A Fatal Inheritance

A Fatal Inheritance: How a Family Misfortune Revealed a Deadly Medical Mystery

A Fatal Inheritance: How a Family Misfortune Revealed a Deadly Medical Mystery
By Lawrence Ingrassia

While I really enjoyed reading the book, this was not an easy book to read. To read about how, one by one, his siblings and some of their children died from various forms of cancer was very difficult. But as difficult as this book was to read, the author kept me engaged and wanting to read more. And I did, spending many hours past my bedtime reading about the saga of the discovery of Li–Fraumeni Syndrome.

Author Lawrence Ingrassia is a professional journalist and editor who worked for many prominent news organizations, specifically reporting on business. However, with three of his siblings having suffered from cancer with some of their children also dying from cancer, he wanted to know more about the disease that hunted his family.

The book starts off with author Ingrassia profiling his own family’s dreadful losses segueing into the work of Dr. Frederick P. Li and Dr. Joseph F. Fraumani Jr. who collected records from various sources to analyze the data to see if they could detect a pattern for the clusters of cancers they were seeing in families.

Finally, they were able to announce their results in their landmark paper titled “Rhabdomyosarcoma in Children: Epidemiologic Study and Identification of a Familial Cancer Syndrome,” published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. If you search for the article on your favorite search site, you’ll be able to find a copy to read. Their results definitively showed that there was a likely a genetic component to the clusters of cancers they witnessed in families.

While there is no cure for Li–Fraumani Syndrome, there are now ways to test to see if a person is carrying the gene that causes the syndrome, allowing both the patient and medical professionals to keep a constant vigilance.

As I mentioned, this is not an easy book to read but it is a totally fascinating one. Readers will get a solid understanding of how research is conducted, and the consequences of discovery, as not everyone potential carrier wants to know if they carry the gene. The book also has an extensive notes section that are well worth perusing.

This book would be of interest to anyone who is drawn to scientific discovery or the detection and management of cancer.

5/5 stars

[Thank you to NetGalley and the author for the advanced ebook copy in exchange for my honest and objective opinion which I have given here.]

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