The Philadelphia Chromosome

May 13th, 2013

Someday, perhaps 20 or 30 years from now, or maybe even sooner, we will look back at the way we treat most cancers today and be shocked at the barbarism of it all. The surgery, the killer chemicals of chemo, all will be looked at the way we view the leaching of the middle ages.

At the forefront of this transition is a discovery made in 1959. A chromosomal mutation dubbed the Philadelphia Chromosome, that caused a deadly form of leukemia. Ultimately a drug would be developed that stopped the cancer at it’s source.

Science journalist Jessica Wapner has written The Philadelphia Chromosome: A Mutant Gene and the Quest to Cure Cancer at the Genetic Level.  It is both the story of 50 years of the march of science on cancer and also a mystery thriller that lifts the veil on how drugs get developed and make it to the marketplace. My conversation with Jessica Wapner: