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Contact: Marcie Klein
White Plains, NY (February 23, 2015) - Significant advances toward cures for blood cancer patients, many of which were funded by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) over the past 65 years, are among the dramatic highlights featured in Ken Burns presents CANCER: THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES, a film by Barak Goodman, to air on PBS stations nationwide from March 30-April 1. The documentary series is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.
LLS has been a driving force behind treatment breakthroughs for patients with blood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. As the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to finding cures for blood cancer patients, LLS has invested more than $1 billion in research to advance lifesaving treatments and cures.
"The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is honored and inspired to support the PBS documentary, CANCER: THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES," said Louis DeGennaro, PhD, president and CEO of LLS. "In many ways, Dr. Mukherjee's brilliant history of cancer parallels the work of LLS, and shows that we are truly at a unique moment in our ability to treat and cure patients with blood cancers and other forms of cancer. We are especially gratified that this powerful documentary showcases key advances pioneered by LLS, including the groundbreaking work in targeted therapies for certain forms of leukemia, which have increased survival rates and quality of life for patients."
Treatment advances in which LLS has played a role, include:
First combination chemotherapy developed for childhood leukemia;
Targeted therapies for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) that seek cancer cells and kill them;
The first successful stem cell transplants for leukemia patients;
CAR T- cell immunotherapy, the newest frontier of cancer research, in which genetically engineered T cells kill cancer cells.
Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, commented, "The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has played a pivotal role in helping us reach this extraordinary moment of great promise in cancer research and treatment. The research LLS has funded over the past 65 years has contributed to breakthroughs that help us to tame some of the most lethal blood cancers, and show promise in other cancers as well."
The documentary chronicles the history of cancer, including breast, lung and blood cancers. Blood cancers are the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., behind only cancers of the respiratory and digestive systems. Some therapies first approved for blood cancer patients are now helping patients with other cancers and other chronic diseases. In fact, since 2000, almost 40 percent of new anti-cancer drugs approved by FDA were first approved for blood cancers.
"Despite this moment of great promise, there is still more work to be done," stated Dr. DeGennaro. "Survival rates for many blood cancer patients have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled since the early 1960s. Yet, today, more than a third of blood cancer patients still do not survive five years after their diagnosis. And, unlike many other cancers, you can't prevent or screen for most blood cancers. That's why we must invest in cures."
Beginning with the 2010 publication of Dr. Mukherjee's book and, now, with the airing of the documentary on PBS, a national conversation is under way. "It is our hope that this important story will reach even larger audiences, and compel the public to learn more about the urgent need to fund cancer cures," said DeGennaro.
Production supporters include Genentech, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Siemens, David H. Koch, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Kovler Fund, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Cancer Society, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS.
About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and multiple myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.
Founded in 1949 and headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org. Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.