Alice Markowitz, 33-year-old Harvard psychologist turned documentary filmmaker, reported and co-directed "Nova's" powerful report on the experimental cancer therapy interleukin-2 for the Chedd-Angier Production Co. She and her associate, Graham Chedd, came to the IL-2 program at about the same time as the first patients.

Her fly-on-the-wall reportage, which gives the program much of its strength, also gave the television team more than usual personal involvement.

"Basically, I said to the patients, 'You don't know what you're getting into and I don't know what you're getting into, but will you let me go with you?' "

One of the patients who only moments before had greeted his doctor with a quip became "terribly ill quite suddenly while we were shooting . . . We left the room, but then I came back in and said to him, 'Neville, this is a documentary. Can we show the whole experience?' He said yes."

One thing Markowitz found most wrenching, she said, was accompanying the patients through their CT scans, which detects hidden tumors. "We sometimes knew the news before they did," she said, "and it wasn't always good. We were with these families at their most private moments, and sometimes their tragedies became ours."