Archive for July, 2012

Kathleen Houlihan is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Friday, July 27th, 2012

In July of 1998 I developed a pain in my left shoulder blade, which I thought was from pruning an overhead tree branch. My doctor and I treated it as a pulled muscle, but several months later, when I started coughing up blood, it was finally diagnosed as non‐small cell lung cancer, Stage IIIB, inoperable. I was terrified.

However, within a week of diagnosis, my husband Jonathan Holt Truex and I were at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa. I received 6 weeks of external beam radiation with concurrent low‐dose chemo (Taxol and carboplatin), followed by 5 rounds of monthly full‐dose chemo. By the end of treatment, my 7×8 cm tumor had shrunk to 2.5 cm, and 6 months after that, by the grace of God, it had shrunk away to a scar!

In celebration of my recovery, and in an attempt to bring more joy into my life, I began taking singing lessons and watercolor classes, and I became more involved in my church. My life was, and is, much richer than it had been before the cancer.
Then 10 years after my first lung cancer, I was diagnosed with a second one, Stage IA, also non‐small cell and also inoperable. It was considered to be a new primary because it was 10 years later and in the opposite lung. Again I had weeks of radiation (7 weeks of TomoTherapy this time) with concurrent low‐dose chemo (Taxol and carboplatin again), followed by 5 rounds of chemo (4 of Taxol and cisplatin this time, plus one of Alimta). Again, by the grace of God, I am in remission, with the nodule appearing much fainter and not growing.

In the course of diagnosing my second lung cancer, we became aware that the areas we had considered to be harmless scar tissue in my lungs might not be so harmless. Called ‘ground glass opacities’, these hazy areas have become the subject of considerable research recently. Apparently they can start growing and turn into malignant nodules after being inactive for many years. Now my pulmonologist measures each of my GGOs every time I have a CT scan, and we are currently watching one small but suspicious area.

However, during these 13 years, except when I have been in treatment, I have felt completely normal and have led an active lifestyle. My husband Holt and I travel,
hike, and walk our dogs. I now have a paralyzed vocal cord, so I have traded in
singing for playing the tambourine, but I still take watercolor classes and I’m still
active in my church. I also do volunteer work with cancer patients through the
American Cancer Society, and I talk to newly diagnosed lung cancer patients as a
Volunteer with the Bloch Cancer Foundation ( Hotline, the
Lung Cancer Alliance ( Phone Buddy Program and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (
Patient‐to‐Patient Network.. I continue to have all my treatment and checkups at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa, and you might even see my Holt

Family, friends honor Keasha Rutledge Draft’s memory

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

CLEMSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Family, friends honor Keasha Rutledge Draft

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

CLEMSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -
Chris Draft, a former NFL linebacker, first met LaKeasha Rutledge back in 2006 in Charlotte, NC.

“It’s crazy how things work together,” Draft said. “My cousin met a friend of hers up in New York City.”

Back in 2006, Draft was making moves on the football field with the Carolina Panthers. Before they met, Keasha Rutledge danced with the NBA Charlotte Hornets’ Honeybees and worked as an engineer.

While they dated, Draft played for several teams and in 2010 he retired. During that time, Rutledge decided to train for the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston.

“She really wanted to run it, so she was training,” Draft said. “She was in shape. She was strong, and because of that she just felt this little shortness of breath.”

That shortness of breath led to chest X-rays and a CT scan.

“She got the chest X-ray and the results came back and there was a mass,” Draft said. “That was right before Christmas in 2010. She got a biopsy a couple days after Christmas and it was confirmed it was lung cancer.”

At 37 years old, Rutledge, a non-smoker, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

“In football we’re taught and told this could be the last game that you play,” Draft said. “And this situation was one of those that takes that so much more to that extreme.”

During those months, they made a commitment to fight. And on Nov. 27, 2011, in front of family and friends, Draft and Rutledge made another commitment to one another and got married.

“That’s my wife!” Draft said. “That’s my wife! You know? We’re going to hold on and we’re going to fight. We’re going to continue to fight.”

He said Keasha Rutledge Draft danced, smiled and lived each day and encouraged others to do the same.

A month to the day after they were married, Keasha Rutledge Draft died.

“And what helped her live was great family, great friends that remembered her of the importance of standing up and being a woman,” Draft said.

So now, instead of pads and a helmet, Draft suits up for Team Draft.

He doesn’t travel with a team of linebackers, receivers or running backs, but he still goes from city to city but with a new playbook. The new game plan is to raise money for lung cancer research in Keasha Rutledge Draft’s honor.

“Our hope is that when people think of lung cancer, they’re not going to think of a cigarette anymore,” Draft said. “But they’ll see Keasha, they’ll see her face and they’ll realize it’s people, it’s not just a disease, it’s people who need our help. I don’t want to see Keasha just as someone that passed away from lung cancer, but really someone that lived.”

Those who love her want to continue to honor her strength. Tiko Thurman, Keasha Rutledge Draft’s cousin, said she was more like a sister.

“We (were) just extremely close,” Thurman said.

Keasha Rutledge Draft grew up in Williamston and as an only child, family members said faith and family came first. She graduated from high school an academic scholar and chose to attend Clemson University. She graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.

“She was just that person when she walked into a room, things would change, people would brighten up,” Thurman said.

So, when doctors diagnosed her with stage four lung cancer, it was hard to understand.

“When Keasha got it, it really just opened my eyes to this is a deadly disease that can attack anyone, the healthiest person,” Thurman said.

Dr. Billy Bolton, a thoracic surgeon with the Greenville Hospital System didn’t treat Keasha Rutledge Draft but said her story is unfortunately a familiar one. Keasha Rutledge Draft had a form of lung cancer known as non-small cell lung cancer.

“Non-small cell lung cancer makes up the majority of lung cancer in the United States; about 75 to 85 percent of all patients,” Bolton said.” So what happens is there’s a mutation in that cell of the lung and then it continues to grow more rapidly than the other cells in that lung.”

Bolton said often times the diagnosis can be linked to two factors.

“Those two factors – secondhand smoke and radon gas, probably account for the majority of them,” Bolton said.

But he said progress is being made with research and new medicines.

“I think it would mean a whole lot to be able to see your mom and dad for four or five more years or however long it might be,” Bolton said.

One of Keasha Rutledge Draft’s closest friends, Jessie Hood, said her friend had a way of making others feel special.

“She would never ask, I never heard her say why me? She just accepted that this is what God had for her and she was going to fight,” Hood said.

They met at Clemson University and became sorority sisters.

“Her life was very special. She was a special person, she was a beautiful person, she had such capacity to love. Her heart was so big. She was an academic scholar, but she was the life of the party. She was a dancer, but she was an engineer too and she just lived each day,” Hood said.

She said her friend would light up the floor when she danced as a rally cat at Clemson, or when she shared intimate moments with friends and family.

“Her relationship with her mother was very special. Not only did they have a mother-daughter relationship, but they were really best friends too,” Hood said.

So in her honor, the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship is set up for Clemson students.

“Not only are we helping future Clemson undergraduate students, we’re also helping the university,” Hood said.

And Thurman said he always knew his cousin would do big things, and though it’s tough without her, he said he’s learned a lot about life by witnessing the way she lived.

“Make sure that we make everyday a positive day. Make sure we find great things in everyday and just live life like God intended us to do. He said he wants us to live life and live it more abundantly,” Thurman said.

If you would like to be a part of Team Draft, you can donate to the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship fund. All donations are tax deductible and benefit the Clemson fund.

Family and friends honor Keasha Rutledge Draft, who died after battling stage four lung cancer.

McGill Dances for Cancer Research Lipdub

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

To highlight some of the critical work being done at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre, we gathered some of our top scientists, students, lab techs and dedicated volunteers, who turned on the music – and danced!

Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

His goal is changing the face of lung cancer. Former NFL linebacker Chris Draft is logging thousands of miles to reach that goal. Draft is traveling to cancer centers across the country to learn everything he can about the disease that took the love of his life. Despite his loss, Draft’s message is about people living and fighting lung cancer. People like his wife.
Keasha Draft was diagnosed with advance stage non-small cell lung cancer in December 2011. A year later, in December 2012, she passed away. Since her death, Chris Draft shares her story to keep her memory alive and to dispel the myths about lung cancer. Keasha Draft was 38-years-old and, like approximately 20 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer, never smoked a cigarette.
When he arrived on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in July, Draft was well versed on the challenges involved in early detection, the molecular testing of lung tumors, targeted therapies and the leading edge research conducted by University of Colorado Cancer Center investigators.
What he found at CU Cancer Center is lung cancer survivors and hope. He met Ellen Smith, who got another chance at life by participating in a clinical trial for people with anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) positive non-small cell lung cancer. Smith told Draft about her life since her diagnosis. She has traveled, gained precious time with her family, become a grandmother again and even gotten married. Draft encourages lung cancer survivors like Smith to tell their stories.
“Lung cancer doesn’t have a face and if it does, it’s a cigarette,” said Draft. “But things are changing. People need to see people with lung cancer living.”
Draft wants to change the face of lung cancer. He wants people to know it is the number one cancer killer in the United States. He wants to spread the word that lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and skin cancer combined.
Draft’s stop at CU Cancer Center was the 40th in his tour of cancer centers across the country. He wants to share Keasha’s story of living for each day to inspire others so “they can be energized regardless how long they have. They are living.”


Team Draft Spreads Word About Lung Cancer In Colorado « CBS Denver

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – He tackled pro football players for 12 years, but former NFL linebacker Chris Draft is now battling a disease that took his love, and changed his life.

Draft is on the road again with “Team Draft,” determined to spread the word that lung cancer is one of the biggest killers out there and that it can affect anyone. Draft wanted to know all about the University of Colorado Cancer Center and CBS4′s Kathy Walsh went along.

Draft understands what it’s like to tackle cancer after the love of his life was taken by the disease. That was Keasha Rutledge. Draft met her in 2006 while he was a linebacker with the Carolina Panthers. She was an engineer and a dancer.

“Intelligent, intelligent woman; she actually graduated high school in three years,” Draft said.


In 2010, Draft retired and they were finally together.

“Two days before Christmas, her Christmas present was to find out she had a mass in her lung and then two days after they confirmed that it was cancer,” Draft said.

Keasha never smoked, yet she had Stage 4 lung cancer and was given only eight months to live — the fight was on.

“Radiation and chemo — and she was always smiling,” Draft said.

On Nov. 27, 2011, the pair got married. One month to the day later Keasha died.

The former pro is now teaming up with cancer centers across the country. He’s on a mission to change the face of lung cancer.

“The first thing they think is smoking, but the numbers are clear — between 15 and 20 percent are never smokers,” Draft said.

Draft points out lung cancer is the number one cancer killer. He shares Keasha’s story with patients whenever he can.

“That they can be energized regardless of how long they have, they are living.”

The University of Colorado Cancer Center was Draft’s 40th stop in his tour of top cancer centers in America. It’s also where doctors are finding success with medications made to match the genes of a particular lung cancer.

Dara L. Aisner, MD, PhD, Pathologist, University of Colorado

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Medical Schools
MD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas Southwestern Medical School (2004)
Graduate Schools
PhD, University of Texas At Dallas (2004)
Undergraduate Schools
BS, Vanderbilt University (TN) (1996)
Residency Program
National Cancer Institute Anatomic Pathology Program (2004-2008)

Surfing And Cycling With Stage 4 Lung Cancer

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Physicians at the University of Colorado Hospital are finding startling success with medications that are made to match the genes of a particular lung cancer. The new strategy means the drugs work only on certain patients – but they can work really well.
Researchers think the cancer-fighting drugs may tamp the disease for a few years, and then the cancers may mutate and find a way around the medication. But years of healthy living is fantastic for people who’ve been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of less than 3 percent.
Dr. Ross Camidge of UCH says patient Andy Bonnett is a prime example of what one of this new strategy of “personalized medicine” can do.
Two years ago Bonnett was one of those Stage 4 lung cancer patients. He was, said Camidge, “a young man who had never smoked, led a very healthy life, developed increasing shortness of breath and pain, and was diagnosed with lung cancer in his mid-30s.”

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Matt Hiznay is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

My name is Matt Hiznay, and I am 25 years old. I am a lung cancer survivor. I am the first child of Jim and Mandie Hiznay. I have a younger sister, Katie, and a younger brother, Patrick. I grew up in Poland, Ohio, and graduated from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. It was there I met my girlfriend, Ally Stojkoska. We met in freshmen biology class and began dating going into our junior years. After college, I enrolled in medical school at the University of Toledo, while Ally was off to pharmacy school at Ohio State University. These people have been with me on my entire journey with lung cancer. I would not be here today without them.
I was employed in a lab in the summer of 2011. Towards the end of July 2011, I developed a persistent, dry cough. Because I was going home about 10 days later, and I knowing that I had a past history with summertime allergies, I simply swallowed some cough drops and planned to bring it up at my yearly physical at the beginning of August. My cough worsened in August, and eventually a lymph node swelled up on the left side of my neck. It was removed and biopsied. My life forever changed on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. I was told on that day that I had cancer.
I travelled to the Cleveland Clinic on August 26 to see Dr. Nathan Pennell, a thoracic oncologist. I learned my grave diagnosis: stage IV adenocarcinoma of the lung. It was decided that I would begin intravenous chemotherapy six days later. My cancer was ravaging my body. It had spread into both lungs, into all the lymph nodes in my chest, and into my breastbone. Because of my cancer’s advanced state, it caused quite a list of complications in my body. Dr. Pennell decided that I was too weak to begin chemotherapy on September 1 and admitted me to the hospital. I remained in the Cleveland Clinic for three weeks, battling for my life.
The cancer created a massive fluid buildup around my lungs and my heart. In the early morning of September 2, I fell into respiratory failure, or “coded.” Simply put, my body was losing to the cancer, and fast; I was dying. I was transferred to the intensive care unit, where quick action by the doctors there drained the fluid from around my heart and I stabilized. I was placed on a ventilator because I could not breathe on my own. Tubes were placed in my chest and around my heart to drain the built up fluid. I developed blood clots in both of my lungs. I lost 30 pounds in three weeks. Dr. Pennell later told me that I experienced all the complications a lung cancer patient experiences – but whereas they usually occur over several years, mine all occurred in a matter of five days.
My luck forever changed on September 9. Back on August 26, the day I was diagnosed with lung cancer, Dr. Pennell recommended running a test for a specific genetic mutation that was currently under extensive study. This mutation caused a gene called anaplastic lymphoma kinase, or ALK for short, to become “turned on with no off switch.” This continual state of activity causes tumors to form, survive, and spread in lung cancer patients. Dr. Pennell sent a frozen section of my previously removed lymph node to see if I had this specific genetic mutation. This test is done out west and takes 14 days for a result. After two long weeks, and my near-death, the results showed I was a match for the mutation.
The ALK mutation is so significant because on the day I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new form of chemotherapy for ALK-positive lung cancer patients. As a matter of fact, the drug I am on won early approval by the FDA and was released six weeks earlier than the scheduled date. I thank God every day for that, because I doubt I would have survived another six weeks without it. This miracle drug, called crizotinib, blocks the mutated ALK gene in my cancer cells. Crizotinib is not your typical chemotherapy. Whereas traditional, intravenous chemotherapy attacks all fast-dividing cells, whether the cells are cancerous or not, crizotinib attacks only the cancerous cells in my body. Crizotinib saved my life.
I began crizotinib on September 10, after the drug was overnighted to Cleveland thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Taussig Cancer Institute and my mother. After I began crizotinib, the fluid around my lungs and heart began to disappear. I slowly regained my strength. My draining tubes were removed and I eventually began to walk again. Finally, I was discharged from the Cleveland Clinic on September 21 and returned home for the first time in three weeks. Dr. Rendell Ashton, the intensivist who directed my care in the ICU, later told me that I was the sickest patient he had ever seen make it out of the ICU alive. On Thursday, November 10, 2011, two months to the day since I began crizotinib, Dr. Pennell informed me that my lung cancer had had a complete response to my treatment. A complete response means that no tumors can be seen on a CT scan and that my cancer was in remission. I went from stage IV lung cancer to cancer-free in two months.
I noticed a swelling on the left side of my neck near the middle of May 2012. A needlepoint biopsy on May 11, 2012 revealed my cancer had had a recurrence. I was referred to Dr. Ross Camidge at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. Dr. Camidge is widely regarded as one of the top experts on ALK-positive non-small lung cancer in the United States. He enrolled me in a clinical trial of a drug that acts as the “second generation” of crizotinib. It is believed that some of my cancer cells have become resistant to crizotinib. It is hoped that this new drug will block the resistant cells’ ALK gene in the same previous manner. I will know for certain sometime after my PET scan on July 5, 2012. Until then, I thank everyone for their constant prayers and support.