Philadelphia chromosome causes Abdul-Jabbar’s cancer

    Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announced this week he has a rare form of leukemia, abbreviated as CML.

    Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announced this week he has a rare form of leukemia, abbreviated as CML.

    The disease is caused by something called the Philadelphia chromosome. It was discovered almost 50 years ago by a graduate student at Fox Chase Cancer Center, and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Joe Testa is the co-director of the cancer genetics and signaling program at Fox Chase. He says the finding was one of the most important in cancer genetics at the time.

    Testa: You can imagine how these guys must have felt, the first time…here’s a graduate student, he’s just getting into science. The first time he saw this under the microscope, how he must have felt, my god! That’s a tiny chromosome! And then having another person with the same diagnosis and seeing it again. They must have been ecstatic.

    Fast forward several decades, and many more discoveries, and patients with CML now can live nearly normal lives with the development of the drug Gleevec.

    Fox Chase is planning a conference next year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the Philadelphia chromosome.

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