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Cable TV show focuses on cancer

By Blythe Bernhard

McClatchy Newspapers

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Click. Diabetes. Click. Arthritis. Click. Cancer.

Forget reality shows, game shows or dramedys. Surf through the cable channels and you might find television shows focused entirely on disease.

Savvy television producers believe the next TV trend is targeted health programming. As the population ages, and chronic diseases rise, the shows could see a ratings boost.

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"Your Cancer Today" is a pioneer of the genre. Since launching in June, the Irvine, Calif.-based talk show has wrapped 41 episodes on cancer research and treatments.

"The interest level of what we’re talking about is only going up," said the show’s executive producer and host, Don Baillargeon. "There really isn’t anyone out there that isn’t affected by cancer in some shape or form."

About 1 in 2 American men and 1 in 3 women will develop cancer in their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society.

A typical "Your Cancer Today" show deals with two or thrme types of cancer. Baillargeon interviews four or five guests — including survivors, doctors and entrepreneurs — who discuss topics such as experimental therapies, survivorship and prevention. The show tapes on a set that looks like a living room, with fake plants and a window to nowhere. Some taped interviews of out-of-town experts are edited into the shows.

The show airs weekly as paid programming on cable stations nationwide and in Europe. The shows also are streamed online at www.yourcancertoday.com.

There are no commercials.

Alan Painter, CEO and financial backer of "Your Cancer Today," said there are no promotional tie-ins or corporate sponsorships from the pharmaceutical industry or others.

"They can’t buy me. It’s pure of heart."

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Nevertheless, Painter, who previously owned media companies in Washington, does have financial ties to cancer. He serves as a director of NanoLife Sciences of Newport Beach, Calif., which plans to open proton treatment centers worldwide. Proton therapy is targeted radiation that is used most commonly to treat prostate cancer.

Painter, whose family members have had cancer, says he was inspired by his work with NanoLife to create "Your Cancer Today." He initially wanted to create a comprehensive Web portal for cancer information. Baillargeon — who also produces the cable show "MoneyTV" — suggested turning it into a television show.

It remains to be seen if "Your Cancer Today" will become a promotional vehicle for NanoLife when the company opens its clinics. Larry Welch, CEO of Nanolife, was interviewed on the show’s first episode. The show’s medical adviser, Dr. Stan Wasbin, practices general medicine, not oncology.

The American Cancer Society is cautiously supportive of the show. They’ve offered up experts for appearances, but they’re still waiting to see how the corporate relationships evolve before offering a more firm sponsorship or endorsement, a local spokeswoman said.

While the company isn’t making any money now, that is the goal.

Baillargeon, the producer, says if "Your Cancer Today" were a biotech company, it would be in the research and development phase.

"You’ve got to put a product out there to prove you have viability and a need in the marketplace. The next logical step is to explore the revenue side of things."

Eventually, the plan is to expand "Your Cancer Today" to create online "white pages" (unpaid) and "yellow pages" (paid) directories of hospitals, doctors and treatment facilities that work with cancer patients.

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Painter and Baillargeon also want to produce up to 15 shows on other health topics including diabetes and chronic pain. The pilot for "Your Diabetes Today" has already been shot.

Cable channels commonly use independently funded shows to fill air time between their own programming. While the disease-related shows are paid programming, they’re not considered infomercials because they aren’t pitching one product.

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