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About Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies

March 13, 2015

Premiered March 30 - April 1, 2015 

About the Film

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies is a three-part, six-hour major television event from preeminent documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, in partnership with WETA, the flagship public broadcasting station in Washington, D.C.

This “biography” of cancer – from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic “War on Cancer” in the last century – comes at a moment of inflection in the history of the disease, when scientific breakthroughs have put a cure within reach. The series matches the epic scale of the disease, reshaping the way the public sees cancer and stripping away some of the fear and misunderstanding that has long surrounded it. The story of cancer is a story of scientific hubris, paternalism, and misperception, but it is also a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance.

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective and a biographer’s passion. The series artfully weaves three different films in one: a riveting historical documentary; an engrossing and intimate vérité film; and a scientific and investigative report.


Search for a Cure

The search for a “cure” for cancer is the greatest epic in the history of science. It spans centuries and continents, and like all epics is chock full of heroes, villains, and sudden vertiginous twists. It is a scientific story, but also a deeply human one – of doctors, researchers, and patients, who through courage and occasional hubris, pushed the boundaries of knowledge.


The Emotional Impact

More than one writer has described the experience of having cancer as a journey into a new land in which they must leave behind all that is familiar. Often, this new landscape is harsh and painful, but it need not be. Cancer patients often find deeper dimensions in their relationships, newfound meaning in their lives, spiritual connections and reserves of strength they never knew they had.

The Science

Cancer is, at bottom, a disease of mutated genes. We have long known that cancer is caused by the unrestrained division of cells – a kind of malevolent perfection of our own biological drives. But what is new in the last two decades is a much more complete understanding of how and why that cellular proliferation takes place, and how it might be stopped.

Meet the Creators

KEN BURNS -  Executive Producer and Series Creative ConsultantKen Burns has been making documentary films for more than 30 years. Since the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of Ken’s films, 'More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.'
DR. SIDDHARTHA MUKHERJEE - Author, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of CancerDr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s accomplishments as both a physician and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author are compelling and powerful. A cancer specialist, Sid has devoted his life to caring for victims of cancer, a disease that sickens and kills millions of people around the world each year. As a researcher, his laboratory is on the forefront of discovering new cancer drugs using innovative biological methods.
BARAK GOODMAN - Producer and DirectorBarak Goodman is co-founder of Ark Media and a principal producer, director, and writer with the company. His films for Ark Media have been nominated for an Academy Award and won multiple Emmy Awards and Writers Guild Awards, the DuPont-Columbia, and Peabody Awards, the RFK Journalism Prize, and twice been official selections at the Sundance Film Festival.
LAURA ZISKIN - Co-Founder of Stand Up To CancerLaura Ziskin, a legendary Hollywood film producer and co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), envisioned producing a documentary about cancer since the time she was diagnosed in 2004 with breast cancer. She lived courageously with the disease that ultimately took her life in June 2011. Laura Ziskin Productions is now presided over by Ziskin’s longtime producing partner Pamela Oas Williams, also a co-founder of SU2C.



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I am more than a Survivor. Thanks to my Faith in God, I am Victorious over Colon and Bladder Cancer after double Surgery and resultant third Surgery for Colon Hernia. After Surgeons poked and cut and prodded, removing 6 inches of my lower Colon, I was finally released from hospital and went home to Healthy, Natural, Healing Foods and regular Exercise. After three weeks My Lead Surgeon wanted me back in Hospital for Follow-up Chemo and Radiation Treatments, which I refused to accept. He looked into my eyes with Hubris and a feeling that could kill, if one let it.
I was finally beginning to feel really Healthy and was sure that my Faith in God and Natural Healing with Healthy Food and Sensible Exercise would rebuild my Immune System to Beat any possible return of the cancers. That was in January 2011 and today March 2015, I am Healthier than ever, continuing to eat good Food with moderate Exercise and much Good, Fresh Air. My GP on reviewing my recent thorough Blood, Urine and Feces Tests for Cancer, exclaimed happily that I was in excellent Health. I'm confident that My Surgeons did good work initially and I had every belief that I would be Victorious over Cancer with Natural Healing.

It's an excellent book, easily read with a lot of information to process.You can put the book down for a awhile and pick up again and dive in. A must have for your home library.