"A Mutant Gene and the Quest to Cure Cancer at the Genetic Level"
On this edition of StudioTulsa on Health, Dr. John Henning Schumann, our guest host, speaks by phone with Jessica Wapner, a freelance science writer who's focused mainly on health care and medicine. Wapner's writing has appeared in Scientific American, Slate, The New York Times, theatlantic.com, Psychology Today, and other leading publications, and her new book --- her first --- is "The Philadelphia Chromosome: A Mutant Gene and the Quest to Cure Cancer at the Genetic Level." It tells the story of one David Hungerford, a scientist who --- in Philadelphia, in 1959 --- uncovered what would basically become known as the origin of modern cancer research: the so-called Philadelphia chromosome. Wapner's book, which often reads as much like a thriller as it does a work of medical history, then traces the full sequence of scientific and medical discoveries that brought about the first-ever successful treatment of a lethal cancer at the genetic level. As a reviewer noted of this volume in the pages of Nature: "A crucial link between genetics and cancer emerged in a U.S. lab in 1959, as researcher David Hungerford peered down a microscope at an abnormally small chromosome. In 1990, this 'Philadelphia chromosome' was found to cause the swiftly fatal chronic myeloid leukaemia. As science writer Jessica Wapner reveals in this taut, elegant study, a cascade of breakthroughs then led to success with the targeted drug Gleevec, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor --- and to hopes for the cancer-busting potential of rational drug design in general." And further, as was noted in Publishers Weekly: "In this meticulously detailed chronicle, science writer Wapner recaps the remarkable development of Gleevec, a cutting-edge drug capable of beating the typically fatal cancer of white blood cells known as chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).... Her gracefully written history skillfully combines both the science and humanity of this fascinating search for a cure for CML." (Also, you can visit the website for this book here.)