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The Death of Cancer: After Fifty Years on the Front Lines of Medicine, a Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer Is Winnable--and How We Can Get There
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The Death of Cancer: After Fifty Years on the Front Lines of Medicine, a Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer Is Winnable--and How We Can Get There

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  599 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Cancer touches everybody’s life in one way or another. But most of us know very little about how the disease works, why we treat it the way we do, and the personalities whose dedication got us where we are today. For fifty years, Dr. Vincent T. DeVita Jr. has been one of those key players: he has held just about every major position in the field, and he developed the first ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 3rd 2015 by Sarah Crichton Books
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4.21  · 
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 ·  599 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology
Vincent DeVita spent his life improving cancer medicine and patient care beginning in 1963 when he joined the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a trainee. He rose to become its director from 1980 to 1988. After that he became Physician-in-Chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and later Director of Yale University Cancer Center. He also served as President of the American Cancer Society. DeVita saw a sea change in cancer medicine during his career from a time when the diagnosis was usu ...more
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So there's a joke in medicine: why do we bury people 6 feet deep? Answer: to keep the oncologists off of them. Well this is that guy, but he's also the developer of the MOPP regimen, and then eventually the head of the American Cancer Institute, Sloan kettering, the Yale cancer center. He's the guy who you needed to be crazy aggressive to create a field, play the politics and save thousands of lives. It's also wonderful book because of the number of people he throws under the bus, in the name of ...more
Apr 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
Begins at a galloping pace and promises to reveal controversial behind-the-scenes truth of cancer research. The middle chapters devolve into a sort of looking-back-on-my-distinguished-career memoir (naming his many colleagues, benefactors, and esteemed appointments), but DeVita's final chapters return to the theme of how cancer has been understood, misunderstood, and treated for the last fifty years. He thinks we're actually winning the "battle" and provides a lot of fascinating examples of how, ...more
Mohammad Kharraz
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was astonished with how the field of cancer has evolved over the years. Being a medical student, I learn about cancer biology and some of the important cancers and their treatments. However, this book provides a totally different perspective towards the topic of cancer. That is because the writer takes you through his journey with cancer as a young physician, a consultant oncologist, the director of the National Cancer Institute, and as a cancer patient himself. Back in the days, as described ...more
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a really mportant book, and I'd like it to be widely read.

But for those who won't get round to it, here's the key message: enormous progress has been made and is being made in the war on cancer, but at every turn, regulation has hampered that progress.

The FDA should not be regulating cancer treatments, because their focus is on ensuring the safety of every medication, which is irrelevant to patients whose only other option is certain death. They are "protecting" patients from side effe
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
DeVita has been at the forefront of cancer treatment since the early days of chemotherapy, and this memoir of his career is both well-written and compelling. As a medical oncologist who developed treatments and cures for numerous types of cancer, DeVita has firsthand experience in the treatment of cancer over the past half century. What makes the book particularly interesting are DeVita's insights into national cancer policy, his analysis of bureaucratic and other problems, and his prescriptions ...more
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, health, science
Dr. DeVita was a major player in the "war on cancer." He describes the personalities behind the research and the political facts of life around obtaining adequate funding, explaining the nuts and bolts of good cancer research. He also includes some understandable information on how cancer cells arise and proliferate.

This is a professional memoir which might have benefited from including a bit more personal information. Dr. DeVita devotes just 2 pages to his son's treatment and ultimate death fr
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised by this book, written by a long-time colleague, mentor and friend of mine, Vince DeVita. I expected an historical and academic account of his career, but I also got a touching personal account of his career and life that is honest, engaging and compelling. Anyone with an interest, personal or professional, in cancer, scientific research, medicine or clinical trials will find this well-written account informative. It also pulls in the many colorful personalities Vince encountered ...more
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent overview of the medical fight against cancer by a doctor who has been on the front lines since the 1960s. The constant infighting and bureaucracy portrayed are discouraging, but when he reviews all the advances that have been made - it is pretty amazing. The most surprising thing to me came near the end of the book where he talked about the fight with his own cancer, in which he ignored early warning signs.
michael v altamura
The Death of Cancer,by Dr.DeVita,Jr.

As a 92 year old family physician I practised when many of my patients died of cancer,Thanks to Dr.DeVita a true medical visionary and hero cancers are beginning to be cured.I recommend this book to be read by all medical students and sophisticated general public.All cancer lives matter thanks to Dr.DeVita,Jr.
Dec 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Overall, this was a very good read. The personal, anecdotal stories helped to draw you into the drama of the behind - the - scenes medical breakthroughs taking place. I would definitely recommend this book to others.
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very good. Really 4.5 stars, but the (admittedly deserved) self-congratulatory tone and digressions get a little distracting.
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
My friend who is in the middle of her treatments for breast cancer suggested this book to me. I can see why after reading it-it is so hopeful. What a remarkable journey the cure for cancer has taken. This is my first "cancer book" so maybe I am too naive to be a good judge but I thought it was very readable and informative, in spite of the very technical information. I learned so much and found that my view of where we are in cancer research has changed from pessimistic to very optimistic. I do ...more
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Good nonfiction books about science have a reliable author whose knowledge is evident. Great nonfiction books about science have an author who is able to relay their vast knowledge in a way that the reader can clearly understand and find themselves unable to put down. In his fascinating book about the "War on Cancer," Dr. Vincent DeVita provides a great nonfiction science book. Be warned, though. The book offers an often shocking look at how far we've come against cancer and how the true death o ...more
Rochelle Ballard
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Bureaucracy (FDA) and human nature (doctor's egos and self interest) will keep cancer alive.
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow. Really good.  This is part memoir, part history of cancer research and treatment, and part prescriptive.  DeVita was the longest-serving director in the history of the National Cancer Institute, working there for 26 years.  Before that, he developed the first successful chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma using a combination of drugs, which was then unheard of.

Since Congress funded and launched of the war on Cancer in 1971, we have spent more than $100 billion on cancer research. 
Bob Koelle
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Dr DeVita has some really good history in here about the hit and miss character of early medical cancer therapy (chemotherapy), but the book quickly becomes way too concerned with his political struggles against entrenched interests and hide-bound therapists. He has quite a rant against the FDA, and then compares the PPACA to the NHS's NICE system, which is absurd. His credibility went into the toilet at that point.
I appreciate his stance that new methods which are scientifically sound should b
Shana Yates
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. A nearly perfect blend of medical memoir, history of cancer (think Emperor of All Maladies, abridged), and explanation of how cancer functions and the strategies for defeating it. DeVita has a lively writing style and his reminisces and anecdotes demonstrate abundant humanity and sensitivity. This is a man who clearly, both in his work developing groundbreaking treatments for cancer and directly with patients, feels deeply for the people he treats and that his work in oncology is a ca ...more
Jenna Ferchoff
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting book on the development of the first chemotherapy schedules in the US and cancer treatment over time. Dr. DeVita has a truly unique understanding of cancer given his experiences throughout his career. Reading this book really gives me hope that researchers and doctors are working hard to cure cancer. Even so, DeVita clearly outlines the fact that the drive for profit and stubbornness to engage in new ways of thinking has limited therapies that are available to cancer patients.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's difficult to believe that a book about cancer can be so hopeful and entertaining. DeVita's explanation of the past political influences of "the war on cancer," the six hallmarks of cancer and how the FDA manages drugs that (eventually) get to patients today is clear and completely understandable. I highly recommend this book.
Jan 28, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science
Some of the explanations of cancer research and advances were good, but unfortunately a small percentage of the text in this book. Mostly it is a narcissistic ranting about every wrong someone committed against this doctor and an endless droning on about red tape and hospital politics. More science, less revenge please.
Oct 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this book wanting to get a different perspective regarding "The War On Cancer". It really fascinates me how much money has been contributed and used to find a cure yet the cause is rarely even mentioned throughout this book. Viruses were mentioned and, of course, smoking. Perhaps if the cause was the focus, the war would be finished. Currently it seems to me that it is all about discovering the next drug that will help keep cancer a chronic disease rather than a life-ending one. Never min ...more
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book on the history of cancer drugs from a key participant involved from the early days through today. Dr DeVita brings a strong voice to the book along with amazing experience in both cancer drug discovery and the politics of the war. The final chapters on the latest and future therapies are not as strong as the rest of the book.
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting book on the history and current landscape of cancer treatment. The author was a little too focused on his own experience and career though...I could have done without the emphasis on his personal interactions. If you want to read about the history of cancer, I would recommend The Emperor of All Maladies over this book.
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book that opened my interest in the medical history of cancer

Will not be as interesting to those without some medical background. For me it was fun to connect the dots on lots of things I've heard of but didn't know the basic science foundation of. Would be great if the book came with a comprehensive taxonomy of the various cancers and their treatments.
Ken Hansen
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you want to understand the reality of cancer treatment and research and the many ways our system lets us down in the battle to end this disease, then read this book by one of the principal physician-warriors in the long war against this horrible and many-faceted disease. It will open your eyes.
John Girgis
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible true story that helps frame the realities of cancer research in plain language, while providing enough detail to really appreciate this critical field of research. An excellent read for anyone looking to better understand the war on cancer.
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
DeVita and his daughter have written a fascinating book. For me the book got better as it went along and by a third of the way in I was fully attentive and committed to paying attention to his story. The most engrossing part of his story is the personal interactions and politics of the war on cancer. The politics was inter-personal, institutional, bureaucratic and governmental. That's a lot of politics. And a lot was described. Names were mentioned and pictures were painted. Most of the pictures ...more
Rachel Shilletto
Nov 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Very interesting book on cancer how it works, what being "cured" means and the history in the american's societies progress on this disease.
Danielle Goglia
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone interested in the war on cancer.
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An internationally recognized pioneer physician in the field of oncology.

DeVita earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the College of William and Mary in 1957. He was awarded his MD degree with distinction from the George Washington University School of Medicine in 1961.
DeVita spent the early part of his career at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In 1980, the president of the United States