The World of Cancer

The new film series, Cancer is…, is finally ready to be disseminated. After two years of production, the four full-length documentaries will, the producers hope, help viewers gain a better understanding of the world of cancer.
The films ask 52 leading cancer experts worldwide if we are we making progress in the fight against cancer. Are anti-tobacco laws working? Are vaccines helping cancer prevention? Is cancer rising in low resource countries? Is cancer high enough on political agendas? What scientific breakthroughs lie just ahead?
Every year, 160,000 new cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed, and 11 million new cases in adults. The World of Cancer Produced by mondofragilis network, ’Cancer is…’ is a product of partnerships with the the American Cancer Society, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO), the International Union Against Cancer, the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (IAEA) and Sanofi Pasteur MSD. The first two episodes are introduced by former US President George H. W. Bush a powerful advocate of the fight against cancer.
Cancer has emerged as one of the top killers worldwide, and, as the film tells us, now kills more people every year that AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria put together. When Giray’s mother died from cancer in 2007, he realised that, like the average citizen, he knew very little about this massive disease. So, in the best way he knew how, he decided to find out. He made a film. In fact, he made four films. And so, the project ’Cancer is…’ was born. Two years, five continents, thirty countries and fifty two experts later, we arrive at the four part documentary series that explores the world of cancer.
’Cancer is…’ takes us on a journey through the world of cancer, posing questions such as is cancer preventable? If so, what can each of us do to lower our risk? Are scientists doing enough? What treatments are available? We visit England, France, Peru, America, India, South Africa, to name but a few. We talk to a knowledgeable band of interviewees, composed of leading oncologists, scientists, health ministers, senior United Nations officials and patient group leaders who cover the length and breadth of cancer subjects, including the political aspect, which is rarely focussed on. At one point Dr. Destrumelle pleads « I just want to do my job », instead of being inundated with administrative barriers.
The difference in access between sectors of society and different societies altogether is highlighted throughout. Despite the fact that cancer is everywhere, and is no longer thought of as just a western rich person’s disease, we are told about the problems the poor and developing countries face. We hear about the lack of facilities available in Africa. One interviewee, Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society, suggests that there are as many radia tion therapy linear accelerator units in Atlanta as there are in all of Africa. Palliative care is another sensitive subject as we discover patients in Tanzania being treated with paracetamol and aspirin instead of morphine. The films make it evident that cancer is a frightening problem for lower resource countries.
The factual content is interlaced with a human touch throughout the series. We join Soleil, a young cancer survivor, as she tells us about her journey through cancer. Dr. Elmer Huerta, the President of the American Cancer Society says at one point, ’there is nothing more powerful than a cancer survivor’, and listening to Soleil recount stories of pain and love really prove his point. In the third and fourth episodes we also see the story of twins – one faced with cancer while her sister is miles away, on the other side of the Atlantic.
The film points out that everyone is affected by cancer. Whether it be personally, a family member, or friend. So many of us fear its ravages, but know little at all about it. Watching ’Cancer is…’ is an excellent way to get to know the enemy. It is only by knowing cancer that we can be prepared to ward it off, and fight it if it comes.
Of note, mondofragilis network, who co-financed the film with the American Cancer Society and Sanofi- Pasteur MSD, is distributing these films at no charge to television stations, universities, hospitals and websites worldwide. According to Giray, the film’s producer and director: « we just want the messages to get out. » To view the film online or to contact the producers, visit the website.