CANCER: THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES
The Blind Men and the Elephant

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, a film by Ken Burns

CANCER: THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES

Produced by Ken Burns and directed by Barak Goodman, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies tells the comprehensive story of cancer, from its first description in an ancient Egyptian scroll to the gleaming laboratories of modern research institutions. The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D.


The six-hour, three-part film interweaves a sweeping historical narrative with intimate stories about contemporary patients, and an investigation into the latest scientific breakthroughs that may have brought us, at long last, within sight of lasting cures.

 

The Blind Men and the Elephant


Richard Nixon declares “war on cancer” 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. The film intertwines the story of Dr. Lori Wilson, a surgical oncologist who is diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2013.