A Year to Save My Life: George McGavin and Melanoma - BBC4

George McGavin in A Year to Save My Life - George McGavin and Melanoma
(Image credit: BBC/Tern TV/Alex Gower-Jackson)

When BBC science presenter George McGavin was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in July 2018, he decided to make a documentary

In A Year to Save My Life: George McGavin and Melanoma, zoologist and broadcaster George talks of the time he was diagnosed with a deadly melanoma, in July 2018. "Three o’clock in the morning, when you can’t sleep, is the very worst time to start Googling," says George, 65.

"I had a small dark spot that looked like a bruise on the underside of my heel," he told TV Times.

"When I whipped off my shoe and sock for a skin specialist, I knew immediately it wasn’t good.

"Within two weeks I had a big hole in my heel where it had been hacked out. Biopsies on my groin nodes and PET scans revealed it had spread and was now a Stage 3 cancer."

Around this time, a new drug treatment became available on the NHS. In this film he sets out to discover more about his cancer and the pioneering treatment.

George McGaving in Texas in A Year to Save My Life - George McGavin and Melanoma

George's research takes him to Texas

"The cancer I’ve got is due to a single, tiny mutation in one gene in one cell in my heel. There are now drugs available that target this gene.

"I interviewed [2018 Nobel Prize winner] Jim Allison, who discovered cancerous cells basically fool our immune system into not killing them. Now there are several immunotherapy drugs that can do miraculous things."

It's an interesting, informative and, above all, hopeful programme. And as George says, "If you get cancer, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. There’s an army of individuals out there doing amazing research."

TV Times rating: ****

Elaine Reilly
Writer for TV Times, What’s On TV, TV & Satellite Week and What To Watch

With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and www.whattowatch.com covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.


As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast. 

After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.