Cover image for The breakthrough : immunotherapy and the race to cure cancer / Charles Graeber.
The breakthrough : immunotherapy and the race to cure cancer / Charles Graeber.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Twelve, 2018.
Physical Description:
302 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 24 cm
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.
Draws on the experiences of patients, physicians, and researchers to explain the revolutionary development of immunotherapy as a treatment for cancer and how that information is being harnessed to create more effective patient therapies.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
616.994061 GRA Book Adult General Collection

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"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
Charles Graeber, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Nurse , details the astonishing scientific discovery of the code to unleashing the human immune system to fight -- and possibly even cure -- cancer, 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, 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.

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 1

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.

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