Review: ‘VICE Special Report: Killing Cancer’ Is Optimistic, Gut Wrenching, Logical

VICE Special Report: Killing Cancer airs Friday night February 27th on HBO.


Bottom Line: The poison that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Both are true statements when it comes to beating up and killing cancer cells. VICE Special Report: Killing Cancer on HBO sees Shane Smith – like many of us – have a deeply personal stake and connection in the subject of cancer, the malady of all maladies (also the subject of PBS’ Ken Burns’ latest doc, a comprehensive report on the state of cancer today. Burns’ film premieres on March 30th and March 31st as well as April 1).

Shane points out with an even keeled narration that cancer looms for us all as either targets or relations to those afflicted. It does not discriminate. Smith presents a wide array of medical warriors who are fighting this disease (underfunded we come to find) and the overall feel of this special is that it gives tremendous hope. There’s some incredibly poignant moments and reveals, but mostly we feel Shane’s desire for this valuable research to break through and be available for all. There’s a sting for those of us all who are watching someone succumb to this disease, that all of this, albeit good news, cannot come fast enough. Kudos to VICE and their producers for honing in on this subject and celebrating the hard working pioneers in cancer research today. Please watch this documentary and support it with meaningful dialogue on social media.


One of the good guys: Carl H. June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of Translational Research in Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center


HIV, measles and viruses that have killed millions are now being used against one of the world’s deadliest diseases to save lives, and the results are astounding.

This Friday night (Feb. 27) , VICE Special Report: Killing Cancer goes inside the world’s most cutting-edge cancer research labs to follow the pioneering doctors and researchers who are changing the face of modern-day medicine and meet some of the cancer survivors who have already been saved by this revolutionary medical breakthrough. Tune in to HBO on 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT, one week before the Emmy®-winning series kicks off its third season March 6.


This is not easy watching. You will see children nearly dead from the disease, anguished families and live brain surgery, where the patient is awake.  The upshot is that these groundbreaking clinical trials net fantastic results even for the sickest in the documentary. We are taken through every emotion and follow the science of destroying cells with engineered viruses that no longer pose a threat, except to the cancer cell and tumor it is targeting.

VICE explores the radical new ways to eradicate leukemia, glioblastoma and multiple myeloma. These therapies include: the use of HIV to transform a patient’s immune system into a cancer-killing machine; a genetically engineered cold virus injected into a living patient’s brain tumor; and millions of doses of measles infused into patients’ bloodstreams.

We all know that chemotherapy and radiation wreaks havoc on a patient, and is as lethal at times as the cancer itself. Now collateral damage is mitigated as these programmed viruses infect and kill cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.  There are some side effects, mostly high fever and body aches, but this passes and the patients – gravely ill when they began – are restored and reinvigorated as their immune systems are aided to fight and destroy all the cancer. It is a potent reveal and you feel the exhilaration of their loved ones and the doctors who took these educated chances.

The special also offers an exclusive look at real-life clinical trials and the brave patients who are putting their lives on the line to help advance the therapy. Finally, it tells the inspiring stories of the cancer survivors who have already been saved by this revolutionary medical breakthrough.

“So many of us have been devastated by cancer in our families. All of us have been affected by it in some way,” notes Michael Lombardo, president, HBO Programming. “We are proud and excited to have VICE deliver such important news about this major breakthrough in the fight against cancer.”


“When I first heard Emily Whitehead’s story, I broke down and cried like a baby,” observes VICE Media founder Shane Smith. “At death’s door with aggressive leukemia until undergoing radical ‘immunotherapy’ that actually used re-engineered HIV cells to attack her cancer (which seemingly cured her) was a story that struck a father of two young girls to his core. My life, like most people’s, has been negatively affected by cancer, and the thought of my young children living in an age where this is no longer humanity’s number-one health fear was simply overpowering. My first thought was ‘How soon? How soon can we get these types of therapies to market and helping people?’ I couldn’t be prouder in bringing this story to the fore, and hope that with growing awareness about these types of new and radical therapies that the process is speeded up and we soon see them available to those suffering from this dread disease.”

VICE SPECIAL REPORT: KILLING CANCER is executive produced by Bill Maher, Shane Smith, Eddy Moretti and BJ Levin; co-executive producer, Jonah Kaplan; consulting producer, Fareed Zakaria.


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