CBS ’60 Minutes’ Episode Guide (Dec. 7): Disrupting Cancer; Dan River Coal Ash Spill

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CBS ’60 Minutes’ Episode Guide (Dec. 7): Disrupting Cancer; Dan River Coal Ash Spill

Duke Energy is committed to cleaning up its 32 coal ash ponds in North Carolina that environmentalists say are polluting the water supply, but there is no simple fix for the decades-old problem, says the company’s CEO, Lynn Good.

The Duke Energy CEO speaks to Lesley Stahl in a rare interview discussing how the nation’s biggest utility company plans to handle decades of accumulated coal ash waste in the state of North Carolina, in a report to be broadcast on “60 Minutes,” tonight, Dec. 7 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

“I cannot immediately move 100 million tons of ash. It’s not a response that makes any sense,” Good tells Stahl. “As much as I’d love to tell you there’s a simple solution, it’s one that requires study, it’s one that requires time to complete.”

Duke and the rest of the coal-burning power industry have stored coal ash for decades in ditches dug next to rivers or lakes. An estimated 1,070 such ponds exist in the U.S. Coal ash can contain heavy metals associated with cancer, like mercury and cadmium. Environmentalists say toxins from these ponds and basins constantly leach into nearby water and soil, potentially impacting drinking water.

This issue was spotlighted earlier this year, when Duke Energy had a spill at a plant on the banks of the Dan River in North Carolina. It was the third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history. This month, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to announce whether and how the federal government will regulate coal ash disposal, which is currently regulated only at the state level.

Then, later in “60 Minutes” broadcast, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has already struck a blow against cancer, inventing a drug to fight the disease that’s helped to make him the richest man in Los Angeles. Now the surgeon and entrepreneur is using nearly a billion dollars of his fortune to go full-throttle into an unconventional method of fighting cancer that he hopes will make it a chronic, treatable disease instead of a death sentence.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on Soon-Shiong and his cancer research for a “60 Minutes” story to be broadcast tonight, Dec. 7 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Most cancer treatment is governed by the location of the tumor; some drugs, for example, are for breast cancer, while others work better against lung cancer. Soon-Shiong has built an infrastructure to enable his researchers to map the entire genome of individual tumors, a process that once could have taken months but with new supercomputers can be done in a day.

The idea is to learn as much about a tumor’s mutations so the bad mutations can be identified. It’s thought that by classifying the cancer by its mutations, each bad mutation can be seen as a separate disease to treat individually with specifically designed drugs.

“Imagine reclassifying cancer… and understand that cancer’s a slew of rare diseases,” says Soon-Shiong. “It’s going to mean you have a better shot at having a better outcome and having a quality of life and actually turn the cancer, hopefully, into a chronic disease,” he tells Gupta. Watch an excerpt.

Soon-Shiong says his method is ready to be used in the mainstream now, but some oncologists, who despite seeing the merit in the technique, don’t think it’s entirely proven.

One of them is Dr. Derek Raghavan, President of the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, N.C.. “Yes, that’s a fair theory… I don’t think we’re there now… I don’t think we’ll be there next year,” he says. “I think that’s there’s just too much hard, complex science that has to be done before this is state-of-the-art. But it’s a very cool idea for the future.”

And later, in the medieval Italian city of Cremona that gave the world the famed Stradivarius violin, Bill Whitaker finds artisans still trying to replicate the sound of the multi-million-dollar violins by crafting them the same way Antonio Stradivari did 300 years ago.


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