BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | APRIL 24, 2013
A great opportunity to raise awareness and advocacy for lung cancer is in our own backyard - at least for the CURE staff. I hope the distance doesn't hold you back because if you're interested in lung cancer advocacy, Dallas is the place to be Sept. 19-22.
The Annual Lung Cancer Advocacy Summit, which is in its sixth year, will feature three days of training led by grassroots advocacy experts from the National Lung Cancer Partnership. The event is limited to only 75 people, and there is an application process. (Hope you practiced your essay-writing skills during the Healer Award essay contest, because you'll need to write one for the Summit application.)
The agenda is pretty packed. Training sessions include organizing fundraising initiatives, educating your community, reducing the stigma of disease (this is a biggie for me) and contributing to the scientific research process. That last one is equally important because advocates drive awareness, which drives funds, which drives research. This can equal big gains in the lung cancer community.
Participates will also have the chance to receive a tour of UT Southwestern's lung cancer research laboratories. You can view the entire agenda here.
The deadline for applications is June 4 (download the application here). There are scholarships available for transportation, but most meals and a shared hotel room is included for all participants.
Would you be interested in attending?RELATED POSTS
BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | NOVEMBER 12, 2012
As attention moves to lung cancer this month, I wanted to share the infographic below. It highlights current research into lung cancer and shows, among other points, that lung cancer is no longer one disease.
A few years ago, I was attending the annual meeting of ASCO (the professional oncology organization), which showcases studies that will change clinical practice and future research. Scientists were discussing the gains a new treatment had made in that it targets about 10 percent of non-small cell lung cancers. While some people questioned the importance of a treatment that only works in a small group of patients, the researchers were quick to note that 10 percent of patients diagnosed with lung cancer in a year is still more people affected than all those diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in a year (actually, it's more than double). It's the number one cancer killer and a stigma of blame has hindered awareness and research funding. Add to that the absolute complexity of the disease, and it makes for a tough cancer to crack.
Fortunately, research is beginning to make small gains in this hard-to-treat cancer. Advocacy organizations are increasing awareness and funding. Lung cancer survivors are raising their voices to help remove the stigma of the disease.
We have a long way to go, but I'm confident we're on the right track.
You can view a larger version here.RELATED POSTS
BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | FEBRUARY 7, 2012
As the nation prepared for Super Bowl Sunday, many were introduced to the story of Keasha Draft, the newlywed wife of retired NFL linebacker Chris Draft.
A beautiful love story, except that Keasha was diagnosed with lung cancer last year. She was 37 years old. Five weeks after their wedding, she passed away on Dec. 27. The ESPN video is below.
"She courageously faced lung cancer, showing us all with every breath that we all need to hold onto life and love with both hands for as long as we can." --The Chris Draft Family FoundationRELATED POSTS
BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | NOVEMBER 17, 2011
Today is the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout - a day smokers can circle on their calendars as the day they quit smoking.
While smoking has been most recognizably linked to lung cancer, quitting can also reduce your risk of bladder, head and neck, pancreatic and esophageal cancers - to name a few. And it's never too late to quit.
On my flight back from meeting with the American Cancer Society this week, I sat next to a man who mentioned that his father was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. He mentioned his father had been a smoker, but had quit and started treatment. It's never too late to quit. There have been several studies showing patients who quit smoking during treatment have a better response than those who continue to smoke.
Thankfully there are resources out there to help you to quit - and to help those you love to quit, including:
For those who continue to struggle with tobacco addiction, I thought it might be nice to hear from someone who has been there - President Obama. "The fact is, quitting smoking is hard. Believe me, I know."RELATED POSTS
BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | SEPTEMBER 1, 2011
Late Friday, Aug. 26, the FDA announced it had granted accelerated approval of crizotinib for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who test positive for a specific gene mutation.
Crizotinib, which was given the brand name Xalkori, has made news since results of a clinical study showed that it delayed tumor progression in patients with NSCLC who had a mutation in the ALK gene. The approval was based on two studies that showed a response rate (shrinkage or stabilization of the tumor) of 50 percent and 61 percent, respectively. Overall survival is still being evaluated, and a phase 3 trial is ongoing for Xalkori to receive full approval from the FDA.
The mutated ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) gene was first identified in lymphoma in 2004, then in lung cancer in 2007. The mutation actually occurs when parts of chromosome 2 breaks off and reattaches at a different location on a chromosome - fusing the ALK gene to the EML4 gene. In 2009, a review in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology showed the mutation to be a cause of about 4 percent of NSCLC cases. In less than a decade, researchers have identified a mutation, developed a drug to target it, tested the drug and succeeded in getting it approved.
Although it only applies to a small population of lung cancers, the total number of patients who could benefit from Xalkori is estimated to be around 5,000 to 11,000 patients a year.
"It's a good day for lung cancer patients, especially those with an EML4-ALK (mutation)," said Paul Bunn, MD, professor of medicine and the James Dudley chair in cancer research at the University of Colorado in Denver at a press briefing held on Aug. 30, who predicted that the recent approval marks a paradigm shift in the care and management of patients with lung cancer.
Also approved is a companion diagnostic test called Vysis ALK Break Apart FISH Probe Kit that will identify patients who have the abnormal gene. While the mutation is more commonly seen in nonsmokers, there are no set clinical factors that identify patients who may have the mutation. "We feel that it is appropriate to test all lung cancer patients," Bunn said.
The test will also prevent patients who would not respond to Xalkori from taking a drug that would not be beneficial – saving them time to try other therapies. Xalkori is a pill taken twice a day. Based on the approval, Xalkori is taken by itself, but there are studies looking at its effectiveness when combined with other drugs, including Tarceva (erlotinib), another targeted agent used in lung cancer. Side effects of Xalkori taken alone include diarrhea, vomiting, edema, constipation and vision disorders. It has also been associated with life-threatening pneumonitis (1.6 percent).
The cost of Xalkori is estimated to be $9,600 a month, and the test will likely cost $1,500. Pfizer, the drug's maker, has launched First Resource, a program to help patients pay for the medication (877-744-5675; xalkori.com).RELATED POSTS
BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | MAY 26, 2011
This past weekend, Lena and I went to the inaugural Free to Breathe 5K in Dallas. The event boasted more than 800 participants (and more than 600 runners/walkers), which is not too shabby for a first-year event.
The event held a special place in my heart because my great aunt, Sister Elise Todd, who I was named after, died of lung cancer a few years back. I was working for CURE when she was diagnosed and knew the prognosis would be bad. She went through her treatment and called herself a survivor until her recurrence a few years later. The disease took her in 2008.
As you looked through the crowd on Saturday, you could spot the survivors. But unlike other cancer runs I've participated in, there weren't a lot of survivor t-shirts being worn. No crowds of pink or blue; I think I counted about four green shirts. One was Charles, who spoke to the crowd at the beginning of the race. He told of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, and on an incidental scan, they caught his lung cancer early. He told us he was a non-smoker.
It seems that many survivors feel compelled to share whether they were a non-smoker or not because we have done such a good job promoting smoking cessation and the link between tobacco and lung cancer. Unfortunately, this has also created a stigma and a sense of guilt or blame for the patient.
At the race, I had overheard someone mentioning that a lung cancer survivor instead tells people she's had breast cancer to avoid the stigma of lung cancer. Thankfully at events such as Free to Breathe and other lung cancer-centric meetings, survivors have a voice and can proudly say they've beaten the disease.
I won't tell you whether Sister Elise was a smoker or not, because it doesn't matter. She was a lung cancer patient, and she didn't deserve lung cancer. No one does.
Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers and one of the most deadliest, but it lacks the research and funding of other cancers--one of the problems organizations such as Free to Breath is trying to correct. And we are making progress. A new treatment for a subtype of lung cancer, primarily found in non-smokers, was submitted to the FDA for approval just this month.
We're tackling lung cancer, probably more than any other cancer, with a three-pronged approach: prevention, screening and treatment, and rates of lung cancer in the U.S. are decreasing. So, with these inroads, although minor, let's hold our tongues when we want to ask: Smoking or non?
What limits our success for lung cancer is not the lack of ideas--we have plenty of ideas-- it's the lack of funding. To get funding, you need awareness and you need events like this." –Joan Schiller, president and founder of the National Lung Cancer Partnership, Deputy Director Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at University of Texas SouthwesternRELATED POSTS
BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | APRIL 19, 2011
I recently moved and it's been an adjustment, I have to say. One of the things I'm having to get use to now is answering the question: Smoking or non-smoking?
I'll admit that the first time I was asked that at a restaurant here, I was taken aback. I use to live in an area where all the surrounding cities had a public smoking ban. I had gotten use to dining without cigarette smoke. But here, I'm having to choose my dining choices a little more carefully.
Last week, my husband's gastronomical desires won out, though. We went to a nice restaurant and do you know where the non-smoking section was? In the back of the restaurant. We still had to walk through a cloud of smoke to get to our table or to the bathroom.
So, when I heard that a nearby town was voting on a smoking ban of its own, I couldn't contain my excitement. I immediately emailed my mayor asking if there were plans for Southaven to adopt a smoking ban. To his credit, he responded immediately, but the short answer was: business over health (unless there is a statewide smoking ban). A business can choose to prohibit smoking at that establishment, and I can choose to eat at that establishment over another. Apparently it will take a state law before I'm able to choose a restaurant based only on service and food quality. And it doesn't appear that's going to happen any time soon.
If you've read our latest Legislative Watch: "Jumping on the Ban Wagon" you'll remember that Kentucky, Indiana and Mississippi had proposed legislation for statewide smoking bans. All three failed to pass into law.
I grew up with parents who smoked; I've had my share of second-hand smoke. I'm sure a lot of us grew up riding around in cars with the windows rolled up while someone smoked. Fortunately both of my parents kicked the habit years ago, and we've all tried to live healthier lifestyles. Unfortunately, for the time being, other people's health will now be affecting me again.