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The Emperor of All Maladies


July 1st, 2015

Cancer has affected all of us – either personally or someone we know at work, school, a friend, or family.

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, was originally written in 2010, and is a Pulitzer Prize winner and bestseller. As the author states, it is a “biography of cancer” and attempts to answer the questions: “Is cancer’s end conceivable in the future? Is it possible to eradicate this disease from our bodies and societies forever?” ~ expert from book

The movie by the same title recently debuted on PBS in April 2015 as a three-part documentary.

“Cancer wants to live, at the expense of your entire body and your entire being,” says Dr. Suzanne Cole, an oncologist. “It doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care if you’re a mother, or a husband, or a daughter, or if you have four children. It doesn’t care. It just cares about itself.” ~ expert from documentary


This documentary highlights one of the longest wars we have fought as Americans – 75 years and counting – and the gains and losses at every turn. Interspersed with real patients vignettes and heartfelt interviews with physicians who struggle to make the best decisions, it takes you on a journey of how we came to fight cancer today. Ken Burns does an amazing job of capturing all of it in an entertaining and engaging format.

The Cost of Cancer

The film only touches briefly on the exorbitant costs of these groundbreaking therapies. This topic could have been its own separate film given how this is often a key factor in a life-or-death situation. It does present a telling graphic on how pharmaceutical companies are making huge profits from people who are fighting to save their lives. And how we are one of the only countries who operates in this manner.

It also fails to highlight any potential bias toward recommending certain treatments based on a doctor’s or medical institution’s research interests or how research is financed outside of big corporations like The American Cancer Society. To delve into this darker side of medicine would have been an interesting twist.

Moving Forward

Although we have made tremendous strides to fight this often deadly disease, by the end of the film it is clear we have just tipped the iceberg for therapy options. Twenty years from now, our current standard therapies will probably seem almost barbaric. We are on the brink of exciting breakthroughs that will change the face of cancer for us and the future.

Read the book or watch on PBS for free via your computer, laptop, or mobile device.

Originally posted at Alliance Integrative Medicine.