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Ed by Jeffrey M Jacobson. Pp 331; $125. New Jersey: Humana Press, 2002, ISBN 0896036693.
I judge this is a jewel of a book, although you would not think so from my comments in the next paragraph.
My initial reaction was one of intense irritation. The preface stated that the intention was to “review the state of the art . . . of this rapidly emerging . . . field.”
A bold promise for which tight editorial time lines and up to date references would be essential. Yet, even though the book was published in 2002, there were very few references from 2001 or even from 2000 in some chapters. To take as one particularly bad example, the chapter dealing with the immunotherapy of HIV had only one reference as recent as 2000, and all the rest were from the last millennium.
It is a credit to the book’s other talents that my bad humour was rapidly dissipated. The introductory chapters were, quite simply, a pleasure. The basis of humoral immunity was a clear rendition of the area, and the chapter on the principles of cellular immunology was as good, and as enjoyable an introduction to the field as you could get. The final introductory chapter, on mucosal defences, maintains the high standards set by the first two.
The remainder of the book is divided into three sections covering the molecular basis for immunotherapy, immunotherapy for HIV infection, and immunotherapy for other infectious diseases. Each of these three sections provides a good review of the major issues. The molecular basis of for immunotherapy contains an excellent chapter on the role of dendritic cells, and usefully explains how their crucial role in immune defences might be utilised for immune therapy. The chapter on cytokines sheds light on an area which is too complex or obtuse for many.
The section on immunotherapy for HIV infection covers in turn the basis for immunotherapeutic HIV vaccines, passive immunotherapy, and gene therapy. There are some notable omissions dictated by the presumed delay between the research for each chapter, and publication of the book. For instance, RNA interference, sometimes known as post-transcriptional gene silencing, is currently being investigated as a possible major therapeutic strategy for the future. True, the problem of delivery to the target cells still has to be solved, but for RNA interference to be left out dates the book already. Similarly many of the viral and bacterial vectors for vaccine delivery worked on the past few years, such as adenovirus, and salmonella, to name just two, are not included. Even those that are, such as canarypox, are not included in the index. Which leads to my final criticism before summing up—the index is entirely inadequate and mitigates strongly against using this as a book of reference.
So in conclusion, this book represents a flawed gem. Viewed from a certain light it is illuminating, a joy to behold. From other angles, the imperfections are all too obvious. None the less, for a physician or scientist working in the field of infectious diseases or related areas such as STDs or HIV, it provides an introduction to the field of immunotherapy which is both accessible and enjoyable. Read it within the next couple of years before it begins to date further and it will be time well invested. For a specialist in the field it has limited value, except to recommend to trainees or newcomers.
If the editor decides to bring out another edition, he should somehow do the near impossible for multiauthored texts, and ensure they are all up to date. Oh, and also invest in a professional indexing service. Then, there really will be a precious jewel.
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