Cover image for The breakthrough : immunotherapy and the race to cure cancer
Title:
The breakthrough : immunotherapy and the race to cure cancer
ISBN:
9781455568505
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Twelve, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
302 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color), portraits ; 24 cm
Contents:
Patient 101006 JDS -- A simple idea -- Glimmers in the darkness -- Eureka, Texas -- The three E's -- Tempting fate -- The chimera -- After the gold rush -- It's time -- Appendix A: Types of immunotherapies now and upcoming -- Appendix B: The breakthrough, in brief -- Appendix C: A brief anecdotal history of disease, civilization, and the quest for immunity.
Summary:
"For decades, scientists have puzzled over one of medicine's most confounding mysteries: Why doesn't our immune system recognize and fight cancer the way it does other diseases, like the common cold? As it turns out, the answer to that question can be traced to a series of tricks that cancer has developed to turn off normal immune responses--tricks that scientists have only recently discovered and learned to defeat. The result is what many are calling cancer's "penicillin moment," a revolutionary discovery in our understanding of cancer and how to beat it. In THE BREAKTHROUGH, Graeber guides readers through the revolutionary scientific research bringing immunotherapy out of the realm of the miraculous and into the forefront of twenty-first-century medical science. As advances in the fields of cancer research and the human immune system continue to fuel a therapeutic arms race among biotech and pharmaceutical research centers around the world, the next step--harnessing the wealth of new information to create modern and more effective patient therapies--is unfolding at an unprecedented pace, rapidly redefining our relationship with this all-too-human disease. Groundbreaking, riveting, and expertly told, THE BREAKTHROUGH is the story of the game-changing scientific discoveries that unleash our natural ability to recognize and defeat cancer, as told through the experiences of the patients, physicians, and cancer immunotherapy researchers who are on the front lines. This is the incredible true story of the race to find a cure, a dispatch from the life-changing world of modern oncological science, and a brave new chapter in medical history"--Dust jacket.
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Book 616.994 Graeb
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Book 616.994 Graeb
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Book 616.994 Graeb
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Book 616.994 Graeb
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Summary

Summary

New York Times bestselling author Charles Graeber details the astonishing scientific discovery of the code to unleashing the human immune system to fight -- and possibly even cure -- cancer, in this "captivating and heartbreaking" ( The Wall Street Journal ) book, featuring interviews with 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine award-winners James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo.
For decades, scientists have puzzled over one of medicine's most confounding mysteries: Why doesn't our immune system recognize and fight cancer the way it does other diseases, like the common cold?
As it turns out, the answer to that question can be traced to a series of tricks that cancer has developed to turn off normal immune responses-tricks that scientists have only recently discovered and learned to defeat. The result is what many are calling cancer's "penicillin moment," a revolutionary discovery in our understanding of cancer and how to beat it.
In THE BREAKTHROUGH, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Nurse Charles Graeber guides readers through the revolutionary scientific research bringing immunotherapy out of the realm of the miraculous and into the forefront of twenty-first-century medical science. As advances in the fields of cancer research and the human immune system continue to fuel a therapeutic arms race among biotech and pharmaceutical research centers around the world, the next step-harnessing the wealth of new information to create modern and more effective patient therapies-is unfolding at an unprecedented pace, rapidly redefining our relationship with this all-too-human disease.
Groundbreaking, riveting, and expertly told, THE BREAKTHROUGH is the story of the game-changing scientific discoveries that unleash our natural ability to recognize and defeat cancer, as told through the experiences of the patients, physicians, and cancer immunotherapy researchers who are on the front lines. This is the incredible true story of the race to find a cure, a dispatch from the life-changing world of modern oncological science, and a brave new chapter in medical history.
"Engaging...In Mr. Graeber's hands, the evolution of immuno-oncology is both captivating and heartbreaking. We are immersed in the stories of the brave, desperate patients who try emerging therapies...We can't fail to see ourselves, our friends and our families in these stories." -- The Wall Street Journal


Author Notes

Charles Graeber is the Edgar Award-nominated, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Nurse . Winner of the Overseas Press Club award for outstanding international journalism, he has contributed to numerous publications, including Wired , GQ , The New Yorker , New York Magazine , Bloomberg Businessweek , and The New York Times . His work has been included in The Best American Science Writing , The Best American Crime Writing , and other anthologies. Born in Iowa, he's now based out of Brooklyn, NY.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Hype can be dangerous, just as false hope can be cruel," journalist Graeber (The Good Nurse) writes in this lucid and informed report on how doctors and medical researchers, advancing beyond a "cut, burn, and poison" approach to fighting cancer, discovered how to use the human immune response to attack mutant cells. Graeber recalls the "crushing failure" cancer immunotherapy suffered in the 1970s, and the giddy over-optimism seen in the 1980s before cancer breakthroughs such as interferon drugs went bust and immunotherapy research was left to a "handful of true believers." His narrative moves from the grueling stories of research experiments and drug trials-through which pharmaceutical companies "spread their bets" over a variety of potential drugs-to the even more grueling experiences of cancer patients. Graeber focuses on the scientific developments and the "mind-blowing possibilities," such as cellular therapy, in which living cells are used to fight cancer. Noting there are 940 immunotherapeutic drugs being tested by more than a half million patients, with another 1,064 drugs in the preclinical stage, he predicts the cancer cure lies in the personalized immunotherapy route. Graeber gives readers a basis for both understanding the challenges involved and for cautious optimism that a cure can be found. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Cut, burn, poison. Harsh-sounding traditional treatments (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy) for cancer that identify malignancy as the cruel adversary it is. An estimated half of cancer patients cannot currently be cured. Immunotherapy is poised to be a uniquely useful treatment. It essentially weaponizes and unleashes the body's immune system so that antibodies serve as microscopic guided missiles and re-engineered T cells work as supersoldiers that recognize and attack tumors. Graeber concisely reviews the science of cancer and the natural functioning of the immune system. He introduces researchers and oncologists in the field and provides stories of patients with melanoma, kidney cancer, sarcoma, and leukemia. Two major developments in cancer immunotherapy are checkpoint inhibitors (e.g., FDA-approved ipilimumab) and chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-T), an ingenious laboratory modification of T cells extracted from a patient with cancer and then injected back into that patient. Each CAR-T cell is capable of destroying up to 100,000 cancer cells. The risks of tinkering with an intricate immune system are obviously high, even perilous. But the potential reward is a cure. Exciting reading.--Tony Miksanek Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

SUGAR RUN, by Mesha Maren. (Algonquin, $26.95.) An ex-convict returns to her Appalachian roots in this debut novel. The literary lineages here are hard-boiled fiction and film noir - but by exploring place, connection and redemption in the face of the justice system, Maren creates bold takes on those venerable genres. ANNE FRANK'S DIARY: The Graphic Adaptation, adapted by Ari Folman. Illustrated by David Polonsky. (Pantheon, $24.95.) By turning the famous diary of a girl hiding from the Nazis into a graphic novel, Folman and Polonsky bring out its wit and humor in whimsical illustrations capturing Anne's rich imaginative life. REVOLUTION SUNDAY, by Wendy Guerra. Translated by Achy Obejas. (Melville House, paper, $16.99.) This Cuban novel, about a poet facing political and personal questions amid the loosening grip of socialism, plays with expectations; as often as Guerra gives a concrete description of Havana, she gives one that dances and evades. GHOST WALL, by Sarah Moss. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22.) This compact, riveting novel, about a 17-year-old working-class girl forced by her parents to join a re-enactment of Iron Age Britain, asks us to question our complicity in violence, particularly against women. MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER, by Oyinkan Braithwaite. (Doubleday, $22.95.) Murders litter this debut novel by a young Nigerian writer, but the book is less about crime than about the complexities of sibling bonds, as well as the way two sisters manage to survive in a corrupt city that suffocates women at every turn. THE BREAKTHROUGH: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer, by Charles Graeber. (Twelve, $28.) Training the body's immune system to fight disease now offers the most promising developments in the effort to battle cancer. Graeber recounts the treatment's 19th-century origins and provides a panoramic view of the work being done today to make it effective. TODDLER-HUNTING: And Other Stories, by Taeko Kono. Translated by Lucy North, with an additional translation by Lucy Lower. (New Directions, paper, $16.95.) As nonchalantly as some authors might describe a character's hair, Kono details her characters' taboo desires. First published in the '60s, these stories all retain interest. WE ARE DISPLACED: My Journey and Stories From Refugee Girls Around the World, by Malala Yousafzai. (Little, Brown, $18.99; ages 12 and up.) The world's youngest Nobel laureate gathers stirring stories of displacement from nine other girls. A THOUSAND SISTERS: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II, by Elizabeth Wein. (Balzer + Bray, $19.99; ages 13 and up.) The powerful tale of the all-female Soviet air regiments who flew 24,000 missions to help defeat the Nazis. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books


Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Patient 101006 JDSp. 9
Chapter 2 A Simple Ideap. 36
Chapter 3 Glimmers in the Darknessp. 60
Chapter 4 Eureka, Texasp. 92
Chapter 5 The Three E'sp. 109
Chapter 6 Tempting Fatep. 137
Chapter 7 The Chimerap. 166
Chapter 8 After the Gold Rushp. 179
Chapter 9 It's Timep. 184
Acknowledgmentsp. 195
Appendix A Types of Immunotherapies Now and Upcomingp. 199
Appendix B The Breakthrough, in Briefp. 205
Appendix C A Brief Anecdotal History of Disease, Civilization, and the Quest for Immunityp. 211
Further Readingp. 227
Notesp. 229
Indexp. 289
About the Authorp. 303