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What to Watch: Emperor of All Maladies; Killing Cancer

April 2, 2015
Cancer is a disease which affects almost 1.7 million people each year in America, and is the fastest growing disease on Earth. Two television shows this week explore the history of the complex illness, as well as recent treatment advances that are providing new hope for many patients.

The first is a television adaptation of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction. The TV adaptation, directed by Ken Burns, has been in the making for five years, and aired in six parts on PBS this week. The show tells the story of cancer, from its first description on an ancient Egyptian scroll to the latest efforts to fight it with modern biotechnology techniques.

60 Minutes on Sunday also featured a special on cancer, this one focused on an experimental immunotherapy technique being studied at Duke University. The show looked at clinical trials which used the polio virus to infect tumor cells and provoke an immune response against the cancer.

At the end of the show, Scott Pelley talks with one patient whose tumor continues to shrink in response to the therapy:
Scott Pelley: Nancy, months ago when I met you for the first time, they were dripping the polio virus into your tumor. And you told me about some of the things that you were determined to see in the lives of these boys.

Nancy Justice: Exactly.

Scott Pelley: And I wonder if you're at a place now where you can start making plans.

Nancy Justice: Oh definitely. I mean, that has-- that's been what's keep-- kept me going. I will see them graduate college. I will see them get married. And I will have grandchildren, in that order.

Watch the full show and read the transcript here.