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The Philadelphia Chromosome —

A Genetic Mystery, a Lethal Cancer and the Improbable Invention of a Life-Saving Treatment

“This reporting takes in a huge swath of science and research, a landscape that changes dramatically over the course of her story. Wapner’s achievement is to help the reader understand why each development is huge in its time and place ... a scientific miracle absorbed into the daily lives of a group of patients no longer united by a fatal diagnosis.” 

— The Washington Post


“Jessica Wapner has done two kinds of hard work gracefully: the hard work of understanding cancer genetics and the hard work of rendering that subject into human narrative, lucid explanation, and metaphor. The Philadelphia Chromosome is not just an urgently useful book. It's also an elegant one, put together like a Swiss watch.”
— David Quammen, author


An absorbing, complex medical detective story.”
— Kirkus Reviews


“Among a small cluster of very good recent books on cancer.”
— The New York Times


“[T]he way Wapner repeatedly adds up preceding steps to build to the scientific breakthrough is masterful, making for compulsive, surprisingly emotional reading."
 —The Scientist


“Jessica Wapner stitches the whole story together with tenacity, diligence (and humor). This is a wonderful, readable, and highly informative book.”
— Siddhartha Mukherjee, author

about the book —


Philadelphia, 1959: A scientist scrutinizing a single human cell under a microscope detects a missing piece of DNA. That scientist, David Hungerford, had no way of knowing that he had stumbled upon the starting point of modern cancer research — the Philadelphia chromosome. It would take doctors and researchers around the world more than three decades to unravel the implications of this landmark discovery. In 1990, the Philadelphia chromosome was recognized as the sole cause of a deadly blood cancer, chronic myeloid leukemia, or CML. Cancer Research would never be the same. 

"The Philadelphia Chromosome" was published by The Experiment in 2013. 

watch —


Book TV, Recorded at Powell's Books, Portland, OR, June 2013


Cancer Conversations, Fox Chase Cancer Center, May 2013


Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., May 2013


And here is the book trailer.

appearances —


Past venues include the Decatur Book Festival, the World Science Festival, New Zealand's Otago University Genetics Week, Nova Southeastern University (Distinguished Speaker Series), American Cytogenetics Conference, New York Public Library, George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Free Library of Philadelphia, Powell's Books, Town Hall, Seattle, Harvard Bookstore, Fox Chase Cancer Center, and others. 


To inquire about a future speaking engagement, please click.



The Phliadelphia Chromosome is available through your local library, and can also be purchased online here: 


Amazon                        Powell's                        Barnes & Noble                       IndieBound

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