Boston: Indian American cancer specialist Siddhartha Mukherjee has won this year's Pulitzer prize in the general non-fiction category for his book 'The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer'. The Delhi-born doctor's book is a worldwide bestseller.

According to the Pulitzer citation, the book by the New York-based cancer physician and researcher is "an elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal, into the long history of an insidious disease that, despite treatment breakthroughs, still bedevils medical science".

The Pulitzer for general non-fiction is awarded to a "distinguished and appropriately documented book of nonfiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other category".

It carries a USD 10,000 award.

India-born Mukherjee is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Centre.

He graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School.

He has published articles in Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times and The New Republic.

In his book, 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".

An award-winning science writer, 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 5,000 years.

The "riveting, urgent and surprising" book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.

It is a profoundly humane "biography" of cancer — from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the 20th century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

"From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave cut off her malignant breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee's own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease," according to information on the book on Pulitzer's website.

The book provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments besides providing hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.

Couldn't believe he won Pulitzer: Mukherjee's mom

When Mukherjee called his mother at 1 AM on Tuesday to say he had won the Pulitzer, she thought he was pulling a fast one!

“It came as a complete surprise. Siddhartha called us at 1 and asked if we were awake. I said of course not - senior citizens don't stay up so late. Then he told me that he has won this prize and I just couldn't believe it,” Mukherjee's mother Chandana, who lives in Delhi, told a news agency.

A resident of Safdarjung Enclave, homemaker Chandana said they have been flooded with calls since early Tuesday after the news broke. “There have been a lot of calls.”

Asked if they would fly down to meet their son to celebrate the occasion, she said would go only in June.

“We had planned our vacation well in advance and have our tickets booked for June. So we are not advancing that. We will be going for a month or a month-and-a-half. Then the celebrations are going to happen with Siddhartha, his wife and the kids and his wife's family,” Chandana said.

Friends and relatives are pouring in to congratulate the proud parents.

Siddhartha's wife, Sarah Sze, is a sculptor. He has two daughters - Leela, aged five-and-a-half, and Arya, who is just over a year old.

“Leela is very shy and doesn't like to speak on the phone. But the family is obviously very excited,” the doting grandmother said.

Siddhartha's sister is married and settled in Dhaka.

Agencies