In Mr. Graeber’s hands, the evolution of immuno-oncology is both captivating and heartbreaking. Exotic-sounding medicines take a turn in the spotlight before slinking off the stage, unable to live up to expectations. We are immersed in the stories of the brave, desperate patients who try emerging therapies: Sometimes they are cured, often they are not. We can’t fail to see ourselves, our friends and our families in these stories.
... the new book by Charles Graeber, The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer, artfully traces the history of old and new developments that may have — finally — resulted in an actual cure for the most dreaded of all diseases ... Graeber does a good job of hacking through [the medical jargon], interspersing the medical research with interesting accounts of patients and their determined physicians ... Graeber also thoughtfully provides the reader with a two-page glossary in the front and extensive notes in back, including a Cliffs Notes-type section called 'The Breakthrough, in Brief' and a jaunty one after it entitled 'A Brief Anecdotal History of Disease, Humans, and the Quest for Immunity.' A discerning reader might wish for a better-crafted book, with much of this information woven into the text itself, but it’s a debatable point; you wouldn’t want it to get in the way of the story, and it probably would.
Graeber’s writing is swift and clear, as if he can barely contain his enthusiasm for the subject — and, in fact, he can’t contain it ... One or two chapters are weighted down by talk of cell division and the like but, for the most part, Graeber paints vivid portraits of people who have cancer or are trying to conquer it ... The Breakthrough... is a rare and thrilling thing: a hopeful, even inspiring, book about cancer.