The Philadelphia Chromosome

A Mutant Gene and the Quest to Cure Cancer at the Genetic Level


Almost daily, headlines announce newly discovered links between cancers and their genetic causes. The Philadelphia Chromosome relates the backstory—never before told at book length—behind many of those headlines. This epic journey unfolds over fifty years, encompassing the first glimpse of a genetic mutation, dubbed the Philadelphia chromosome, in 1959; its role in causing chronic myeloid leukemia (CML); and the development of Gleevec, a groundbreaking drug that made this once-fatal cancer treatable with a single daily pill.

Science journalist Jessica Wapner brings this story vividly to life—reconstructing the crucial breakthroughs, explaining the science behind them, and giving due to the dozens of researchers, doctors, and patients whose curiosity and determination restored the promise of a future to the more than 50,000 people worldwide who are diagnosed with CML each year. Chief among them is researcher and oncologist Dr. Brian Druker, whose dedication to his patients fueled his quest to do everything within his power to save them.

A turning point in our long and difficult history with cancer, The Philadelphia Chromosome is an inspiring story of what is possible when people, working alone and in concert, are driven to make sense of the unknown and improve the lives of others.

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