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

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  574 ratings  ·  86 reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Nurse comes an empowering and accessible story of the discoveries of the tricks cancer uses to avoid the immune system, and the important new therapies already unleashing the immune system to fight -- and beat -- the disease.
Four years in the writing, The Breakthrough is an "exciting read" about the discoveries which
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Twelve
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May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: available
I have long thought that one day chemo would be thought of in much the same way as "bleeding" patients is thought of today, and Immunotherapy was going to be the much more benign and effective therapy of the future. I was surprised to learn about all all the very serious and dangerous side effects that also accompany immunotherapy.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book on recommendation from Nature Books & Arts, and subsequently a number of prominent scientists I follow on Twitter have also listed this as one of their to-reads of the year, and I certainly understand why. The book, not unlike front-line research in immunology, is written at a breakneck pace right from the very start. Graeber addresses a complicated scientific topic well in my opinion, the language used was accessible and not overly technical, but pitched with sufficient ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately I was let down by this book. It started off strong and my favourite part of the story of Cancer Immunotherapy told by Graeber was the first few chapters, detailing the slow acknowledgement of the relationship between the Immune System and Cancer. I also enjoyed the journeys of the patients detailed in the book, how the discoveries of scientists in the lab ultimately helped their quality of life.

What I didn’t like was how the rest of the book played out and some of the slight
Am Y
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Huge spoiler: There's no real "breakthrough" here. I thought my Stage 3B cancer-stricken husband now had a glimmer of hope, but having read this from cover to cover, I can confirm this book's title is but a (probably very successful) marketing ploy.

Long story short: immunotherapy is one of the newest cancer treatments available, but it still is nowhere near any form of cure, and nowhere as revolutionary as the word "breakthrough" suggests. Patients treated with various immunotherapy drugs
Ritu Mantri
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Breakthrough is such an important book for the layman to understand about Cancer, our immune system and about Immunotherapy, an alternative treatment of cancer.

Most of us know that the treatment of cancer is surgery and then radiation and chemotherapy, which the author explains as cut, burn and poison treatment.

But few might know that the answer to cancer is within our immune system and scientists and researchers, who believes in this, have been slogging for years to activate those fighter
Scribe Publications
Only Graeber, one of America’s greatest non-fiction writers, could take a subject so complex, dense and sprawling and turn it into a rollicking high-tension medical thriller. Masterful.
Douglas Rogers, award-winning journalist and author of The Last Resort

A gripping chronicle of the 100-year overnight success of immunotherapy. For myself and millions of other cancer survivors, The Breakthrough is a book of immense and essential hope.
Michael Fitzgerald, co-founder and CEO of Submittable, and
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book tells of the recent progress in the race to cure cancer through immunotherapy. It also gives an accounting of the history of research into the fight against cancer and the politics in the scientific community.

This is a book worth reading!!!
Christina Dudley
This was a fast and so-encouraging read about the incredible breakthroughs in cancer immunology. If there's ever a best time to get cancer, it's probably now, only to be exceeded by getting it five years from now because the field is advancing so quickly. Graeber does a clear job of explaining how we are learning to harness our bodies' own immune systems to attack cancerous cells and out-trick the trickster. All this time, cancer cells have been hiding under the radar of our immune systems, ...more
Visnja Zeljeznjak
Amazing, fascinating history of cancer immunotherapy, starting in late 19th century and leading up to the breakthrough in the modern day (2018). Immunotherapy is dubbed "cancer's penicilin moment" and this book explains why scientists, researchers, and cancer survivors are increasingly hopeful of this new cancer treatment. The book reads like a science thriller, it has main actors and supporting actors, and you immediately start to care about their fates, good and bad; it has strange twists and ...more
Peter Tillman
Science magazine review:
"In The Breakthrough, journalist Charles Graeber tells the story of how we may finally slay the beast. The “breakthrough” referenced in the title is not a single drug or treatment but a series of revelations regarding how the body’s immune system regulates itself and how cancer can hijack it to avoid our defenses. This, Graeber argues, is cancer’s “penicillin moment,” opening the door to a radically new therapeutic
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Latest and Greatest

The latest exciting area of cancer research is immunotherapy. Checkpoint inhibition which works on T cells along with targeted therapy (not immunological) are just right for certain cancers.

The checkpoint inhibition which stops the blocking of the immune system is used and has decent results on some solid cell cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer with more research ongoing for bladder& others.

For some it is a magical “cure” and for others it can unleash a troublesome
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
At many points, the book is truly inspirational and moving. The overall history of immunotherapy is well documented, and Graeber lays out his explanations well -- it is truly fascinating on how our knowledge of the immune system/cancer has changed.

There does seem to be some bias (naturally) in the story, with the strong view that immunotherapy is going to be the "breakthrough" against cancer, but that does not detract from the story.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First book I read about cancer and immunotherapy. I learned some amazing things. I think the author did justice to the title.

Reading this made me think of the psalm: “I praise you, because I am wonderfully made...”
Vivek Natarajan
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A most fascinating and riveting tale of how immunotherapy evolved to be one of the most promising avenues for curing cancer. A must read!
Scribe Publications
Only Graeber, one of America’s greatest non-fiction writers, could take a subject so complex, dense and sprawling and turn it into a rollicking high-tension medical thriller. Masterful.
Douglad Rogers, award-winning journalist and author of The Last Resort

A gripping chronicle of the 100-year overnight success of immunotherapy. For myself and millions of other cancer survivors, The Breakthrough is a book of immense and essential hope.
Michael Fitzgerald, co-founder and CEO of Submittable, and
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lately, I’ve developed an interest in medicine science, cell biology, cancer research, etc. - especially after reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s ‘Emperor of all Maladies’ on cancer, which I really liked. So when I came across a review of this book, I instantly added it to my to-read list, and it turned out to be another good read.

‘The Breakthrough’ came out just last year. It talks about the progress in cancer immunotherapy research over the decades, and the cutting-edge work going on in the field
Maggie Dubris
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a dense but fascinating book. First off, if you have friends/relatives/self with cancer, it gives a huge amount of scientifically-based hope of not only a remission, but possible cure. The narrative style works well. The author mixes anecdotes about patients and scientists with some difficult specifics of the immune system. Though I had to reread the hard science parts several times, it's the first time I've actually got a real picture of what we know about how the immune system works, ...more
Justin Gaynor
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was fully prepared not to like this book, but that's because (as I discovered) I'm kind of a snob and a jerk, not because there was anything wrong with the book itself.

I had noticed that the author, Charles Graeber, had risen to fame after writing a book about a nurse who killed hundreds of patients. I assumed this meant that the book was sensationalized, and that this book might suffer the same problem. I had no evidence for this, of course, and what I found upon reading 'The Breakthrough' is
John  Trident
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The breakthrough

My grandmother passed away 3 years ago when I was pursuing my engineering career. Later did I come to know that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer & has been battling it for quite sometime. However, unfortunately she couldn't make it out. This book helped me understand not only the current state of the newest advances in immunological research, but also physical, mental, psychological issues & changes which takes place in the body of the person contracted with the
Sam Still Reading
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in cancer or immunology
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: sounded interesting
There are a lot of exciting advances in medicine, but surely none are as exciting and game changing as cancer immunotherapy. (Perhaps I am a little biased though having seen these treatments in action). Immunotherapy is not chemotherapy, but utilises new research breakthroughs to help allow the immune system to see cancer as something foreign and fight it. Unfortunately, it won’t help every cancer (some look more like foreign monsters to the immune system, others look like something normal) but ...more
Pacific Lee
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
The introduction outlines the reason why this book was necessary. The Emperor of All Maladies had successfully traced the biography of cancer up to 2010, but that was five months before the first immunotherapeutic drug was even FDA approved. Graeber sets out to create a sequel of sorts, describing the exciting breakthroughs that have been happening and including a bit of historical perspective as well.

In my view, the excitement and curiosity all starts with recognizing the fact that spontaneous
Anna Rose
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Break old habits. Break through.

That’s the biggest takeaway from Charles Graeber’s “The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer.” I have encountered many scientists that have biases due to their scientific “beliefs”. I may be guilty of such biases myself. This book, about the discovery and development of Immunotherapy, paints a striking example of how our personal biases must be set aside in order to create a scientific breakthrough. It starts with Dr. William Coley in the 1890s,
Karel Baloun
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Seven years after the approval of that first solitary checkpoint inhibitor there are reportedly 940 new cancer immunotherapy drugs being tested in the clinic by more than half a million cancer patients in 3042 clinical trials, with another 1064 new drugs in the labs in pre-clinical phase.“ (P6). Less than half of patients respond, at this time, but profound lifetime positive results when they do.

Includes an excellent, concise summary of how the immune system works!

Ironic that the Nobel
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Breakthrough is a book about the development of immunotherapy techniques in an effort to cure cancer. The title, of course, is hype: if you read the book carefully, you'll notice that the author is careful not to promise that a cure has been found: in fact, successful therapy seems to be more the exception than the norm.

The notion behind immunotherapy is to activate the immune system against cancer. The problem, of course, is that cancers that are already susceptible to your immune system
Anggun P.W
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: state-of-grace
This is not science book, so you will not gonna get details of science discoveries.
This is story of how science discover new breakthrough in immunotherapy cancer, most of the book tell stories from patient which is good perspective for a reader.

Nah, its my turn to share my stories.
Read this book give me a mixed feeling,
I remember that immunology subject is one of my weakness in college (other than pharmacognosy), though i enjoyed learning bout it, C+ was the best score i could get.
I also
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Kerr
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Who hasn't been impacted by this hated disease? Periodically, there's a news story about some miracle drug or "breakthrough," in the treatment of cancer, but in fact we've had decades of cut and burn refinements which have slowly extended survival rates by months and years; the word "cure" seems to have fallen out of our cancer vocabulary. Until, it seems, now. This book covers the lightning advances in the field of immunotherapy, in which the cancer itself is not the focus of treatment, rather ...more
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The 'Cut, Burn and Poison' technique, although a remarkable achievement in treating Cancer, only cures half of the people who suffer from this malady.

'The Breakthrough' comes as a ray of hope to the other half of people who had developed Cancer but not been cured by Surgery, Radiation and Chemotherapy.

The author introduces us to a new medical approach called Cancer Immunotherapy that not just kill bad cells like its preceding approaches but actually strengthens the defense system of our body as
Susan Walker
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, well-written account of the development of cancer immunotherapy. The book succeeds in describing the long-standing hostile environment facing a researcher who posed an immunotherapy approach to cancer. I was excited by reading the simple to follow path of discovery through anecdotal stories as well as the increasing understanding of the underpinning biological mechanisms. Near the end he touches on the economic dilemma of a bespoke approach, and also hints at deeper fissures between ...more
Olatomiwa Bifarin
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Biology is extremely complex, so is our immune system. So, let’s get that out of the way first.

Okay. One, this is a great book to read for anyone interested in how biology / biomedical research works. It’s just lots of failure. However these failures aren’t failures in a very practical sense (if experiments were carried out appropriately), because Science at its best is an antifragile system.

Two, for a lay person who wants to marvel at the complexity of our bodies, this will give you some
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Charles Graeber is an award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD NURSE: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder (published by Twelve).

He is also a contributor to numerous publications including Wired, The New Yorker, GQ, New York Magazine, Outside Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek and The New York Times. His writing has been honored with the Overseas Press
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. -Max Planck” 0 likes
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