Four years ago, I was hired for a new and terrific job: to help my colleagues at Solebury Trout and the investors we advise better understand the new field of cancer immunotherapy. The next day I attended an immunotherapy conference to learn everything I could.
One of the first people I approached was Zelig Eshhar, an Israeli immunologist who has been called the father of CAR-T cell therapy. As we talked, he exclaimed, “Oh — this is not so complicated,” then grabbed my notebook and drew a little diagram to explain this technology. With a wink he said, “You should frame this — I am famous.”
So I did, and set it on my desk at work.
One of the first scientists I brought in to talk with our team was Dr. Drew Pardoll, head of immunology at Johns Hopkins. He saw Eshhar’s cartoon on my desk and said, “Wow — that guy’s really famous.” So I asked Drew (who I think is famous) if he wanted to draw a cancer immunotherapy cartoon, and he said yes. So I framed it and put it, too, on my desk.
Over the next two years, I accumulated nearly 50 drawings — some almost professionally done, others closer to scribbles — and had to find new places to put them.
One day, as my boss looked at the collection, he suggested that the drawings would make an excellent starting point for a book about the scientists who helped bring cancer immunotherapy to life. And that’s how my book, “A Cure Within,” was born. Based entirely on interviews with immuno-oncology pioneers, it helps trace the development of the work that is transforming cancer care.
I think that the cartoons also tell the story. The first two below are by this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, Jim Allison and Tasuku Honjo. The others are a sample of the breadth of inventiveness that a simple cartoon can offer about something as complex as cancer immunotherapy.
Neil Canavan is the scientific adviser at Solebury Trout and author of “A Cure Within: Scientists Unleashing the Immune System to Kill Cancer” (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2017). The cartoons here are a small sample of those included in the book.