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A Great Plot From Science

The Making of Herceptin, a Revolutionary Treatment for Breast Cancer; by Robert Bazell; Random House; $23.95; 214 pages

November 23, 1998|SHARI ROAN

In the introduction to this narrative about the making of the new breast cancer drug Herceptin, geneticist Mary-Claire King observes that "good science makes a great yarn." That sums up the appeal of Robert Bazell's new book. Bazell, chief science correspondent for NBC News, proves himself a diligent reporter and entertaining writer in detailing the story of Herceptin.

He gives us an inside look at the egos, politics, economics and emotions that play a major role in science and biotechnology. A hero emerges in UCLA's Dr. Dennis Slamon, who perseveres in pushing for research on the HER2 / neu gene despite numerous obstacles. The story includes observations about the role of breast cancer activists in bringing Herceptin to market. And, perhaps the most valuable lesson (and the reason women with breast cancer should read the book) comes from patients who demonstrate how they must buck the system to obtain the best care.

The only downside to this book is that in chronicling the stories of women who have survived the longest on Herceptin, the overall outlook on the impact of the drug presented here may be too rosy. Herceptin extends life for a modest amount of time for some women and is revolutionary only for what it represents: a new approach to treating cancer.

THE JOURNAL OF GENDER-SPECIFIC MEDICINE

Published by MultiMedia

HealthCare / Freedom

Edited by Dr. Marianne J. Legato

Bimonthly; $9 per issue, $35 per year.

*

This medical journal is designed for health care professionals, but is also aiming to attract business, policy and lay readers interested in women's health issues and policy. Editor Dr. Marianne Legato of the Partnership for Women's Health at Columbia University views gender-specific medicine as the next step in women's health research. Although the journal will be devoted to topics of concern to women, it is also dedicated to understanding the differences between men and women. While the inaugural issue is lean on new data, it includes several good overview pieces on the state of gender-specific research, including a fascinating look at one theory on why women suffer more depression.

WORTH NOTING HOW YOU CAN SURVIVE WHEN THEY'RE DEPRESSED

by Anne Sheffield

Harmony Books

$24; 307 pages.

*

This book will greatly assist families who cope with a mentally ill member. The author is the daughter of a depressive and speaks from experience. There is a foreword by CBS newsman Mike Wallace, himself a depressive.

BODILY HARM: The Breakthrough Healing Program for Self-Injurers

by Karen Conterio and Wendy

Lader with Jennifer Kingson Bloom

Hyperion

$24.95; 319 pages

*

The phenomenon of cutting, or self-injury, is supplanting anorexia and bulimia as one of the most serious behavioral issues among young women. This book, by experts in the field, explains the phenomenon and offers a guide to treatment.

THE NEW SJOGREN'S SYNDROME HANDBOOK

Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation

Edited by Dr. Steven Carsons and Elaine K. Harris

Oxford

$25; 230 pages

*

This is the only handbook available for this little-known disorder that affects 2 million to 4 million Americans. The book describes the illness, treatment options and tips for daily living.

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