A personal, lively, and scientifically rigorous account of cancer-treatment research.

Survival: A Medical Memoir


Brandes offers an absorbing, exhaustive true story about the obstacles researchers faced while ushering a new cancer drug through development and testing.

Although he has authored numerous scientific papers, this is the first book from the author, a retired University of Manitoba oncologist. In the 1980s, his lab at the university’s Institute of Cell Biology did research involving the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, specifically looking for a substance that would bind to “antiestrogen binding sites” within cells. To that end, he says, they synthesized an antihistamine called DPPE (also known as tesmilifene), which appeared to curb unwanted uterine growth, prevent tumor formation, and increase chemotherapy drugs’ effectiveness up to tenfold. A grant materialized from the National Cancer Institute of Canada, and Bristol-Myers expressed interest. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. As years passed, funding sources fell through, papers were rejected, and trials produced mixed results. In 1997, the researchers’ MA.19 phase-three DPPE study finally launched but was axed early when it produced no noticeable improvements. Brandes felt this action was premature; indeed, he says that follow-up results indicated that DPPE produced 50 percent longer survival in breast-cancer patients. Meanwhile, Toronto’s YM Biosciences resurrected DPPE for studies on prostate cancer and in 2004 initiated a new breast-cancer trial. That one, too, showed no initial benefits and so was canceled in 2007. This is not a typical story of triumph against all odds; instead, it’s a realistic picture of how science works: small steps forward despite regular setbacks. Brandes makes a gripping, journalistic storyline out of what could have been a dry compilation of facts. Re-created dialogue and photographs enliven this labor of love, and short, digestible chapters also help. The author takes time to describe everyone who crossed his path, evincing real interest in these people’s values and idiosyncrasies; a number of the book’s players died along the way, so this book serves as a worthy elegy. At times, the level of detail, which requires a six-page who’s who list and hundreds of footnotes, can be overwhelming for laymen. However, anyone can appreciate its inside look at the bureaucracy, heartache, and political machinations involved in scientific investigation.

A personal, lively, and scientifically rigorous account of cancer-treatment research.

Pub Date: March 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-8507-7

Page Count: 606

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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