cover image An Immense New Power to Heal: The Promise of Personalized Medicine

An Immense New Power to Heal: The Promise of Personalized Medicine

Lee Gutkind and Pagan Kennedy. Creative Nonfiction(PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-937163-06-8

The Human Genome Project, which surveyed the entire human hereditary structure, promised to usher in a revolutionary age of medicine. Armed with knowledge of their own genetic flaws, say Gutkind (Almost Human: Making Robots Think) and Kennedy (The First Man-Made Man, a study of two 1940s transsexuals), patients could make early, life-saving decisions and get more targeted treatments. But this troubling account finds that this promise hasn’t been realized because—thanks to the structure of our health-care system and the complex results genetic tests provide—most health-care providers don’t use genetic testing. The authors follow the stories of innovative patients and doctors, including Michael Saks, who wanted to know if his family history of pancreatic cancer meant the disease was his destiny; Steve Murphy, the “Gene Sherpa” who set out to be the first private practitioner of personalized medicine; and Nobel winner Leland Hartwell, who helped discover biomarkers that explained the mechanisms of cancer. Gutkind and Kennedy giddily trumpet the extraordinary possibilities of technology and information in preventing sickness. And they’re especially optimistic about the role of the Internet in giving patients access to life-saving information and to one another, since ultimately, they claim, it’ll be patients who’ll nudge doctors into the brave new world of personalized medicine. (May)