Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Philadelphia Chromosome by Jessica Wapner


The Philadelphia Chromosome
by Jessica Wapner
narrated by Heather Henderson
HighBridge Audio, 2013
9 hours and 43 minutes
source: purchased

Publisher's Summary:
Almost daily, headlines announce newly discovered links between cancers and their genetic causes. Science journalist Jessica Wapner vividly relates the backstory behind those headlines, 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 diagnosed each year with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). It is an astonishing tale that will provide victims of other cancers and their loved ones realistic hope that cures may yet be found in their lifetimes.

The Philadelphia Chromosome  charts the milestones that led to present-day cancer treatment and tells the inspiring story of the dedicated men and women who, working individually and in concert, have sought to plum the mysteries of the human genome in order to conquer those deadly and most feared diseases called cancer.

My thoughts:

I loved this book... absolutely loved it!

Some of you know that in my previous life, I was a clinical pharmacist at a teaching hospital. We were involved in many drug trials, particularly for cancer and AIDS. This book brought back all the excitement, exhilaration, tedium, and frustration associated with those trials.

The Philadelphia Chromosome chronicles the research, discoveries, development, and clinical trials involved in bringing the revolutionary drug Gleevec to market. Gleevec represented a major breakthrough in the treatment of CML (chronic myelogenous leukemia) and basically transformed a death sentence into a more manageable disease.

Initially the book made my brain hurt. It brought back memories of organic chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry, and genetics. It jogged my mind to recall specific terms and principles I hadn't thought about in decades. But as soon as Wapner got to the medical part - hospital/patients/drug trials - I was in my element.

I am SO glad I listened to this book. The hard science at the beginning may have been too much for me in print, but once we got to the drug itself, the audio literally kept me up at night. {Go ahead, call me a nerd!} I can't even believe I'm saying a book like this was riveting, but it really was... especially in the second half as researchers/physicians were navigating the world of drug company politics and FDA protocols.

The Philadelphia Chromosome  will not be everyone's cup of tea, but I couldn't get enough.

My rating:


26 comments:

  1. Hm, it does sound interesting but I wonder if the whole book would be too technical for me.

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    1. Kathy - The science at the beginning was pretty technical. At first, I was wondering why I was even reading it;-)

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  2. In a former life I was geneticist -- so I bet I'd LOVE this too. Look at all that snow you have!

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    1. Beth F - I'll bet this would appeal to you!

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  3. This does sound heavy on the science. I can see how you would love it though. New breakthroughs in Cancer research are exciting and encouraging.

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    1. Pat - Definitely heavy on the science, especially in the beginning, but so interesting!

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  4. This sounds fascinating! I have a feeling that I would struggle with the heavy science at the beginning (chemistry and I were not friends in college) but I'm glad to know if I keep pushing it will be worth it.

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    1. Katherine - I was definitely rewarded by sticking with it!

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  5. Weren't you a pharmacist in another life? LOL

    I get the same way when people start talking about tax law or doing their income tax. I need to join in. ;-)

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    1. Kay - You just never really leave that former life behind, do you? ;-)

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  6. I think I would love this. - thanks for featuring it!

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  7. I've always been interested in forensic science, and this sounds fascinating as well. Glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. Vicki - I think forensic science is really interesting, too. It was fascinating to see the path a scientific discovery takes to become an important therapeutic advance!

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  8. I managed a hospital based Pulmonary practice for 22 years. I could relate to your review about your brain being tired. I will pass on this book. I don't like to read any medical books or watch medical dramas. I had enough of that at work. We did participate in a couple of drug studies in particular a Sepsis one as we managed the ICU. It was good to know we could help someone. Your review was well written. I struggled to read The Imortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

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    1. Lorraine - After 22 years, I'm sure you've experienced enough medical drama, LOL! I really enjoyed the audio version of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, too :)

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  9. Great review.

    I love well written science books and this sounds like something that I would like.

    In terms of books that contain difficult science: I try hard to understand it. If I do not really get it I try to grasp the basic concepts and then move on.

    I may try to read this one this year.

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    1. Brian Joseph - Thanks. I think your approach to hard science is a good one... most of the time, you can get the gist without fully understanding the finer details.

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  10. Wow! You really did love that book! Your excitement is contagious but...it's a science book? Heeheehee!

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    1. Patty - Yes, it's a science book... consider yourself forewarned ;-)

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  11. Good for you JoAnn. It's nice to find a book that makes one feel in their element. I hadn't heard of this book but it sounds very informational. I'm curious about Gleevec which I didn't know about; wow it sounds like a wonder drug.

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    1. Thecuecard - This book definitely brought back 'the old days', but it's so well written and interesting that I think anyone with even a vague interest in the topic would appreciate it. I sure did!

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  12. This would be something that is probably over my head. But what excited me was your appreciation for the book and subject matter. There is something else too that I appreciate and it's the great work on drug trials. My sister was involved in one as a patient. Before she died she was given some drugs which she she had to keep a journal about dosage, times taken, how she felt, etc. Then she would get her bloodwork done and examined to see how those combo of drugs were reacting.

    This sounds cold but, my sister was going to die and both she and the physicians knew that, so she wanted to be the Guinea pig (her words) in hopes a cure could be found. I still remember those journals. Medical advancements are amazing. My mom had cancer in the 50's, me in the 80's and again in 2000, and the doctors always said the advancements are like comparing dark ages (my mom's treatment) to what I was offered. Ok, probably too much info but I wanted to say your profession is VERY much appreciated.

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    1. Tina - Such an interesting comment! I'm always surprised by how many patients feel the same as your sister did, but all the advances can't occur without people with those attitudes. Medical advances (in every field) are fascinating to me and I am in awe of both researchers and practitioners. I most definitely would have died of pregnancy complications if I'd been having children in the 60s instead of 25 years ago!

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  13. I know the beginning of this book will be way over my non-scientific head, but I so enjoyed reading your review. I'm heartened knowing that so many advances are taking place. Too many friends and family members have been lost to cancer even as we cling to the hope of a cure. It sounds like progress is indeed being made. Thanks for sharing the good news. Have a wonderful trip to Florida.

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    1. Margot - You know, the beginning of the book was practically over my head and I even worked in a semi-related field! Still, I found the whole thing interesting enough to push though but doubt I could have done it in print. The advances in cancer care in just the last 15 or 20 years are amazing,

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