Ken Burns

PBS is teaming up with filmmaker Ken Burns to adapt Siddhartha Mukherjee's Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer into a documentary.

"Cancer touches nearly everyone in this country, and public media can play a vital role in educating Americans about this disease," Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of the PBS station WETA in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. "We will illuminate cancer as never before, exploring in depth its history, sharing the experiences of those battling it, and offering new hope by spotlighting some of the most extraordinary research being done today.

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Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) will also partner with WETA on the project to create a national outreach and engagement campaign surrounding the film.  SU2C co-founder and movie producer Laura Ziskin had wanted to produce a documentary about cancer and acquired the film and television rights to Mukherjee's book before her death in 2011.

"My work as a filmmaker is directly linked to the death of my mother from cancer when I was 11," Burns said. "From the age of 3, I watched her suffer and struggle with this awful disease, forever creating for me a desire to explore the past and to listen deeply to the stories that we all have to tell. I was frightened and exhilarated by Sid's book and thrilled by Sharon's suggestion that we collaborate to turn this remarkable accomplishment into a film."

Burn has previously worked with PBS on documentaries, including The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz and Prohibition.

The three-part, six-hour film, which will be directed by award-winning filmmaker Barak Goodman, will air on PBS in the spring of 2015.