Pan Mac aims for word-of-mouth immortality

<p>Pan Macmillan is looking to replicate the word-of-mouth success created in the US by a book about a woman who &rdquo;unknowingly altered medical history&rdquo;, when it launches in the UK in mid-June.</p><p><em>The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks</em>, by science writer Rebecca Skloot, spans science, ethics, race and history as it tells the story behind the woman immortalised through what are now known as HeLa cells. In the early 1950s, cervical cancer cells were taken from Lacks without her permission or her family&#39;s knowledge, and they did not discover the truth until more than 20 years later.</p><p>Lacks&#39; cells were essential in medical advancements such as developing the polio vaccine, progressing cures for cancer, viruses, and uncovering the effects of the atom bomb, as well as in-vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping. The book is to be the cover story of <em>Guardian&#39;s G2</em> supplement next week, and interviews will also appear in the <em>Times, Sunday Times, Independent, Nature</em> and <em>New Scientist,</em> with Skloot appearing on a number of radio shows including &rdquo;Start the Week&rdquo; and at the Cheltenham Science Festival.</p><p>In the US, the book became a massive success after Skloot arranged her own book tour when her US publisher said events were &rdquo;no longer value for money&rdquo;. It has been on the New York Times bestseller lists since February and it was recently confirmed that Oprah Winfrey was producing the film of the book, for HBO.</p><p>It launches in the UK on 18th June, as a hardback, priced &pound;18.99. Skloot is also the founder of The Henrietta Lacks Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides financial assistance in the form of scholarships and health insurance to Lacks&#39; descendants. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the foundation. </p>