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José Baselga was a pioneering physician-scientist and an inspiring leader. Meet the visionary oncologist in this documentary – a portrait of a complex man whose work transformed the lives of thousands of patients and who leaves behind a titanic legacy, as told by those who knew him best.

“THIS DOG HAS CANCER,” said Dr. José Baselga as he played with the family pet on the Christmas Eve of 1995. His family members, stunned, shook their heads. “You’re an oncologist,” José’s wife, Silvia, said. “You think everything has cancer.” José was adamant, though. He insisted the cocker spaniel required immediate surgery on an unseen tumor to survive. Silvia knew there was no use arguing with a man who never encountered a roadblock he couldn’t overcome, so she agreed to let José and his father, also a doctor, operate on the dog the night before Christmas.

José was right—the dog had cancer. The surgery was a success, and the cocker spaniel lived another healthy decade of life.

Intuition like José’s comes along once in a generation. Clinical measurements may be the currency of practicing physicians, but José, who passed away in March of 2021, was a visionary oncologist who could see patterns in the data that others couldn’t. Heralded as the “father of precision medicine,” he pioneered clinical and research approaches used in common practice today, and his work contributed to the development of numerous lifesaving cancer medicines. He inspired doctors and researchers around the globe with his passionate, unwavering drive to make a difference for his patients.

José Baselga: Cancer’s Fiercest Opponent follows José’s storied career – celebrating incredible achievements and overcoming challenges – as a physician-researcher at the world’s leading hospitals to closing his career as the leader of oncology research and development at AstraZeneca. A celebration of tenacity and vision, the film takes viewers from Barcelona to Boston to New York, exploring José’s life and legacy as a scientist, father, mentor, and friend.

A celebration of tenacity and ingenuity, this documentary tells the story of José Baselga, a visionary cancer researcher and physician whose life was cut short by a devastating neurological disease. The film examines José’s storied career over four decades as a scientist, father, mentor, friend and leader – including a high-profile controversy covered on the front page of The New York Times and the emerging portrait of his legacy as one of the titans of oncology.

José Baselga, MD, PhD, was internationally renowned as a major force in the development of molecularly targeted therapies and in making precision cancer medicine a reality for patients, died March 21, 2021, at the age of 61.

Baselga was born in Barcelona, Spain, on July 3, 1959. He earned his medical and doctoral degrees from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Early in his career, he helped found the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona. Baselga served as chairman of medical oncology and helped develop the institute into one of the major translational research and cancer treatment centers in Europe.

Baselga’s research focused on developing therapeutics that target genetic mutations in tumors and on understanding the mechanisms of drug resistance. Throughout his career, he led preclinical and early-stage clinical studies of targeted therapies for breast cancer. He conducted the initial clinical trial that demonstrated that patients with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer benefited from treatment with the anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody trastuzumab (Herceptin). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved trastuzumab in 1998, and since then it has been used to treat more than 2.3 million patients.

Baselga also helped develop everolimus (Afinitor), lapatinib (Tykerb), and pertuzumab (Perjeta), which are breast cancer treatments that have been used alone or in combination with other therapeutics for the benefit of countless cancer patients.

Although his early work focused on breast cancer, his expertise helped guide research into numerous other cancer types. In recent years, Baselga’s work contributed to the development of trastuzumab deruxtecan and datopotamab deruxtecan, antibody-drug conjugates that have shown promise in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

From 2010 to 2013, Baselga was the chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and associate director at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, also serving as professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He then joined Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as physician-in-chief and chief medical officer, serving additionally as professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. He is credited with establishing Memorial Sloan Kettering as a leader in early-phase clinical trials and in diagnostic genetic sequencing. In January 2019, he joined AstraZeneca as executive vice president for R&D oncology, forging collaborations with industry partners and championing the use of real-world evidence in clinical trials. He led a team aiming to accelerate progress in antibody-drug conjugates, cell therapy, epigenetics, and new cancer treatments. Baselga understood the power of basic science in the clinic, and his visionary work transformed treatment by bringing precision cancer medicine to the frontlines of standard of care.


Baselga joined the AACR in 1994. He was an extremely active member, serving as a senior editor of Clinical Cancer Research and a founding editor-in-chief of the high-impact AACR journal Cancer Discovery. From 2009 to 2012, he served on the AACR’s Board of Directors, and was elected AACR President for the 2015-2016 term.

As AACR President, Baselga oversaw a year of tremendous growth in the AACR. Among his many achievements, he chaired a Genomics in Clinical Medicine Think Tank, co-chaired the new Horizons in Cancer Research meeting in Shanghai, expanded the AACR’s international presence through partnerships with the European Association for Cancer Research and the European Society for Medical Oncology, and scheduled international meetings in Cape Town, South Africa and Sao Paulo, Brazil. He played an active role in the AACR’s relationship with Stand Up To Cancer, conducting research as part of the PI3K Dream Team and participating in interviews for the “Emperor of All Maladies” miniseries on PBS. He also spearheaded the AACR’s participation in the NCI Cancer Moonshot initiative and made major contributions to the development of the AACR’s Vision 2020 Strategic Plan.

Among many career awards, Baselga was recognized with the 2008 AACR-Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award, which honors notable contributions to clinical care by clinical investigators early in their career. He also received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute in 2004; the Annual Award from the European Society for Medical Oncology and the Professional Excellence Award in Biomedical Research from the Barcelona College of Physicians in 2005; and the King James I Award in 2008. He was also designated a Commander, Civil Order of Health, by Spain’s Ministry of Health in 2008.

In addition, Baselga was awarded the Bob Pinedo Cancer Care Award from the Society for Translational Oncology and the Gold Medal from the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in 2010; the Mike Price Gold Medal Award from the European Association for Cancer Research and the Joseph P. Martin Award from Massachusetts General Hospital in 2012; and the International Award for Cancer from the Foundation Carregal Ramiro La Rosaleda in 2013. He was inducted as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2014.

“José Baselga was a brilliant and caring oncologist, a supportive mentor to a whole generation of physician-scientists, and a pioneer and innovator in cancer drug development,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “He will be dearly missed throughout the entire world for his stellar contributions to cancer science and medicine, and for his stalwart dedication to the improved care of cancer patients.”

biography written by the AACR



José Baselga was a remarkable man who has left a profound impact in the field of oncology research and patient care. His many accomplishments and accolades alone would earn an honored place in your mind, yet prior to receiving the call to direct a film honoring his legacy I did not know his name. I immediately began to research and explore every bit of information I could find. It was clear this would be no easy task and one that would bear the loss of his presence much like the field he left behind.

We have all been, it is safe to say, touched by cancer. The brutal disease is unforgiving and bears no prejudice to people of any age, race, or gender. José was driven in his pursuit to defeat cancer and I was driven by the discovery of what fueled his passion. I knew that I wanted to start with his family and that they would provide the thread to our story. They knew a side of José that was far from the public eye and I believed they would provide the context for us to begin to peel away the layers of this man.

It was no easy task and there was no shortage of volunteers ready to share stories and insights. His life was not without controversy and as I learned more about the challenges he faced personally and professionally I began to develop a deeper respect and affection for him. As a filmmaker my job is often simply to listen and learn, to observe without judgement in the hopes of crafting a fair and balanced story that touches all the right places. I looked through hundreds of photographs, family videos and youtube recordings and what I noticed from the beginning was the very light, the spark in his eyes. He clearly loved what he was doing. He was on a path and determined to see it through. 

I am thankful for the lessons José has taught me throughout this process. I wish I had the opportunity to know him personally.

– Chris Valentino

The film features an Original Score by composer, Marinho Nobre. 
Preview Clara’s Theme
Director Biography – Chris Valentino

Chris has an award-winning history in film, television and the web. His film credits include: the feature film Brooklyn Lobster, featuring Danny Aiello and Jane Curtin; the animated short film Speed Racer Lives; and the independent horror film Disorder, and  INNERSTATE, the first of its kind, patient-awareness documentary for Centocor-Ortho Biotech (now Janssen).


chris valentino director producer

Christine Kapetanakis – Editor

Christine Kapetanakis is an Emmy and Grammy-winning video editor and producer. Prior to this film Christine produced and edited the Emmy winning documentary, “My Kid is Not Crazy.” 


Julien Jarry – Director of Photography

Julien Jarry specializes in documentaries and commercials focused around communicating meaningful messages and human impact.


Khadija Bhuiyan – Producer

This is Khadija’s first foray into film production. The talented Producer/DJ has earned a Masters in Public Health and is a healthcare public relations specialist for Evoke KYNE in NYC.


Marinho Nobre – Composer

Marinho Nobre is a Brazilian born composer, recording artist and music producer skilled both in electronic/synth generated as well as live and orchestral music on a variety of genres such as Classical, World and Pop.

jonathan kay

Jonathan Kay – Writer

Jonathan is a passionate and prolific science storyteller. This is his first documentary film as writer and executive producer; at AstraZeneca, Jonathan pulls from his neuroscience education to tell engaging stories about the science and the people behind the next wave of innovations in medicine.

Chris Valentino  Director
Jonathan Kay and Chris Valentino Writers
Christine Kapetanakis  Chris Valentino  Editors
Julien Jarry  Director of Photography
Marinho Nobre  Original Music
Jonathan Kay Executive Producer
Chris Valentino  Producer
Christine Kapetanakis  Khadija Bhuiyan  Producers
Darren Jordan   Evoke KYNE  Co-Producers
presented by AstraZeneca 

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VEEVA ID: z4-42711  Date of preparation: March 2022
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