Author: Jessica Wapner, Robert A. Weinberg
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: This was a fascinating, easy-to-follow story of an awesome of scientific success.
For decades, the only way to treat cancer was with un-targeted therapies that had terrible side-effects. This is the story of the first cancer treatment that targeted the specific, genetic mechanism that caused a specific cancer – the Philadelphia chromosomal mutation that causes chronic myeloid leukemia. Like many scientific discoveries, the identification of this cancer treatment is a complex and intriguing story involving many lines of research. Despite the near-miraculous success of the resulting treatment, the story of the drug development that followed is equally convoluted.
As a scientist, I’m a huge fan of books that realistically portray scientific research and I thought this book did a particularly good job of showing what an incremental, collaborative venture science is. Throughout, I was impressed by how the author managed all of the different stories about all of the scientists involved. Despite the many storylines, I felt as though I got to know about many of the key players personally. Brief recaps at the beginning and endings of many chapters made this complex story easier to follow.
The science was also explained clearly. I thought the author made a very smart decision to include an appendix defining many basic terms. This allowed her to spend less time on explanations in the text. She did still have some great explanations though, with very clever analogies that achieved clarity without dumbing things down or losing any of the nuance. It was everything I look for in science nonfiction.
Do you have any favorite science nonfiction books you’d recommend?