cover image The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer

The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer

Charles Graeber. Twelve, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4555-6850-5

“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.[em] Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Nov.) [/em]