A 10-Story Companion Radio Series to "Ken Burns Presents: Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies A Film by Barak Goodman," Airing on PBS Stations
"LIVING CANCER" to Air Nationally on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" During the Weeks of February 9 and March 23
February 9, 2015; New York, NY - Nationally, one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with the disease, and almost every American family is touched by the disease in some way. In the past, a cancer diagnosis was often kept a family secret with a grim prognosis. Now, thanks to advances in treatment, many people are "living cancer" - whether we're being treated ourselves, or helping a family member or friend.
During the weeks of February 9 and March 23, WNYC and NPR will present "LIVING CANCER," a 10-story series that will examine the shifting science and economics of cancer treatment and the impact on individuals and families. New drug protocols offer hope for many, while remaining just out of reach for others. Research scientists are working to discover the root causes of cancer, but the disease process is often too complicated for simple explanations. And as more people survive for years after a cancer diagnosis, what originally was a medical crisis can often be managed as part of an everyday routine. The radio series will explore these complex realities of cancer today.
"Living Cancer" Series Preview
"LIVING CANCER" will air on the NPR programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered, heard on public radio stations across the country. All stories from the series will be available at www.wnyc.org/cancer and www.npr.org following their broadcast premiere. A preview video may be viewed here. In addition, WNYC's nationally-distributed program On the Media will devote an entire episode to the history of cancer and the media, premiering on Friday, March 27.
The "LIVING CANCER" series is produced in conjunction with Ken Burns Presents Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies A Film by Barak Goodman, a three-part, six-hour documentary series, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. The television series will air on PBS stations March 30, 31 and April 1, 9-11 p.m.ET (check local listings).
These projects represent an unprecedented transmedia collaboration in public media, with cancer-related stories being told for national audiences through radio, television and interactive media.
"Cancer remains widespread, but in a growing number of cases, it has become a manageable disease," said Laura Walker, President and CEO of New York Public Radio, which owns and operates WNYC. "Through a remarkable blend of science and narrative, 'LIVING CANCER' tells the story of the emotional and medical consequences of living with cancer. We are delighted to partner with NPR, WETA and Siddhartha Mukherjee on this important and timely project, which marks the next phase in the expansion of WNYC's coverage of health and medicine."
"The fact that so many Americans are 'Living Cancer' is a reflection of the remarkable advances in cancer treatment," said Madhulika Sikka, executive editor for NPR News. "NPR News is delighted to be collaborating with WNYC to tell these stories of progress in science and also stories of human resilience when faced with a devastating diagnosis."
WNYC has significantly increased its health coverage in the last 18 months. Notable health projects have included WNYC's Clock Your Sleep Project, which created digital tools and an online community, enlisting over 5,000 people to track their sleep habits and share the data for analysis and comparison; Rx for the Bx: Prescription for the Bronx, an enterprise reporting series on the state of health in the Bronx, New York's least healthy county; and The Antidote: DNA Secrets, an hour-long radio special focusing on the innovations and implications of genetic testing. The Antidote featured a first-person audio diary by a young woman testing for Huntington's disease that aired on This American Life and earned a Deadline Club of New York Award.
This spring, WNYC will launch a new podcast dedicated to the health concerns of individuals, families and communities.
The schedule of "LIVING CANCER" stories is as follows:
Week of February 9
Harnessing The Immune System To Fight Cancer Morning Edition; Monday, February 9 One of the hottest areas of cancer research is in "immunotherapy," which involves harnessing the immune system to attack tumors. After decades of frustration, researchers think they've finally figured out how to do this. A new generation of drugs essentially disables the ability of cancer cells to hide from the immune system. NPR health correspondent and editor Rob Stein reports that the treatments are showing promise for a wide range of cancers, including skin cancer, kidney cancer and lung cancer.
Fighting For The Latest Treatment All Things Considered; Monday, February 9 Kathy Liu is desperately trying to find a cure for her 10-year-old son Joey, who was diagnosed last year with late-stage kidney cancer. She's petitioning the FDA and three major drug companies to gain access to new immunotherapy drugs, treatment she believes is their only hope. The drug was approved in September, but that hasn't meant she can get it yet. Amanda Aronczyk of WNYC reports that Kathy Liu needs to decide how far she'll go with current treatments — that barely work and are very toxic — to keep Joey alive until the "miracle" drug becomes available for kids.
What's The Prognosis? Morning Edition; February 10 "Doctor, how long do I have to live?" That question, and the answer — an estimated amount of time that a patient might have left — can define what a patient will and won't do with their remaining time. But how accurate is the prognosis, and where does the data come from? And how can doctors and patients make that important question, and answer, less fraught? WNYC's Amanda Aronczyk reports.
Pregnant With Cancer All Things Considered; Tuesday, February 10 Last year, when WNYC health editor Mary Harris was 35, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the process of preparing for treatment, she also found out that she was pregnant. This story traces her journey through pregnancy, chemo, birth and the early infancy of her daughter, Stella. We follow her through the wrenching decisions she and her husband had to make from deciding whether or not to terminate the pregnancy, to the risks of undergoing chemo in the third trimester. Pregnancy in cancer is rare — estimated at 1 in 3,000 cancer cases. But it is also estimated to be growing, because more and more women are getting cancer screenings that mean a diagnosis comes early; and more and more women are putting off childbearing to their 30s or later.
Environmental Exposures and Cancer Morning Edition; Wednesday, February 11 From 1959 to 1967, 20,000 pregnant women in California enrolled in the Child Health and Development Study and agreed to provide blood samples throughout their pregnancy and beyond. Now, some of those children are getting cancers. Researcher Barbara Cohn is looking back at the samples from pregnancy to see if she can find evidence of chemical exposures in the womb. She is also sending her data on to the first NIH funded exposome research center at Emory University, where they will test those samples for evidence of thousands of chemicals — a process made possible only with new technology. WNYC's Paige Cowett reports.
Week of March 23 (specific airdates and times forthcoming)
Where are we with the War on Cancer? Medical researchers have made only modest progress treating the most common cancers since the war on cancer was declared in 1971. A fundamental reason is that scientists are still struggling to make sense of the underlying biology. One noted scientist says understanding has seemingly come full circle... from mind-boggling complexity, to seeming simplicity, and back again to complexity. NPR's science correspondent Richard Harris explores whether cancer research is in fact lost in an intellectual thicket.
Chronic Cancer As many people live longer with cancer, the disease has become a chronic condition that's manageable, but filled with regular treatments and a persistent underlying uncertainty. Dixie Josephson was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic ovarian cancer 14 years ago. WNYC's Paige Cowett follows Dixie and her family through her latest round of treatments.
Exceptional Responders In a clinical trial for the immunotherapy drug, Sunitinib, most patients with aggressive kidney cancer failed to respond. But a handful of patients responded remarkably well. The New York Genome Center is collaborating with Memorial Sloan Kettering to do comprehensive gene sequencing, with the hopes of figuring out what these "exceptional responders" have in common, and what we can learn from them about treating cancer. WNYC's Amanda Aronczyk reports.
Paying for Cancer Melinda Townsend-Breslin knows more than anyone would want to about paying for cancer. When her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013, her parents thought they'd be fine; they had what they considered "Cadillac" care. But the costs still added up, leaving her father with a stunning $500,000 bill when her mother died just eight months later. Melinda knows better than anyone that this shouldn't happen: she's a patient advocate in Louisville, Kentucky. She was able to negotiate their bills down to $125,000. But the experience left her with so many questions: why did her parents invest in "cancer insurance" so many years back, when it barely helped at all? How could her mother survive for just eight months and still have so many bills? WNYC's Amanda Aroncyzk reports.
Early Trials Today, children diagnosed with ALL, a common form of leukemia, have an 80%-90% chance of surviving if detected early. It is one of the most dramatic reversals in the history of cancer treatment: only a few decades ago, the survival rate was closer to 4%. In the 1960s, Pat Patchell and James Eversull were kids diagnosed with leukemia and both were part of the first cohort of patients to be taken off treatment, because they were responding so well. They are now middle-aged men, 62 and 52 years of age respectively, and WNYC's Amanda Aroncyzk checks in to see how life turned out for them, and examines how those early trials sent the precedent for cancer treatment as we know it today.
WNYC's On The Media Premieres Friday, March 27 Hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield are joined by author Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D. for an episode on how the media covers cancer, and how that coverage shapes research, cancer funding, and the public perception of the disease. On the Media airs on over 400 public radio stations nationally.
Support for "LIVING CANCER" comes from the Susan and Peter Solomon Foundation and The Iris and Junming Le Foundation. Additional support for WNYC's health coverage is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Charina Endowment Fund, the Simons Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, The Winston Foundation, and The Hearst Foundations.
The "Living Cancer" series is produced in collaboration with NPR's Science Desk, one of the largest teams of science and health journalists in the world. Reporting from the NPR Science Desk has won numerous broadcast and online awards, including the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia award, the George Foster Peabody award, the National Science Board Public Service Award and the Keck Communication Award, among many others. The reporting team produces numerous in-depth documentaries as well as the popular podcast and radio show Invisibilia, which explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior. NPR's Science Desk coverage can be found at npr.org/health, NPR's Shots blog and @NPRHealth on Twitter.
More information about Ken Burns Presents Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies A Film By Barak Goodman, including complete production and supporter credits, is available at CancerFilms.org. A collaboration of Florentine Films, Laura Ziskin Pictures and WETA Washington, D.C., in association with Ark Media, the PBS series includes a comprehensive national campaign with engagement partner Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and an array of other project supporters.
About NPR NPR is the leading provider of non-commercial news and entertainment programming in the U.S. More than 26 million people listen to NPR programs and newscast each week via 800+ radio stations throughout the country. In partnership with Member Stations, NPR strives to create a more informed public – one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures. As a digital innovator, and a leader in the public media community, NPR assures that the unique mission of nonprofit public media is not only preserved, but grows.
About WNYC WNYC is New York's premier public radio producer and broadcaster, comprising WNYC 93.9 FM, WNYC AM 820 and www.wnyc.org. As America's most listened-to AM/FM news and talk public radio stations, WNYC extends New York City's cultural riches to the entire country on-air and online, and presents the best national offerings from networks NPR, Public Radio International, American Public Media, and the British Broadcasting Company. WNYC is home to a newsroom of 65 journalists, and the producer of award-winning national programs and podcasts including Radiolab, Freakonomics Radio, The Takeaway, Studio 360, On the Media, Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Death, Sex & Money, The Longest Shortest Time, and The Sporkful, among others. For more information, visit www.wnyc.org.
NPR Media Relations: Caitlin Sanders Email: mediarelations (at) npr.org
WNYC Media Relation: Jennifer Houlihan Roussel Email: jhoulihan (at) wnyc.org