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CNN Presents: Taming the Beast
Aired August 14, 2005 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I am Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta and here's a look at the headlines this hour.
Not long after Israeli forces sealed off Gaza at midnight local time, Palestinian militants reportedly fired shots at Israelis, and some settlements' residents rioted. There were no reports of injuries. Gaza residents have until midnight Tuesday to leave but some plan to resist.
And another political deadline is coming up in Iraq. A draft of the country's new constitution is due on Monday, only hours from now. Sunni Arabs are asking to put off the question of how to divide national and regional power.
And a Greek transport official says the oxygen system may have failed on the Cypriot airliner that crashed into a hillside. There were no survivors among the 121 passengers and crew, many of whom died wearing oxygen masks. And Cypriots, at least one official there, is quoted as saying the plane had experienced problems with cabin pressurization.
And tense moments today at Washington's Mayflower Hotel. An employee found a package that resembled an explosive device. The building was evacuated and emergency crews responded, but CNN has learned the package was a training device left behind by a Secret Service agent.
Now, coming up on CNN SUNDAY NIGHT, a behind the scenes look at air cargo security. Is the government doing enough? CNN investigates, so please join me at 10:00 Eastern.
More headlines at the bottom of the hour, straight ahead, "Taming the Beast: Inside the War on Cancer."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you have to do at the clinic?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm going to have ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: X-rays.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you treat cancer all day, you win a lot, you lose a lot and you're humbled by the disease.
I think we select the patients that are going for it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to be there to experience those birthdays. The graduation. The weddings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hadn't given up hope when it had reoccurred and I still haven't given up hope.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They stay you've got to stay alive long enough so if this doesn't work we're going to have something else around the corner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, what do I have if I don't have hope?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of small victories, but we haven't won the war.
AARON BROWN, CNN HOST: Those fighting cancer have given their enemy a name. They call it the beast. And to survive they must tame it. Welcome to CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown.
More than 30 years after declaring war on cancer, the disease refuses to surrender. It claims 1,500 lives a day in the United States and for 10s of thousands of patients each year, those diagnosed with terminal or suffering from rare forms of cancer, their last stop, their last best hope, is the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Run by the state, it is the number one cancer center in the United States, performing more clinical trial than any other cancer institution. Over the next hour, Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the story of five special patients at Anderson, their daily battles, the challenges, their disappointments, and the radical science that may save them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Judaism, when you break the glass, it means no matter what happens in your life, there is some shattering.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Alan and Nancy Luskie (ph), life shattered with a diagnosis. Brain cancer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They came out and said we're 99 percent sure it's a tumor, we're 96 percent sure it's malignant and my knees just buckled. And it's like surrealistic. That can't happen to me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was totally, totally in shock. It's like, this is not happening to us. This is what other people experience. This happens to other people and not us and I became hysterical.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I refused to accept it. I didn't deny it, I heard what they said, but I said, look, you all go scrape up all the money you can get together and make a book on it. This cancer won't kill me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All this is rebuilt. More drawers over here for easy accessibility. GUPTA: So far, Alan is beating the odds. Still alive nine years later, he and his wife Nancy are renovating their home. Making it wheelchair ready, just in case. A survivor, Alan had gambled his life could be saved at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. A major staging ground in the battle against cancer, M.D. Anderson runs more clinical trials than anywhere in the nation. Every patient that checks in has enlisted in the war against cancer. We wanted to hear those stories. People fighting cancer with their every breath, with every step. First we needed a special room.
(on camera): We set up our signs and lights and cameras and cleared the whole thing out. Doctors, nurses, volunteers and patients were all invited to step inside. You see, no one is immune from this disease, so alone and in private they sat down here to share with us the truth about cancer.
YOLANDA, CLINICAL NURSE: I think if cancer took on a human form, it would probably be the biggest, ugliest monster that you could ever even imagine.
REBECCA, LEUKEMIA: An octopus. So many arms, so many tentacles. It keeps holding on. It just won't let go.
JIM, PROSTATE CANCER: I call the cancer a terrorist, because you don't know where it is, you don't know what it's doing, and it's in there floating around in your blood, looking for the next place to blow up.
HAZIM, SOFT TISSUE CANCER: It wouldn't look happy. It would look like it wanted to tear everything on its site. My body.
VICTORIA, BREAST CANCER: It's not pretty. It's not kind. It's not gentle.
GUPTA (voice-over): Cancer has not been kind, nor gentle, to Alan Luskie. Parts of his brain, ripped away. Nobody knew then, but Alan had the deadliest form of brain cancer you can get, malignant glioblastoma, stage four. He had a year if he was lucky.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We sat down one day and I said, honey, let's do a dream ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A whole list of -- We wanted to go several places. I'd been all over except Israel.
GUPTA: A to-do list before death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go to Alaska, go fishing. Be alive to see my doctor get married, to see a grandchild. I'm doing 'em.
GUPTA: To buy time, Alan quickly entered a clinical trial. Out of 13 patients, one lucky survivor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a trajectory from here right down to there.
GUPTA: Two years ago, Dr. Fred Lange (ph) removed some of the cancer, but now he may have found a better way to destroy Alan's tumor. Dr. Lange and Dr. Juanfeo (ph) have developed a viral therapy, code-named delta-24. It's one of a new generation of targeted therapies. The very latest in man's arsenal against cancer. It's called the smart bomb.
UNIDENTFIIED MALE: It's called smart because it could distinguish tumor cells from normal cells. So it wasn't just something that was going to injure everything. It's a bomb in the sense that it can explode within a cell. So the virus enters a cell, increases its numbers, replicates and then essentially blows up that cell to release more virus into the environment.
GUPTA: At least that's what they hope would happen. So far the smart bomb has only been successfully detonated in mice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of these animal models are perfect and you always have to be cautious about saying, oh, because you saw it in a mouse, you're going to see it in the patients. We have extended survival of a lot of mice.
GUPTA: Lots of mice saved but very few people. Glioblastoma, the most common brain tumor, will strike some 7,000 Americans this year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next step is to take it to clinical trial.
GUPTA: Alan is willing to give delta-24 a try.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you have cancer, you get rid of it two ways. One is if they find a cure and two is when you die. Until one of those two things happens, you have cancer.
GUPTA: Each year, nearly 1,000 patients with brain cancer arrive at M.D. Anderson. Nearly 30 percent will go into clinical trials. The trials have variations and must be composed very carefully.
Phase I is very simple. Just a few people. They're testing for safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they take you right up to death and then stop. Hopefully.
GUPTA: Phase II is more elaborate. Does the new therapy work? Hundreds take part.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They say you've got to stay along long enough so if this doesn't work we're going to have something else around the corner. And these specialists here do not stop.
GUPTA: Thousands take part in phase III of a clinical trial. It's new therapy versus standard treatment. Patients hope that it's as good. They pray that it's better. Alan Luskie prays he's a live to see his daughter get married and his grandchild born. No one knows if time is on his side.
CHRIS, SOFT TISSUE CANCER: As soon as I just get my hair back, which I'm getting back now, I'll be losing it again. But you know what? That's just fine. I'll be here in 10 years, I'll be here in 20 years. Inch by inch.
BROWN: We now return to "Taming the Beast: Inside the War on Cancer."
MARIA, WITH BRIANNA: What's the number thing kids with cancer should tell doctors?
BRIANNA, PEDIATRIC BRAIN CANCER: They hurt really, really bad?
MARIA: If I could change one thing about cancer, it would be ...
BRIANNA: Make it go away.
MARIA: Make it go away? And what else?
BRIANNA: That's it.
MARIA: That's it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what are you going to do in Houston? What do you have to do at the clinic?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm going to have ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: X-rays.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good girl.
GUPTA: Alexandra (ph) is the only child of Sandra and Ed Krauski (ph). While on vacation, she suddenly blurts out, my back hurts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When it hit it hit like a rainstorm. It just was very, very fast. We were going to be taking her to Disneyland the following day and we never got to Disneyland and we never did anything that we were going to be doing as a family. I thought it was something serious. It was just a total gut instinct. It was just, you have that little voice saying something is wrong.
GUPTA: For weeks, doctors thing otherwise. They point to a new tricycle or a playground injury as a probable cause of the pain. Then suddenly, little Allie can't walk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was telling the doctors, "My legs are stuck." She had no movement from her waist down. She was completely paralyzed. It was just a horrible situation where you're - I said to my husband that I'm losing my child and she's dying in front of me.
GUPTA: An emergency MRI reveals a tumor on Allie's spine. She has a rare, often fatal cancer called Ewing's sarcoma.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I made the decision to get her to Houston immediately. We chartered a Lear jet. We put it on our card, it was $12,654. It was the best $12,654 I ever spent.
GUPTA: At 4:00 in the morning, they arrived at their new home, room 938.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Allie's prognosis when we arrived at M.D. Anderson was guarded. For the first two months I never left the room. The only thing I ever saw was what I could see out the window.
GUPTA: Just down the street from Allie's room is Dr. Eugenie Kleinerman's lab.
EUGENIE KLEINERMAN, ONCOLOGIST: And how long did you wait until you started ...
GUPTA: As chief of the pediatrics division, she runs over 50 clinical trials.
KLEINERMAN: While we've made great advances in the treatment of leukemia and lymphomas, the cure rates for children with solid tumors such as sarcoma has not improved in 20 to 25 years.
GUPTA: Sandra, Allie's mom, also battles cancer. She knew her daughter's life depending on experimental medicine.
KLEINERMAN: Allie's physician, Dr. Cynthia Herzog (ph) came in and told me that there was a clinical trial for Allie's type of cancer. I said I don't need to think about it. I've already thought about it and you can bring me the papers and I'll sign right now.
GUPTA: Weeks of very aggressive chemotherapy and radiation had left Allie weak, nearly dead. Then she began a year long treatment with an experimental drug. After six months, a change.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew that it was working. I just had that feeling. When she started the trial, she just seemed to - I could see, you know, in her face she was getting more energetic and her appetite was coming back.
GUPTA: Inther (ph) was apparently boosting Allie's immune system, stimulating her white blood cells to kill off the cancer cells in her body. It was Sandra's wish come true. And Allie's wishes all came true, too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you wanted a kitten.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you wanted to go back to Disneyland.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I've told Dr. Kleinerman about six times. I won the lottery.
GUPTA: Now, almost six, Allie is cancer free, but must be monitored carefully.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now just hold your breath. Do not breathe and do not move.
GUPTA: Inther (ph), the drug that apparently saved her life, is still available as part of Dr. Kleinerman's ongoing trial. But after that it disappears.
(on camera): So there is a drug out there that, at least as far as you could tell, seemed to be working.
GUPTA: And you got a phone call saying they weren't going to manufacture the drug anymore.
GUPTA: You called the CEO of the drug company.
GUPTA: What did you say?
KLEINERMAN: I don't remember.
GUPTA: You were mad, though.
KLEINERMAN: I was very angry. Basically I was getting the message that our marketing people have done research and we're never going to be able to recoup our research and development cost, and it doesn't matter who we're going to help and who we're not going to help, the marketing people have made the decision that we're not putting anymore resources in this.
GUPTA: And the outcome?
KLEINERMAN: The outcome is we still have only a certain amount of drug.
GUPTA (voice-over): Just enough to treat 60 kids, or about one third of the kids that get Ewing's sarcoma each year. Even with federal incentives for research into rare so-called orphan diseases, the marketplace has shown little enthusiasm. There just aren't enough patients to make manufacturing profitable.
(on camera): So where are these last remaining drugs?
KLEINERMAN: The last vials that we have on site are here. And this is about half a year's worth. GUPTA: This isn't the kind of story people want to hear. If a drug works, why wouldn't they make more of it.
KLEINERMAN: Because sarcomas are a very rare tumor and you have to understand that drug companies, pharmaceutical companies, have to report to their stockholders and they're interested in their financials and this will never be a moneymaker.
GUPTA: This really keeps you up, doesn't it?
KLEINERMAN: Ah yeah, of course.
GUPTA: Keeps you awake at night.
KLEINERMAN: Of course.
ALEXANDRA, EWING'S SARCOMA: My name is Alexandra. I am five almost year old, almost six.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how many times have you been in the hospital?
ALEXANDRA: Four times.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four times.
BROWN: We now return to "Taming the Beast: Inside the War on Cancer."
ELIZABETH, BONE CANCER: The pain, it comes and goes, so it's not really a big deal to me. It's the waiting and wanting, wanting my own life. Wanting to - I just graduated from college, moved to Houston and started cancer treatments. Waiting to start my life and have a career and be free.
ELIZABETH, VOLUNTEER: We all have the fear that it might be my turn soon, so ...
PAULETTE, COLON CANCER: So what I have to do is just know that this is what's going on when I'm feeling uncomfortable that I can still be happy. And guess what, I woke up this morning. That's pretty neat.
GUPTA: Denise Hazen (ph) was just 39 when she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer.
Her battle plan, keep going, stay alive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to be there to experience those birthdays, the graduation, the weddings. I just want to be here.
GUPTA: Cancer is not the first challenge in Denise's life. Her son Nicholas (ph) has autism. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nicholas is a little angel child, we call him. He's eight year's old. He does have to struggle and things are harder for him sometimes but we're all better because of it and that's how I approach the cancer.
What a day!
Katherine (ph) has been so terrific during this time that yesterday was the first day she broke down a little bit because she does has more responsibility and she said, you know, this is hard on me too, mommy. And I said, you know what, Katherine? You're right, because I don't just have cancer, we all do. It affects the whole family.
GUPTA: And Katherine is especially at risk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, it's frightening because my mother and law was diagnosed three months after I was with breast cancer so she has it on both sides now. She'll be very closely watched.
GUPTA: Watched very closely because no cancer screenings are perfect. A tumor the size of a pea has a billion cancer cells in. By the time doctors spotted Denise's, it was the size of a peach and it spread to a lymph node.
If breast cancer is caught early, before it spreads, the five year survival rate is 98 percent. That one infected lymph node drops Denise's chances to 80 percent.
It's a strange new world for Denise and her husband Charles.
Her Starbucks in the middle of a cancer center.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, can I have a tall non-fat latte please?
GUPTA: Just around the corner, M.D. Anderson's medical library.
(on camera): And this is from when?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 1563 (ph).
(voice-over): Here you can hold cancer's bleak history. Across the decade, a parade of cures promised and discarded. One false hope after another. By 1970, the overall five year survival rate for cancer stood at a dismal 50 percent. Denise Hazen was just beginning grade school in 1971, when the government declared war on cancer. It wasn't until the early '90s with the arrival of better detection and treatments did the numbers of dying finally start inching down.
Now the war has come to Denise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been running. Last week I ran 15 miles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 15?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not all in one day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about in terms of side effects?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The one thing is that I do have headaches.
GUPTA: Today, the family wants the latest on a new cancer therapy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A friend of mine mentioned a drug called Herceptin? What is it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herceptin is more of a biological agent ...
GUPTA: Dr. Rivera says no, Denise can't take Herceptin. This new targeted drug shrinks tumors, prolonging life, but it only works with a small percentage of patients, those with a certain genetic glitch in their tumors. That leaves traditional therapy. Chemo, surgery, radiation, and for now it's working.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay, I appreciate everything.
GUPTA: Denise holds on to her family and survival.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my baby sister - I mean ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't cry a whole lot. I don't know, I guess I was just holding it in, but I just had to have faith that she was going to okay.
UNIDENITIFIED FEMALE: It's so surreal. They're putting this poison in my body to kill the cancer and you can feel it. It's cold.
VICKI, DENISE'S SISTER: I am here at M.D. Anderson because my sister Denise has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I really want to tell everybody how proud I am of my sister. She is facing a really hard battle and she is facing it with the most positive attitude of any person I have ever seen.
My sister is my hero.
LIN: Good evening, I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta and here are the headlines this hour. Not long after Israeli forces sealed off Gaza, Israeli police say some Jewish settlers rioted and Palestinian militants fired shots at Gaza residents of other settlements. Now there were no reports of injuries.
Gaza residents have until midnight Tuesday to leave but some plan to resist. Tense moments caused by an embarrassing mistake. An employee at Washington's Mayflower Hotel today found a package that looked like a bomb. The building was evacuated and emergency crews responded, but CNN has learned that the package was a training device left behind by a Secret Service agent.
And a Cypriot airliner has crashed in Greece, killing all 120 people onboard. A text message from a passenger said the cabin was freezing and the pilots were unconscious. The plane may have experienced a catastrophic loss of cabin pressure.
Well, while terrorism has been ruled out, investigators are baffled as to what caused the crash. On CNN SUNDAY NIGHT at 10:00 Eastern, I'm going to have the latest reports and we're going to talk with aviation experts. I'm Carol Lin. Now back to "Taming the Beast: Inside the War on Cancer."
BROWN: We now return to "Taming the Beast: Inside the War on Cancer."
MARTHA, BREAST CANCER AND STAFF: The worst part about cancer is the fear. It's the fear of what they will find during the tests.
TIM, PANCRATIC CANCER: Not knowing if I would be a daddy to this beautiful child here. He's coming up on his third birthday.
BRENT, PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT: We know that the hourglass is turned when you're diagnosed with cancer. You don't know how long that sand is going to run down. For some people it's short. For some people it's very long.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know where Bobby is going to be sitting. Bobby will be sitting to my left, to the congregation's right, and he will be approximately eight to nine rows back. He is always there.
GUPTA: By all odds, Bobby Yoakum should not be alive. A Baptist church deacon, he prays each day his stage IIII lung cancer won't take him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you have cancer, don't worry. That's not going to solve it. Don't worry. You pray about it. You trust God. You have faith. Have faith in God.
GUPTA: Bobby spends his days receiving chemotherapy, sometimes radiation, and one experimental drug after another. His wife Janet, always at his side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not afraid to die but I'm going to miss Janet. I love Janet. And that love is growing every day. It's getting stronger. It's stronger now than it was 10 years ago. Love never stops growing. That's one thing I find out.
GUPTA: For years now, nearly every week Bobby and Janet have left Baytown, Texas and made their way to Houston, to hope.
(on camera): So where are we siting?
DR. ROY HERBST, ONCOLOGIST: This is the waiting room for the thoracic center at M.D. Anderson.
GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Roy Herbst (ph) is Bobby's doctor, a pioneer in new therapies to beat back lung cancer.
HERBST: More and more I am developing a group of patients who are long term survivors of this disease. Now, we're not filling up the Astrodome quite yet, but we're seeing that this group is expanding and I really feel we are making stepwise progress in this disease and making lung cancer into a disease that can be treated, and in some cases cured.
GUPTA: Dr. Herbst first ordered Bobby a foul-tasting mystery drink. He wanted to know if pure shark cartilage worked on lung cancer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it would taste terrible, but anything that he suggested, if Dr. Herbst said it, I was willing to try. I have nothing to lose.
HERBST: This is actually ...
GUPTA: And in the beginning, plan A was a hit.
HERBST: You can see the main masses and it's pretty much disappeared.
GUPTA: But after 15 months of remission, the cancer began spreading.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I found out that it had reappeared and it was kind of a downer, but I tell you what, I still hadn't given up hope. I hadn't given up hope when it had reoccurred. And I still haven't given up hope.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, Bobby's real strong-willed. I guess it's his faith and belief in things like that.
GUPTA: Bobby moved on to plan B, more chemo and a new experimental drug. But like almost all clinical trials, plan B soon flopped.
HERBST: His tumor grew by more than 20 percent, so he had to come off the study.
GUPTA: Bobby was disappointed but hopes that his participation may have a larger purpose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just gonna benefit me, but they find out it's going to benefit the public and that's why I was willing to do this. GUPTA: Clearly, a single drug will not magically cure Bobby Yoakum and the more than 175,000 other Americans living with lung cancer.
HERBST: There are hundred of different variations in lung cancer. It might not be one drug, but it might be a combination of drugs or a cocktail of drugs that will really make the difference.
GUPTA: Bobby is now on plan C.
HERBST: To be honest, they're not any smaller, and I would have liked to have seen them a little but smaller, but they're not very much bigger, either. We're not going to make it all go away, so what we're really trying to do is knock it down as much as we can. My advice would be to do this for another two rounds. Repeat the scans. At that point, if things are the same or stable at that point, I probably wouldn't continue on. I'd give you a break.
GUPTA: The Yoakums are left with the promise of new drugs, new weapons in the FDA pipeline. Just days later, a new weapon does arrive.
HERBST: A drug we've worked on here for probably about three, four years now. Got its FDA approval.
GUPTA: Tarceva, a once a day pill was fast tracked when trials showed it prolonged lives.
HERBST: I've already had calls from several patients asking, what does this mean for my care?
GUPTA: And Bobby Yoakum may be a candidate?
HERBST: Right. And someone like Mr. Yoakum, who, of course, is here on a regular basis, who follows what's going on in our research, we've already talked to him about, you know, what next.
ELIZABETH, DAUGHTER OF LEUKEMIA PATIENT AND STAFF: My father was a rough and tumble, macho, mean guy. And I think it took something like AML to have him slow down, look around, learn to love, take some time, and it rounded out his life.
I think that cancer - can you stop that for a minute?
We all have to die and cancer is a slow death, but perhaps it gives you time to develop the grace you need before your life is over.
RHONJEAN, NURSING INSTRUCTOR: Cancer changes people every day. The sun looks different and the rain looks different. The mornings look different.
GUPTA: Ten years ago, Dr. Martin Raber was on one side of the war on cancer as chief of physicians at M.D. Anderson. DR. MARTIN RABER, ONCOLOGIST: I was arguably at the top of my game. I was physician-in-chief at M.D. Anderson, I was doing a lot of very interesting studies in oncology.
GUPTA: You were on this upward trajectory like a rocket, it sounds like, here at M.D. Anderson.
Then cancer almost killed him.
When someone of your education level and your experience is told by the radiologist, I see something there, what is going through your mind? Are you thinking the radiologist got it wrong?
RABER: Definitely not.
GUPTA: You knew he got it right.
RABER: I knew he got it right.
GUPTA: What was it that they found?
RABER: They found a mass in corehepatis (ph).
GUPTA: In your liver.
RABER: Next to my liver.
GUPTA: Dr. Raber had lymphoma, a rare cancer of the blood. His prognosis? Poor. At home, four children and a frightened wife.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very scary because, of course, his disease does not have a cure rate. There was a lot of fear in how am I going to make this all work out, how are we going to take care of the kids and take care of Marty.
RABER: I can remember being on gurneys a lot, particularly when I was very ill and your time is spent in waiting rooms, your time is spent with clerks.
And I took interferon for two years, which is not a drug that I would particularly wish on people. And I reoriented my career away from patient care. I had big time doctor patient confusion. I couldn't decide if I was a patient of the doctor.
You know, I didn't practice medicine for about four or five years and I was - I was reall sick, I was on the sofa for a year. After I got sick I realized I was on the escalator. And in our society, everything is about the escalator going up. More money, more things, bigger house, bigger office, better job. Everything is going up and if you're not going up in our society, you must be going down. And when I was sick, I said to myself, what's most important to me is being well, being alive, alive for my family.
GUPTA: At one point, staying alive meant days in Anderson's ICU. Dr. Raber's recovery, uncertain. It was ...
RABER: Close. Close. Close. Close. I was deathly ill. I was going to get better or I was going to die.
GUPTA: His recovery took five years. And when he came back to work ...
RABER: Hi, Aaron (ph), how are you? Good to see you.
GUPTA: It was for the patients.
RABER: Tell me how you're feeling. How's the pain?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was probably about two or something ...
RABER: I interacted differently with the patients and I had a different sense than the other physicians with me about where the patient was and what the patient needed to hear. I don't think I have to tell a patient every time I see them, hey, you know you're going to die of this disease soon. But I have to tell them once and I have to have that discussion and we have to lock eye contact and I have to know that they got it on some level.
GUPTA: How important is it for you as a doctor to give a patient a few more months of life?
RABER: It's always the same question, at what price?
One of my patients a couple months said to me, Dr. Raber, you're just trying to buy time for me. I said, of course, that's what I do for a living. I buy time for people.
GUPTA: Would it be fair to say we've done a lot towards improving the quality of life that's left ...
GUPTA: But not as much towards the quantity.
RABER: Looking at the population as a whole, at the big numbers, that's probably true.
Lots of small victories. But we haven't won the war. But for the people who enjoy the small victories, like me and my illness, it's really great. But for the vast majority of patients who die of their disease, not a whole lot has changed.
When you treat cancer all day, you win a lot and you lose a lot and you're humbled by the disease.
GUPTA: While cancer robs its victims, Dr. Raber found it can also give something back.
RABER: After you've had serious illness, you think about life a lot differently and you appreciate life a lot more and in many ways life is better.
MARGARET, OVARIAN CANCER AND NURSE: In the end it brings out the very best in people. The big surprise is the triumph of the human spirit.
MAKI, BREAST CANCER: You will be the same person but stronger. The same person but a better human being. The same person but with more compassion for others.
KATHIE, BREAST CANCER: I realize now I'm mortal. I kept playing the next year, next year I'll do this, next year, I'll be better at this or next year I'll give this or I'll be a better person. This is next year.
BROWN: We now return to "Taming the Beast: Inside the War on Cancer."
VICTORIA, BREAST CANCER: It's time to use the good chine. And that's a phrase that I grew up with in the South and I think that it's very appropriate because when something important is going on, when something important - event was happening, you used the good china, and it was an important day. And every day of your life at this point is an important day.
It's time to use the good china.
GUPTA: From the rooftops, Dr. John Mendelsohn, president of M.D. Anderson, can see the field of battle.
DR. JOHN MENDELSON, PRESIDENT, M.D. ANDERSON: I think over 150,000 people come here every day. Between the employees and the patients.
GUPTA (on camera): So this is a city?
(voice-over): A city full of fighters.
MENDELSOHN: I think we select the patients that are going for it.
GUPTA: Patients wanting life, hope, and always more time.
Brain cancer patient Alan Luskie got his extra time. He wasn't supposed to be alive to see his daughter get married, but there he was, walking her down the aisle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've only waited her whole life for this.
GUPTA: He declared it simply ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wonderful.
GUPTA: As wonderful as welcoming Joshua, a first grandchild.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a miracle by himself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is, yes. No doctor in the world would have been able to say he would do that. To see our first born and hopefully to be able to spend the rest of our time with our loved ones.
GUPTA: Doctors Lange and Fueyo (ph) have yet to start human trials with their delta-24, the treatment that might destroy brain cancers like Alan's.
Allie Krausky (ph) remains cancer free, two years after her clinical trial with the drug Inther (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that drug should be given to any child who is suffering from Ewing's sarcoma. If there is a possibility it is going to work, that child deserves that chance of surviving and living a life.
GUPTA: The world's only supply of Allie's drug remains in a freezer at M.D. Anderson. No one is making more.
(on camera): So if a patient comes to you, let's say, a year from now or a half a year from now, when all the drugs are gone, what do you tell them?
KLEINERMAN: I have to tell you the truth. I have no drug to treat them.
GUPTA: Denise Hazen (ph) is nearing the end of her cancer journey.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe it? We have fought a tough battle. I mean I feel like, now that I have done chemo, I can take on the world. I mean, it's brutal.
GUPTA: Her mission remains the same. To stay alive for her family, for her husband.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. My knight in shining armor. It is different and I'm sure in the back of his mind he always has the gnawing feeling. Is she going to be okay? I'm going to be okay.
I want to be here. And sometimes I - Katherine (ph) talks about, well, when I have children - Just like, gosh, please just let me be here so I can see that.
GUPTA: Her solace remains her home by the sea and the gifts from it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was collecting this glass in August and I was diagnosed in September and it's just been tossed and tossed in the sea and it becomes something so precious. So that's kind of how cancer has been. I've been tossed and I've been beat up but I've made it through.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will lift up my eyes to the mountains from which shall my help come. My help comes from the Lord.
GUPTA: Janet Yoakum and her husband Bobby continue to face his lung cancer with faith. Faith in God and faith in Dr. Roy Herbst.
HERBST: Since we last spoke he has had a bit of progression with his tumor. And starting today, Mr. Yoakum is actually beginning his Tarceva.
GUPTA: Tarceva is Bobby's fourth clinical therapy. It likely won't be his last.
HERBST: I think you have to prepare for anything but we're not going to give up on him, if we need to we'll switch to another drug.
GUPTA: Keeping one step ahead of a cancer, taming the beast.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's it. That's the word for it. Taming the beast. Taming the beast. That's right. You can't beat the thing. You can try to tame it.
RABER: The CT scan was done March 7th.
GUPTA: Martin Raber. Doctor and cancer patient knows there is no cure for his cancer.
RABER: We really had to face the fact that there is no stable ground, that what you have, hopefully, are stable periods. And that's all you can ask for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you'd better enjoy them.
RABER: And you'd better enjoy them. That's exactly right. You'd better enjoy them because they don't - they're not guaranteed. And that's pretty much the way we live.
GUPTA (on camera): If you were making a movie on cancer, what would be your last shot, what would be the final thought of the film just before the credits started to roll?
RABER: You know all those old army movies that end when they're raising the flag, that victory flag, that's the last scene.
ROB, PHYSICIAN: I'd love to see a scene that drew people into the fight, into the battle. What can I do? What's my role? How can I contribute?
MARIELA, STAFF: Someone walking out, I guess, into their, I guess, your ideal place.
Somewhere where the sun is setting and the ocean is blue, and just being at piece.
SANDRA, ALEXANDRA'S MOTHER: What would the last scene be? Somebody yelling "Eureka" in the lab. That would be the last shot I would take. That they got it. And they know what to do. And then we wouldn't lose another person to this disease.
BROWN: Since the filming of our documentary ended, Allie and Dr. Raber have remained cancer free. Denise has completed her treatments, her prognosis is good. As for Bobby, he continues to fight his lung cancer with the latest targeted therapy, Tarceva. And Alan is still waiting to see if the experimental drug, delta-24, will get a green light for phase I clinical trials.
Sadly, the results have been anything but encouraging for many of those who participated in our recording room. Several of those patients have now lost their battles with cancer.
So at M.D. Anderson and elsewhere, the fight to tame the beast goes on.
That's it for this edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown. Thanks for joining us and we'll see you again next week.
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