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The Breakthrough

Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer
Length: 7 hrs and 7 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (289 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Charles Graeber, New York Times best-selling 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 listeners through the revolutionary scientific research bringing immunotherapy out of the realm of the miraculous and into the forefront of 21st-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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2018 Charles Graeber (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Graeber concisely reviews the science of cancer...The risks of tinkering with an intricate immune system are obviously high, even perilous. But the potential reward is a cure. Exciting reading." (Booklist)

"There is no villain more ruthless than cancer, which has robbed us all of loved ones who had to endure untold suffering before they succumbed. But after decades of frustration and toil, scientists finally understand how to vanquish the disease by activating the human body's natural defenses. The intimate stories behind this triumph lie at the heart of Charles Graeber's The Breakthrough, an expertly crafted and exhilarating account of life-saving ingenuity at its most dazzling. You will never encounter another book so incisive about the art of medical sleuthing, or so poetic about our innate drive to hold on to all that's beautiful in this world for as long as we can." (Brendan I. Koerner, Wired contributing editor and author of The Skies Belong to Us)

"[A] deft, detailed study of cancer immunotherapy.... From the once-discredited pioneer William Coley to immunologist and Nobel laureate James P. Allison, they form a brilliant, driven, admirably stubborn group that Graeber brings vividly to life." (Nature)

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

Surprisingly gripping

Take a scientific problem as vexing as cancer, come at it with an age-old yet controversial approach, and turn it over to a talented writer--one who uses simple metaphors to convey the complex, and who sprinkles in references to Jerry Garcia and Cassablanca just to keep you on your toes. The result? A fascinating medical tale that is still taking shape.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • 02-06-19

Mesmerizing

Graeber has the rare ability to show the drama of scientific discovery, skillfully skipping between high-level concepts and the low-level details that give this story real bite while remaining accessible to the lay person. Very, very good.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Great info presented with heart

I loved this book since it made something complicated understandable, but most important you get the human side of both patients and doctors which made this book hard to put down.

The author did a great job with this book.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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great book

great book, nice narration and awesome information I hope the immunotherapy becomes the new weapon against cancer and also becomes more accessible.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Inspiring

Reads like a novel. Great book and a source of hope for all of us. Cancer is an equal opportunity disease...

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating and Important Information

Really enjoyed this richly informative description of advances in cancer immunotherapy. Never thought I'd see cancer cures in my lifetime. Kudos to the relentless work and undying hope of docs and researchers who made it a reality.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very engaging

Once we got past the repetition of the first cancer patient’s anonymized ID number (cringed every time they repeated it), the rest of the story, with both historical and current context, flowed in a very “who done it” mystery murder sort of way. So, with the suspense injected, mild levels of adrenalin helped me keep focus through the bio-babble that would normally wear me out (textbook level detail, wrapped in meaningful, story building context= muy bueno). My Mom just had her official ovarian cancer recurrence appointment that I was there for and I wanted a juicy download on immunotherapy. It armed me with the vocab for the follow up visit and some genetic tests that hadn’t been ordered on her surgically removed tumors have now been ordered. An underlying theme of the book is what a cluster F mess it is for patients trying to navigate the medical institutions bias against anything that isn’t burn, bake or cut (was that the sequence), which I/ we are facing. The arrogance of this oncologist is unnerving. Anywho, I recommend this for those needing a really effective primer about Cancer overall and immunotherapy in its current RE-emergent state (version 5.0). I was raised Mormon so the end of it struck a chord and a very sweet note to top sweeten up the close of lots of case study drama. Nice way to shake it up. Bravo team!!!

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Too short

I’m left with so many questions that could have been fleshed out a little bit. There’s so much more to know - like how these new methods are used with old, where are people most likely to get this treatment, a recap of which cancers currently responding to which method, compare and contrast old vs. new in more cancers. Otherwise a good read. Not too technical but sufficiently detailed in descriptions.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A brief update of cancer therapy for the public

This book provides a few stories of successful and failed efforts in curing and managing cancer with immunotherapy. The narrative in the first chapter seems too emotional, almost like fiction, But later chapters turned out to be better. The book is easy to follow even for a layman and may be of interest to anyone who wants to follow the latest development of treating cancer.

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brilliant introduction to immunotherapy

the author does a splendid job of making this very complex and confusing subject approachable and understandable. He weaves in the tails of patience to put a human face on the baffling world of oncology. as a physician, I found his work enlightening and utterly captivating.