Wednesday’s episode: 6-year old Emily has leukemia and Doug Rogers, a 60-year-old NASCAR mechanic with melanoma. Each is a pioneer in new immunotherapy treatments. Both see their advanced cancers recede and are able to resume normal lives.
This episode picks up the story at another moment of buoyant optimism in the cancer world: Scientists believe they have cracked the essential mystery of the malignant cell and the first targeted therapies have been developed, with the promise of many more to follow. But very quickly cancer reveals new layers of complexity and a formidable array of unforeseen defenses. In the disappointment that follows, many call for a new focus on prevention and early detection as the most promising fronts in the war on cancer. But other scientists are undeterred, and by the second decade of the 2000s their work pays off. The bewildering complexity of the cancer cell, so recently considered unassailable, yields to a more ordered picture, revealing new vulnerabilities and avenues of attack. Perhaps most exciting of all is the prospect of harnessing the human immune system to defeat cancer.
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.