Tuesday’s episode: The story of Dr. Lori Wilson, a surgical oncologist diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in both breasts in 2013. Her emotional and physical struggles with the disease provide a bracing counterpoint to the historical narrative that picks up in the wake of the declaration of a “war on cancer” by Richard Nixon in 1971. Flush with optimism and awash with federal dollars, the cancer field plunges forward in search of a cure. In the lab, rapid progress is made in understanding the essential nature of the cancer cell, leading to the revolutionary discovery of the genetic basis of cancer. But at the bedside, where patients are treated, few new therapies become available, and a sense of disillusionment takes hold, leading some patients and doctors to take desperate measures. It is not until the late 1990s that the advances in research begin to translate into more precise targeted therapies with the breakthrough drugs Gleevec and Herceptin.
Tune in to Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, 3-part documentary
Airing on PBS, 9 – 11 p.m. (Check your local listings)
Monday, March 30 – Magic Bullets
Tuesday, March 31 – The Blind Men and the Elephant
Wednesday, April 1 – Finding the Achilles Heel
This three-part film tells the comprehensive story of cancer, from its first documented appearances to the modern-day fight for a cure. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, Ken Burns’ film weaves together a captivating historical narrative with intimate stories about contemporary patients, and an investigation into the latest scientific breakthroughs that may bring a cure within reach.
Learn more at www.pbs.org.
Purchase the series at www.shoppbs.org.
Watch Katie Couric interview Mukherjee and Burns on Yahoo News.