HUMAN TRIALS: Scientists, Investors, and Patients in the Quest for a Cure

Susan Quinn, Author . Perseus/Merloyd Lawrence $26 (295p) ISBN 978-0-7382-0182-5

This book is to experimental drug trials what Randy Shilts's And the Band Played On was to the AIDS epidemic. In resonant journalistic prose, Quinn (A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney; Marie Curie: A Life) manages to capture the day-by-day human drama of high-stakes drug testing on patients with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, everyday people who gamble with their lives to find a cure. Her case study of winner-take-all medicine is AutoImmune, a pharmaceutical company risking millions on one doctor's big idea, with a slim chance of exponential returns should a new drug be brought successfully to market. Quinn argues that failure is progress, in this field at least, where even crushing defeat can broaden understanding. This gives some idea of the extreme emotional highs and lows in this book. Quinn, whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and Atlantic Monthly, knows how to tell this story: from the lab and the conference room; over coffee in the kitchen of an MS patient's modest split-level; in the clinic waiting room on any given weekday. AutoImmune's big idea, called oral tolerance, is similar to the ancient idea that feeding a small bit of a poison can build tolerance to that poison. In this case, the idea is to build up immunity by administering small doses of myelin and collagen, the proteins attacked in MS and rheumatoid arthritis, respectively There are plenty of make-or-break moments in this book, made all the more poignant by Quinn's considerable talents as a biographer, which lend depth of character to the doctors and patients who grace these pages. (June 1)

Forecast:To draw national attention to Quinn's new book, Bloomberg News will be running a major article, including an interview with the author. Perseus has also scheduled author appearances at three key independent bookstores in the Boston area over the course of the summer. Good reviews and off-the-book-page coverage could generate respectable sales.

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-7382-0677-6
Hardcover - 978-0-201-31138-9
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