Cracking Cancer

44 min. Bullfrog Films. 2017. $250. $85 (rental). ISBN 1941545874.
Gr 9 Up—Doctors and patients involved in an experimental trial at the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver, called Personalized OncoGenomics (POG), are interviewed by journalist David Suzuki in this compelling documentary. The goal of POG is to use the power of genomic research to fight cancer. The genome of terminally ill trial participants is sequenced and then doctors compare the DNA of the patient's normal cells with that of their cancerous cells in an effort to discover where things went wrong. What is driving the growth of the patient's cancer? If a driver is pinpointed, doctors try to identify an existing drug that can block the cancer driver. One patient's breast cancer was halted with a drug commonly used to control diabetes while another's lung cancer was stopped with a high blood pressure drug. Patients whose cancer responds dramatically are known as super responders. (There are 800 participants in POG, but only about five percent are super responders.) Scientific explanations provided by doctors and scientists are interwoven seamlessly with the stories of several patients, some of whom experience a positive outcome during the trial while others succumb to their cancer. Dr. Janessa Laskin, cofounder of the trial, hopes to make cancer a chronic disease with tolerable treatments.
VERDICT POG's premise that cancer is a disease of genetic mutations and treatment should target what caused the mutation is a fascinating development in the ongoing struggle to battle cancer. Recommended for science classes studying biology and genetics.

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