Archive for February, 2013

Richard J. Battafarano, MD, PhD — University of Maryland, Greenebaum Cancer Center

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Richard J. Battafarano, M.D., Ph.D.,is the head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center and a member of the surgical faculty at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. As a chest surgeon with particular expertise in lung and esophageal cancer, he plays a key role in caring for patients at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

Dr. Battafarano came to Maryland from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., where he was an assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery since 1999. He was also a thoracic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where he co-chaired the Siteman Cancer Center Protocol Review and Monitoring Committee and the hospital’s Cancer Committee.

“Dr. Battafarano brings high energy and a strong background in clinical care and research, including translational research in esophageal cancer,” says Stephen T. Bartlett, M.D., professor and chairman of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chief of surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “He is a great clinician as well as a respected leader and educator, and I expect him to make significant contributions as we embark on a new era in thoracic surgery.”

Prior to his work in St. Louis, Dr. Battafarano completed a residency in cardiothoracic surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and New York Hospital from 1997 to 1999. His general surgery training consisted of a surgical internship at Abington Memorial Hospital in Abington, Pa., followed by four years of surgical residency at the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Center. During his general surgery residency, he entered the M.D. / Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota and completed his doctorate in Biomedical Sciences.
Dr. Battafarano received his medical degree from Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia and earned his bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania’s Haverford College.

“My goal is to provide excellent service to our patients and referring physicians for the full range of diseases of the chest. We will make it as easy as possible for physicians throughout the region to refer their patients, including those with the most challenging problems, and we will provide appointments within 7 to 10 days,” says Dr. Battafarano.

In addition to his expertise in lung and esophageal surgery, Dr. Battafarano has experience in a full range of complicated lung procedures, including lung volume reduction surgery, as well as minimally invasive surgical techniques such as video-assisted surgical removal of lobes in the lungs. He also performs sympathectomy, a surgical treatment for excessive sweating known as hyperhidrosis.

Dr. Battafarano’s basic research interest is in certain cellular pathways that speed cell growth in esophageal cancer. “Overexpression of the signaling pathway, known by the scientific designation WNT, leads to the rapid growth of esophageal cancer cells and their ability to spread to lymph nodes and other organs in the body,” he says. “Our hope is to improve the chances for cure in patients with esophageal cancer by developing targeted therapies directed against this pathway that can be incorporated into the multidisciplinary care of these patients,” says Dr. Battafarano.

Richard J. Battafarano, MD, PhD — University of Maryland, Greenebaum Cancer Center from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Montessa Lee is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

On the D.C. leg of Team Draft’s East Coast nationwide tour, we met Montessa Lee of Silver Spring, Maryland.  In 2006, she experienced chest pain, followed by shortness of breath and a cough.  A non-smoker, the cause of her problem bewildered doctors, who ultimately diagnosed her following a chest x-ray that confirmed she had advanced small cell lung cancer.

From Self Magazine‘s Lung Cancer Report:

“Anyone who has lungs can get lung cancer,” Montessa Lee stresses. She hopes her case will serve as a wake-up call for medical practition­ers to learn to look beyond their assumptions when making a diagnosis, which is why she recently completed training to speak at National Lung Cancer Partnership events. The organization’s Look Deeper campaign aims to make women aware of the signs and prevalence of lung cancer—knowledge that, until better screens or a cure are discovered, is our most powerful weapon in fighting the disease.

Read more of Montessa’s story at Self Magazine‘s website.

Montessa Lee, Lung cancer survivor from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

New Genetic Testing Gives Researchers New Tool to Fight Cancer

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

In the game of football, players face tough opponents, and former NFL linebacker Chris Draft knows what it means to play hard. That’s why his new game plan is to beat lung cancer. “What we’ve found consistently is there is hope for lung cancer,” Draft said.  READ MORE



Fox Carolina — Discussing the State of Lung Cancer Treatment in Greenville, SC from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Natalie DiMarco is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

A Young Mother’s Fight with Lung Cancer: a Story of Hope
By Aisha Avery

Meet Natalie DiMarco, a 34-year-old daughter, wife, and mother of two. She was born in San Francisco and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Her family returned to the Bay Area when she was a teenager. She attended Palo Alto High School where she played soccer and softball.

Before DiMarco learned she had lung cancer, she actively attended sporting events with her husband, Jim. She had also taken a break from teaching at an elementary school in San Jose. Her focus had become raising her two daughters.

“Do you want me to give you my whole story?” She asked at the beginning of our interview.

When meeting someone for the first time, typically you would expect them to tell you their personal history. When you meet a lung cancer survivor, their story becomes about their battle with the disease.

“I was diagnosed in March 2010, the same week my second daughter turned one and my other daughter was two-and-a-half,” DiMarco said.

What was initially thought to be asthma and a bad cough, turned out to be Stage IV lung cancer. “It took six months for me to get diagnosed,” she said. The cancer was diffused throughout her entire left lung.

She explained that she set out to tackle the disease immediately and traveled to speak with cancer centers across the country to learn the extent of what she was dealing with. The cancer had also spread to her lymph nodes which prevented her from being a candidate for pre-invasive surgery.

Her treatment strategy has been a collaborative effort of the doctors she has met with and is led by her primary oncologist, Dr. Heather Wakelee at Stanford Cancer Center. “We don’t just talk about what my treatment is now,” said DiMarco. “We’re always looking ahead of the situation.”

DiMarco is often asked if she was a smoker. Her answer is always: “No.”

“Unfortunately, lung cancer is a disease that can happen to people at all different ages and people with and without a history of smoking,” Dr. Wakelee explained.

“For people like Natalie who are young and don’t have a smoking history, it’s just as hard of an illness for everybody else so they have to deal with a lot of questions which is even harder in some ways.”

DiMarco is a few months away from her three year anniversary with lung cancer, but she is determined to beat it. She dreams of regaining full strength and having the stamina to get back to into the classroom as a helper. She said her daughters are her primary sources of hope.

“I encourage all of my patients to live with hope,” said Dr. Wakelee.

“By focusing on her belief that she is going to be okay and that she is going to be there to be the mom for her kids, Natalie’s been able to face this head on.”

DiMarco is using her story to increase awareness because she wants to help others. “It could be anyone,” she said. “People need to know the signs.”

Which is why attending and being honored at Candlestick Park in November when the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Chicago Bears was so special.

“Being able to attend that game with my husband was very important to me,” she shared. “Having the stamina to stand most of the game was a great accomplishment.”

Her attendance was part of a campaign led by Chris Draft, co-founder of Team Draft, to celebrate survivorship that took place at stadiums across the country. Draft said, “As a former 49er and Stanford Alum, I am so thankful for the 49ers support of Team Draft’s National Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer in the Bay Area.”

DiMarco was one of 14 lung cancer survivors to attend an NFL game this November for National Lung Cancer Awareness month.

After 43 cycles of chemotherapy, the cancer that was once diffused throughout her left lung has now reduced to one spot. Considering that lung cancer survival rates are low and she was diagnosed after her cancer began to spread to her lymph nodes, her progress should indeed be celebrated.

She was able to go onto the field and even ran into an old classmate from Palo Alto, the 49ers’ defensive assistant and quality control coach Peter Hansen, who used to sit behind her in science class.

“When she told me, it took my breath away,” Hansen said. It was their first time seeing each other
since shortly after high school.

Like most who come in contact with DiMarco, Hansen was encouraged by her positive energy and
outlook. He said he felt positive about the direction she said her treatment was going.

DiMarco attributes her improvement to her treatment, a more positive attitude, a healthier lifestyle,
and the traditional Chinese medicine such as acupuncture, organ massage, and acupressure that she
began receiving from Dr. Angela Wu in San Francisco after she was diagnosed.

Dr. Wu has helped DiMarco focus on positive thinking. “We don’t talk about the fact that there is
cancer involved,” she explained. “We just focus on me getting healthier every day.”

Now that her cancer has been reduced down to one spot, DiMarco has been able to take a holiday
from chemotherapy after receiving a round of targeted radiation therapy last month. She is scheduled
for a scan in February to monitor her progress.

She has great hope for the lung cancer research efforts underway. “I know one day there will be a pill
designed for my tumor,” she said. “If it ever comes back, I’ll get to take it.”

DiMarco is encouraged by the 49ers’ support and Team Draft’s efforts. As a passionate advocate for
the cause, she is determined to spread her hope and play a role in increasing lung cancer awareness.

Madeline Borrouso – Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Friday, February 8th, 2013

I have lived in New Orleans all of my life. I love it here. I am 66 years old and grew up with a large family, 4 brothers and 1 sister. When my children ask me what I did for fun as a child, I tell them I played ball. That is all we did for fun, the whole neighborhood would get together and play ball. And on Saturdays I would get together with some girl friends and go to Canal Street to shop and sometimes go to the show. We may have had $2.00 each, but could still have a good time, it is one of my fondest memories. I would not want to live anywhere else.

My husband and I had a catering hall for weddings and banquets, we did really well. I did all of the food and catering that was needed. We had the business since 1976 till 2005. It was in St. Bernard Parish. When Hurricane Katrina came we lost everything. The building had 20 feet of water in it for 2 weeks, everything was destroyed. It was very hard on my husband since it was pretty much all he ever did. So after having a thriving business for years, it all came to a halt. We thought we would retire one day and leave it to the children. Who would think after working so hard all of our lives on this business, we would lose it all.

Not only did we have water in the business, we also had 4 feet of water for 2 weeks in our house. We lived in an area that never flooded. We live in Old Metairie. The reason we got water is because the levee broke, and parts of Metairie was flooded. We fixed the house back up, sold it about 3 years ago, and moved into a town house around the corner from it.

After we got back in the house I continued to do catering to support us. I only do a little now and then because the catering business has really slowed up for me. My husband now drives a truck, but hates it, so now he is applying for jobs trying to get back into catering with some of the hotels in New Orleans. He says it is all he really knows how to do.

I have 4 great children, all grown, and 8 wonderful grandchildren. They are the love of my life. I like to baby sit the grandchildren, so almost all the time they are by my house or I am by theirs. My children are all very successful in their jobs, 3 have their own businesses and 1 is in the medical field. They are all wonderful and a pleasure to have, and they love their mother.

Living in New Orleans is so great. The food is wonderful. One of our greatest pleasures is to eat out at good restaurants. Before we lost the business, we ate out every Saturday. We became “foodies”, a person who appreciates good food and eats out a lot. We now still eat out, but not as much.

Cancer story:

On July 31, 2010, I had a stroke. I did not tell my family about the stroke. I guess I was in denial. They knew that something was wrong and brought me to the hospital on Wednesday, August 4.
At the hospital, they confirmed that I did have a stroke; they kept me a few days, gave me medicine, and sent me home. A few days later, I thought I had another stroke and went to the emergency room. While I was there, one of the doctors in the emergency room took an x-ray of my chest and saw a shadow, she thought it was pneumonia and gave me antibiotics to take. When we followed up on the pneumonia, the shadow was still present.
In mid-September, we found out I had lung cancer. We were shocked, particularly because I have never smoked. From the start, my oncologist has been Dr. Brian Boulmay. I feel like the day I met him was one of the best days of my life. Even though I have lung cancer, I have a doctor who I think is the best there is.

My cancer was not operable. Dr. Boulmay immediately put me on a Chemotherapy pill called Tarceva. It was a very hard pill for me to take because it dried out my skin really bad. I started losing my hair — it just got really thin. I lost all of the taste buds in my mouth, so I did not feel like eating anything. I lost about twenty pounds. I had a scan done about every 3 months, and the Tarceva was working. The cancer was not growing, and some of the spots on my lungs actually got smaller. It continued to work for about a year, until a scan showed that the spots were getting larger again.My only option at that point was traditional chemotherapy. Dr. Boulmay used two types of medicine: alimta and carboplatin. I received the chemo drip every three weeks, and had a scan done about every three months. I had really good results. The spots did not grow and sometimes actually shrunk. Eventually, we stopped the carboplatin, and now I am continuing to take the alimta every three weeks. My scans continue to be good. I will continue the alimta for the rest of my life as maintenance chemotherapy.

Incredibly, I have not gotten sick from the traditional chemotherapy. My hair grew back, and I regained some weight. My appetite is back to normal. Whatever Dr. Boulmay is doing for me, it is working.

I just thank God he is my doctor and feel very lucky that he found me.

Ping Yang, M.D., Ph.D, Mayo Clinic Cancer Research Center, Rochester, MN

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Dr. Yang’s primary appointment at Mayo Clinic is in health sciences research. She also holds a joint clinical appointment in Medical Genetics and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

She is an epidemiologist with special training and experience in genetic epidemiology. Her long standing research interest has been in the causes and outcomes of lung cancer.

Dr. Yang is leading three NIH R01 grants and co-leading three other NIH grants, investigating the causes, prevention and treatment of lung cancer. In 1997, she initiated and has since been leading the Epidemiology and Genetics of Lung Cancer research program, which has been designed to accomplish the following goals with a multidisciplinary approach:

Identify low penetrant yet high frequency genes that are involved in lung carcinogenesis, cancer progression and prognosis;
Investigate the roles of chronic and non cancerous lung diseases including inherited disorders in lung cancer risk;

Evaluate the health and quality of life among long term lung cancer survivors;
Search for high penetrant but rare lung cancer susceptibility gene(s) by family based methods; and In the framework of the Rochester Epidemiology Project, continue to monitor the trends in lung cancer morbidity and mortality, to provide new leads as to causes, to estimate the attributable risks of high and/or low penetrant genes and their interactions with known carcinogens, and to evaluate the effectiveness of screening/early detection efforts.

Dr. Yang has been a member of the Mayo Clinic team since 1996 and is also a Professor of Epidemiology with Mayo Medical School.

Ping Yang, M.D., Ph.D, Mayo Clinic Cancer Research Center, Rochester, MN from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Former NFL player starts cancer foundation after losing wife to disease

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

At his wedding, a former NFL player announced his new foundation to fight cancer. A month later, his wife lost her battle with cancer.
This Monday, doctors and scientists move in to the new Cancer Research Center on Tulane Avenue, and that former football player says this is as big as the Super Bowl…Read More