Aug 19, 2010

Henrietta's Tumor

We end with the extraordinary story of Henrietta Lacks. Though she died of cervical cancer in 1951, she unknowingly held the key to unlocking medical advancements (from polio vaccines to chemotherapy drugs) in her tumor cells. After taking a biopsy of Henrietta's cervical cancer, researcher Dr. George Gey and his lab assistant Mary Kubicek, discovered that Henrietta's cells could not only reproduce, but THRIVE outside the body--a breakthrough that would change modern medicine. Later, Dr. Stanley Gartler found that Henrietta's cells were even capable of jumping out of the petri dish and colonizing other cell strains. Now, decades after Henrietta's death, her cells are still alive.

But who was the long-obscured woman behind these famous cells? And how did Henrietta's family feel when they learned that part of their mother was still alive? Writer Rebecca Skloot takes us on a journey into Henrietta's world, with Henrietta's daughter Deborah as the guide.

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