One of the world's most renowned and forward-thinking oncologists recounts 35 years of cancer research and tells us why we should be optimistic about the future.
In the last 20 years, cancer survival rates have skyrocketed thanks to the innovative researchers and physicians pioneering effective therapies. Leading this “war on cancer” is DeVita (Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health/Yale School of Medicine), whose career credentials include stints as director of the National Cancer Institute, president of the American Cancer Society, and director of the Yale Cancer Center. Even more impressive: he developed a cure for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the first true cure for any form of cancer and the first of many successes to come in the field of combination chemotherapy. In each chapter, the author deftly navigates the many nuances of cancer research and treatment using accessible language to describe exciting technological advances while also providing a gritty look at the uneasy relationship between government and science. On one hand, writes DeVita, programs like the NCI exist because of federal funding, and many of America’s cancer centers are among the best in the world. However, the author also delivers a no-holds-barred analysis of bureaucracy’s weakness: it remains challenging to get new treatments approved, even in an era in which many cancer drugs show incredible promise. DeVita reports on this and myriad other issues facing cancer doctors and the patients they care for, imbuing his superb science writing with an emotional back story—including his own cancer diagnosis—that enriches the joys and struggles he has faced in his long career. This book is also far more than a history: it’s a manifesto in which the author states plainly what needs to be done to eradicate the disease. In the meantime, he arms readers with behind-the-scenes details about where to seek treatment, insisting that we’ve arrived at “the beginning of the end” of the disease.
One of the most absorbing and empowering science histories to hit the shelves in recent years.
DeVita, an oncologist and professor at Yale School of Medicine, collaborates with his daughter DeVita-Raeburn on this engaging, informative, and inspiring history of DeVita’s prominent role in developing innovative cancer treatments. The authors start with DeVita’s groundbreaking discovery, while at the National Institutes of Health, of a combination chemotherapy treatment that turned Hodgkins lymphoma from a once-fatal diagnosis into one with an 80% cure rate. They also unveil some startling insights into medicine and the development of anticancer drugs, revisiting various episodes of resistance from colleagues in using new therapies, including the one DeVita developed. The book includes offers salient advice for those seeking treatment, and takes on the Federal Drug Administration and its woeful lag in keeping pace with cancer drug development. DeVita’s own battle with prostate cancer teaches him the most important message: “I survived because my doctors were courageous in using the tools we already possessed... and that will allow me to take advantage of new ones.” This remarkable memoir doesn’t just urge the public to have hope: it showcases the exciting evidence that we may finally be winning the war on cancer.
DeVita (medical oncology & epidemiology, Yale Univ.) is a pioneer in the development of chemotherapy and one of the biggest names in oncology. This title, cowritten with the author’s daughter DeVita-Raeburn (The Empty Room), a journalist who covers science, health, and society, is a lively personal history of cancer treatment sprinkled with biography, patients’ stories, politics, doctors behaving badly, and plenty of unvarnished opinion. DeVita begins with the development of combination chemotherapy in the early 1960s and continues through modern targeted treatments. Along the way, he calls out stubborn physicians and hidebound institutions—by names—but saves his choicest words for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), arguing that patients die because drug approvals take too long, regulations prevent clinical researchers from adjusting research protocols based on early findings, and care guidelines discourage physicians from combining existing therapies in new ways. Yet the title ends on an optimistic note, insisting that we are winning the war on cancer. DeVita blends crisp writing and a gift for explaining complicated scientific concepts clearly with deep knowledge, passion, and wit. The book is by turns entertaining and maddening, but always fascinating.