A New Galaxy of Stars


Sung Poblete is the president and chief executive officer of Stand Up to Cancer.

Television viewers would not have benefited from the acclaimed Ken Burns series Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, which was broadcast in the spring, were it not for alumna Sung Poblete. As the president and chief executive officer of Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C), Poblete NUR’89, GSN’92,’00 had the foresight four years ago, upon becoming the organization’s top executive, to buy the television rights to the eponymous best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee. She later was instrumental in facilitating the SU2C/PBS collaboration that led to PBS producing the series and to Burns serving as executive producer. During development, Poblete also led SU2C in gaining support from 15 organizations that donated money and other resources.

The series had been the dream of the late Laura Ziskin, a cofounder of SU2C, the organization created to raise money for cancer research and new patient therapies through network television and online exposure. “What better way to help change the conversation than with Ken Burns and PBS. The program showcases cancer in a way that only Ken Burns can,” says Poblete, who also hosted a New York City screening of the series for School of Nursing honors students.

Poblete, who remains a visiting professor at the School of Nursing, has helped SU2C generate roughly $370 million for research projects and allowed 5,200 cancer patients to participate in clinical trials. Others have benefited from three FDA-approved medications developed through SU2C scientific “dream teams.”

“I hope,” says Poblete, “that the message from the series is strong enough that we become galvanized and people pick up the phone or email their congressperson to support increased funding for cancer research.”  — Jeff Tolvin RC'72