for their own survival, as most of the twins died as a result of the experiments or from the disease and hunger pervasive in the camp. In a narrative told with emotion and restraint, readers will learn of a child’s endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil.”

Tanglewood Books

The Next Pandemic: On the Front Lines Against Humankind’s Gravest Dangers

“To Dr. Ali Khan, the 2014 Ebola scare was simply another example of public paranoia about infectious disease; he has been on the front lines of each one – and many we didn’t hear about – over the last 25 years. During the 1995 Ebola outbreak in Zaire, Khan found patient zero; he traveled to Washington, DC, in 2001 as a first responder in the anthrax crisis; and went to southeast Asia to treat patients of SARS. The University of Nebraska Medical Center, where Khan is now Dean of Public Health, is one of four biohazard containment units in the United States; four Ebola patients were treated there in 2014.

In his riveting book, Khan tells the dramatic stories of these crises – as well as the stories we don’t know – of congo-crimean hemorrhagic fever infecting abbatoirs in the United Arab Emirates, as cigarette-smoking local doctors rushed to the scene, for instance; or of being shot at by militias in the African bush while trying to treat monkeypox.

The book’s message is every bit as urgent as his stories: we are focused on the wrong problems. Khan reminds us that the danger of an outbreak – more real than ever in the age of climate change and global travel – is not a matter of which disease is the most deadly or violent. Instead, he urges readers to spread good information and practice essential habits.”

PublicAffairs Books

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked in the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells – taken without her knowledge – became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first ‘immortal’ human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons – as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the ‘colored’ wards of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia – a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo – to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren struggle with the legacy of her cells.”

Penguin Random House

Have you read any of these books? Do you recommend any others for clinical research professionals? Let us know in the comments below.

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