Rebecca Davis

Nicole was only 23 when she had a double mastectomy following a breast cancer diagnosis. After she recovered, Nicole got a chest tattoo that symbolizes how she wants to live life after cancer.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

German scientist Matthias Schmidt wants to extract rare earth metals from abandoned mines using bacteria. He has an unlikely partner — Nedal Said, a Syrian refugee scientist who escaped Aleppo.

The audio story for Escape from Aleppo was edited by Geoff Brumfiel; produced by Rebecca Davis; music composed by Nicholas DePrey.

To see more stories of refugee scientists and those who dared to help them, check out our series.

Sharon Belvin's nightmare with cancer began in 2004, when she was just 22.

Belvin was an avid runner but said she suddenly found she couldn't climb the stairs without "a lot of difficulty breathing."

Eventually, after months of fruitless treatments for lung ailments like bronchitis, she was diagnosed with melanoma — a very serious skin cancer. It had already spread to her lungs, and the prognosis was grim. She had about a 50-50 chance of surviving the next six months.

"Yeah, that was the turning point of life, right there," she says.

A novel immunotherapy drug is credited for successfully treating former President Jimmy Carter's advanced melanoma. Instead of killing cancer cells, these drugs boost the patient's immune system, which does the job instead.

Immunotherapy is cutting-edge cancer treatment, but the idea dates back more than 100 years, to a young surgeon who was willing to think outside the box.

This is the story of a man whose ideas could have saved a lot of lives and spared countless numbers of women and newborns' feverish and agonizing deaths.

You'll notice I said "could have."

The year was 1846, and our would-be hero was a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis.

It's hard to imagine it now, when the death toll from Ebola is in the thousands. But just a few months ago, you could count the victims one at a time.

For Dr. Joshua Mugele, the counting began one morning in June when he showed up for work at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Mugele, an ER doc and associate professor of clinical emergency medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, was on a fellowship, working with staff to develop disaster readiness programs. The project had nothing to do with Ebola.