War On Cancer
Filmed over eighteen months, War On Cancer had unprecedented access to film behind the scenes at the NIH. It is a moving tribute to a team battling at the cutting edge of cancer research and to those who suffer from the deadly skin cancer, melanoma. Rosenburg believes our immune system can be activated to attack the cancer. If he succeeds, the therapy will have a far reaching affect for the treatment of all cancers. During filming we saw some patients disease disappear.
Part medical detective story, part moving real-life drama, War On Cancer observes world-renown, Doctor Steven Rosenberg at America's National Cancer Institute (NCI) who first made headlines in 1988 for his discovery that the hormone Interleuken-2 (IL2) can fight cancer. Filmed over eighteen months we had unprecedented access to film at one the world’s most renown research institutes. The series is a moving portrayal of a research team battling to develop a cutting edge new vaccine for the deadly skin cancer, melanoma.
Until very recently, fewer than one in five melanoma patients responded to treatment. This gravest form of skin cancer spreads quickly to destroy the body's vital organs; survival rates are low. But melanoma may have met its match with Rosenberg’s vaccines which work by targeting this deadly cancer, boosting the body's own immune reaction and sending patients' cancer-busting white cells on search-and-destroy missions.
This definitive documentary series tells the history behind the news headlines, and the ongoing story of five different patients with terminal melanoma, the fastest-growing cancer in the United States.
The urgency behind the race to the cure becomes clear when viewers follow five patients through the roller-coaster ride of remission, return and, in most cases, recovery. They include: Sidney Wheat, a Louisiana construction worker whose company threatens to fire him when he comes for treatment. He is the first to try the latest vaccine, and one of the lucky ones. His cancer virtually disappears. Donald Weber, is a college dean whose cancer has spread to his lungs. Immunization therapy shrinks the spots in his lungs, but then something new shows up in his brain. Seventeen year old high school student, Tina McDaniel’s cancer is spreading fast. Single mother, Jacintha Cohen, never wore sun crème. Her skin is dotted with melanoma which start to ‘melt’ away as she starts the vaccine therapy.
Cameras follow the research team from patients’ rooms to pathology labs, from conference rooms to CAT scan bays - literally the front lines against this deadly disease. It is a series full of hope, tragedy, determination and inspiration.
In the clinical trial, tumors shrank or disappeared in 42 percent of the patients treated with the innovative combination of custom-made vaccine and immunity-booster IL2. This is an encouraging response rate for patients who had previously been treated with conventional cancer-fighters such as radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, but their cancer had always continued to grow. Without this vaccine treatment, those patients would have died within a year.
“As we can see from the results, which more than double previous response rates for advanced melanoma, the immune system has the wisdom and the power to kill large tumors,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “Maybe one day, immunotherapy will join surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as a fourth line of defense against cancer. We need more research to learn how it works.”
"Fascinating viewing - part medical detective story, part moving real life drama." Wall Street Journal
"Well-told, dramatic, heartbreaking story. This is what documentaries are supposed to be like." Tom Simon, Working Dog Productions
"Thank you for being part of Tina's life". Leana McDaniel
"Your documentaries really catch the viewer's interest in both the treatment, and in caring about the patients. Very emotional." Beverley Paye
"I was inspired and fascinated by the Discovery Channel programme". Leni Kearns
"Outstanding job". Dr John Yannelli
American Academy of Dermatology 1998 - Golden Triangle Award for the Outstanding Contribution to the Treatment and Understanding of Melanoma Skin Cancer
National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences 1998 - Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Coverage of a Continuing News Story
LinksNational Cancer Institute
Executive Producer: Nancy LeBrun
Producer and Director: Sarah Cunliffe
Duration: 3 x 60 mins
Editor: Anna Gregory Music Marc Aramain
Narration: by Renee Pouissant
Photography: by John Davey, Ed Castner
A Cunliffe & Franklyn Production for The Learning Channel