Archive for March, 2012

UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center is Tackling Cancer

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center was established in 1975 with Joseph S. Pagano, Professor of Medicine and Microbiology at the University Of North Carolina School Of Medicine, as its founding Director. It was named after the Lineberger family of Belmont, North Carolina whose Lineberger Foundation provided the core funding for the Center’s first dedicated research building, which was completed in 1984. The Center’s clinical base, North Carolina Cancer Hospital, was completed in 2009. In the summer of 2007, the North Carolina General Assembly established the University Cancer Research Fund (UCRF) to support cancer research at UNC Lineberger and the North Carolina Cancer Hospital with annual funding of $50 million

Tomma Hargraves is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
Tomma Hargraves & Chris Draft

Tomma Hargraves & Chris Draft

Visiting North Carolina as part of the East Coast leg of Team Draft’s nationwide tour, a stop at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center introduced us to Tomma Hargraves, a stage 3b non-small cell lung cancer survivor who has participated in clinical trials and is lucky enough to be cancer free.

When she received her diagnosis, Tomma and her family sought out all the information and opinions they could. At the time, it seemed that conventional treatments were not going to help, but so they took a chance and elected to participate in an experimental procedure at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Read more about her amazing and inspirational story of hope in endeavors, a publication that chronicles research and creative activity at UNC-Chapel Hill. endeavors features an article called “Every Breath She Takes” that chronicles Tomma’s experience with the aggressive clinical trial that saved gave her hope, and life.

Tomma Hargraves — Changing the Face of Lung Cancer from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

To read about Team Draft’s visit and tour of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, visit their blog!

Breakfast with the Friends of Winship

Thursday, March 15th, 2012
Emory University

Emory University

This morning, Team Draft got up early to join the Friends of Winship for breakfast and an informative panel discussion featuring some of the Winship Cancer Institute’s top doctors, including Drs. Suresh Ramalingam, Daniel Miller, Taofeek Owonikoko, Kristin Higgins, and Adam Marcus.  The panel discussion highlighted Winship’s recent achievements in the care and treatment of lung cancer.

The Breakfast was sponsored by the Friends of Winship, an organization whose mission it is “to build community understanding and awareness about Winship Cancer Institute while raising funds to support its research and patient care programs.”  Winship Cancer Institute is where Keasha was treated, and Team Draft is proud to team up with the Friends of Winship.

Suresh Ramalingam, MD, medical oncology Emory University from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Despite loss, former Falcon continues lung cancer campaign, fund-raising

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For years, organizations such as Lung Cancer Alliance and the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health have dedicated countless hours and millions of dollars to educate the public about lung cancer and new developments in detection and treatment. Yet as well-known as these entities are, their message often is overshadowed by other cancers, especially ones with higher survival rates such as breast cancer.

Advocates say they need all the help they can get — from those who survive and the families of those who do not — to continue to raise awareness.

“The way I look at it, there is no over-awareness right now, only under-awareness,” said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, president and chief executive of the Washington, D.C.-based Lung Cancer Alliance. “We need to combine forces and strategize about how we build a more compassionate and comprehensive approach.”

Enter Chris and Keasha Draft and their Team Draft initiative, “Changing the Face of Lung Cancer.” The couple started the effort together, with the official launch at their wedding, Nov. 27. The goal of the campaign is to raise funds to aid lung cancer research and education. But the task fell solely to Chris Draft after his 38-year-old wife died Dec. 27 on their one-month anniversary.

Keasha Rutledge Draft never smoked and was an athletic woman. An electrical engineer by trade, she danced professionally for the Charlotte Hornet Honeybees, worked out regularly and paid attention to her overall health, her husband said. “She was doing some ballroom dancing, Latin dancing and she was getting ready to do a competition,” said Chris Draft, a former Atlanta Falcon. “But right at the beginning of December 2010, she said she had a little shortness of breath and she went and got checked out.”

The visit to her doctor lead to a diagnosis of a late-stage lung cancer called adenocarcinoma, which begins in the cells that form the lining of the lungs. The condition accounts for just over 30 percent of lung cancer diagnoses, according to statistics from the Lung Cancer Alliance. The finding naturally led to speculation from outsiders about Keasha Draft’s health habits, her husband said.

“That’s the stigma of lung cancer,” Chris Draft said. “Everybody wanted to know if she smoked. They’re trying to figure out how she got it. But she didn’t smoke.”

The presumption that lung cancer is associated with smokers or exposure to second-hand smoke is a dangerous one, said Dr. Scott Kono, an assistant professor of medical oncology at Emory University’s medical school, who treated Keasha Draft.

“Most people are not thought to be victims of cancer, but that they have cancer because of something they did,” he said. “Not all lung cancer patients smoke like the Marlboro Man.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lung cancer kills more people in the U.S. than any other type of cancer and is the second-leading cause of death behind heart disease. More than 20 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed in people who have never smoked, Ambrose said. “Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in every ethnic group,” she said. “And lung cancer has been the leading cause of death among women and surpassed breast cancer in the late 1980s.”

The five-year survival rate for women with lung cancer was just under 19 percent in 2006, the latest data available from the National Cancer Institute. Other cancer’s survival rates were significantly higher. “We don’t have a big survivorship and that is why the onus is placed on the families of those who don’t survive,” Kono said. “And that is very hard for families. But what Chris is doing is raising awareness and saying, ‘This is not just a smoker’s disease.’ That is really important.”

While Draft appreciates the acknowledgment, he’s focused on saving lives and changing the face of the disease. He knows what happened to his wife could happen to anyone, whether they have a history of smoking or not.

“She knew it, too,” he said. “That’s why at the wedding she didn’t want gifts. She wanted people to donate to Team Draft.”

Team Draft and Emory University on 11Alive NBC Atlanta from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Team Draft Takes Its Mission to Medical Students, Media

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Chris Draft played linebacker in the NFL for 13 years, five of them in Atlanta from 2000 to 2005.  He has overcome a lot of obstacles in his life, and he’s zeroing in on what may be his toughest one yet.  Mr. Draft’s wife, Keasha Rutledge Draft passed away nearly a year ago after a tough fight with lung cancer.  Mr. Draft, who graduated from Stanford University with a degree in economics, is carrying on Keasha’s battle through his “Changing the Face of Lung Cancer Campaign,” aimed at creating awareness and raising funds for lung cancer research.

He brings intensity and energy to this project that is evident after just a minute in his presence.  On Feb. 28, Mr. Draft spoke to 150 first and second-year medical students from the Emory University School of Medicine.  He talked with them about how important it will be to see their patients as people first, and how honest and open communication makes a great difference in treatment.  The students related to Mr. Draft and his message, and the talk went well beyond the time-limit thanks to many questions and an enthusiastic dialogue. See the Team Draft of one of the Emory students via video on our Vimeo channel.

Scott Kono, MD, assistant professor of hematology and medical oncology at Winship Cancer Institute, served as Keasha’s doctor throughout her battle, and helped to arrange the talk to the students.  He is helping Mr. Draft in his work to generate awareness and help eliminate the stigma that lung cancer is a smoker’s disease.  Mrs. Draft,  who earned a degree in engineering from Clemson, was active, athletic and never smoked.

Dr. Scott Kono, Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

In working to get the word out, Mr. Draft is talking with various news media around the country.  Here in Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal Constitution recently featured Dr. Kono and Mr. Draft in an article on hiseducational initiative.  Here is the link:

In addition to the AJC, Mr. Draft recently sat down with Randy Waters from 11 Alive News to talk about his plans for making a difference.  Watch 11 Alive’s special presentation here:

For more information on this important campaign, log on to to learn how you can help beat lung cancer.

MD Anderson Cancer Center is Tackling Lung Cancer

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Today, Team Draft visited the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson), one of the oldest and most respected cancer centers in the country.  Team Draft toured MD Anderson–the largest free-standing cancer center in the world–and had the opportunity to sit down with hospital administrators, doctors, and staff to discuss the great strides MD Anderson is making in developing cutting-edge treatment procedures for lung cancer patients.

MD Anderson and the other members of the 14-hospital Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium (LCMC) are revolutionizing the way lung cancer is treated by promoting molecular tumor mutation testing for lung cancer patients.  Molecular testing is one of the keys to developing effective personalized lung cancer treatments. The LCMC cancer centers have facilitated targeted treatments for hundreds of patients, through innovative, genetically driven clinical trials as well as commercially available therapies.

Respond and Donate 

Dr. Ignacio Wistuba, Pathologist, MD Anderson from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.