Archive for April, 2013

Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D. President and CEO Karmanos Cancer Institute

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer

Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., is a world-renowned thoracic oncologist who has spent his career researching risks, progression, treatments and outcomes related to lung cancer, with a special focus on non-small cell lung cancer.
Dr. Bepler began his tenure as president and chief executive officer of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit in February 2010. Karmanos is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated, comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. In addition to his chief administrative duties, Dr. Bepler also serves as principal investigator of Karmanos’ National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center Support Grant; and associate dean of Cancer Programs, Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSU SOM).

Prior to coming to Karmanos, Dr. Bepler was director of the Comprehensive Lung Cancer Research Center; department chair of Thoracic Oncology; and program leader of the Lung Cancer Program at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL. He also served as professor of Medicine and Oncology at the University of South Florida. Prior to joining the Moffitt Cancer Center, Dr. Bepler was director of the Lung Cancer Program at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. He also held positions at Duke University Hospital and Durham VA Medical Center.

Dr. Bepler has secured more than $45 million in cancer-related research funding since the mid-1980s. He has published more than 158 peer-reviewed articles, including articles in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Cancer Research. His awards and recognitions are numerous and include an appointment to the Fleischner Society for Thoracic Imaging and Diagnosis (2012); the Moffitt Cancer Center’s Scientist of the Year (2008), the American College of Physicians Information and Education Resource Editorial Consultant (2007 – 2008), and he served on the Journal of Clinical Oncology Editorial Board (2006 – 2008). He also holds eight patents.

Dr. Bepler is a native of Germany. He received his medical and doctorate degrees from the Philipps University School of Medicine and Dentistry in Marburg, Germany. His postdoctoral fellowships were completed at the National Cancer Institute, Philipps University and at Duke University Medical Center.

Dr. Bepler is married and has four children. He resides in Bloomfield Township, Michigan.



Abraham and Yolanda Almanza are Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

In 1998, I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at the age of 15. I would later turn 16 in the hospital not knowing if I would live to see my 17th birthday.

Being the son of a smoker (who through Gods grace has now quit), my initial thought was that secondhand smoke had something to do with my diagnosis. The doctors could never pinpoint the exact cause of my cancer but would later tell me it was probably acquired in utero and it just happened to lodge itself in my lungs. Whatever the case may be, I had cancer and needed to fight to see another birthday.

Through the power of prayer, family and medicine I was successfully treated with 4 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Before cancer became a turning point in my young life, I was just like any other teenager. I played sports, had friends and excelled in academics. Although I was administered an annual physical to play sports in school, it was never discovered that I had a malignant cancer slowly taking over my body.

Although I missed over a half a year of my junior high school year, I was able to graduate on time. I went on to graduate from college where I studied Psychology and minored in Spanish. I would even live as a missionary through my church for a year. I was soaking up as much as I could with this new lease on life.

As any cancer survivor would tell you, in the back of your mind, you initially feel you’re living on borrowed time. Once things settled down though, I started to reflect on my life and wanted to share it with someone and build a family of my own.

Meeting my wife, Yolanda and her struggle living with Asthma

I met my wife Yolanda during the summer of 2008 and we connected instantly when she shared with me that she suffered from Asthma since childhood.

In her own words:

As a child I never thought twice about running around and being a kid until I had my first asthma attack at the age of 9. I still remember how scared and helpless I felt as I tugged on my mom’s shirt to signal that I was having difficulties breathing. My mother, being asthmatic herself, was quick to assess the situation and rushed me to the emergency room. As a sat in the emergency room, hooked onto the nebulizer, I knew I wasn’t alone. Other kids were there getting the same treatment and innocently I believed that it was normal to be asthmatic. As the years went by I took my daily dose of medication to keep my asthma under control.

As a teenager I was overweight and continued my daily cocktails of medication for my asthma. By freshman year in high school I was 5’9″ and weighed 215lb. That same year the volleyball coach took interest in me and invited me to try out for the volleyball team, my first words were, “I can’t play volleyball, I’m asthmatic.” The coach looked at me and smiled, “You can still play, that’s not a problem at all.” I was offended that she didn’t think of my asthma as being a problem. After having that conversation all I thought about was playing volleyball, I wanted to play but was scared. I consulted with my mother who then made an appointment to speak to doctor. I could not believe he gave me the okay to play under close supervision and using my inhaler before any physical activity. It was difficult to train my body to run and jump because I had used my asthma as an excuse to get out of any physical activities.

After four years of volleyball, basketball, and softball I found myself using my inhaler less frequently. I dropped 40 pounds and felt great until one night I felt something I had not felt in a long time, an asthma attack. The asthma attack was progressively getting worse but I was in disbelief that this was happening again. As tears ran down my face, I walked up to my dad and simply said, “I can’t breath.” My father quickly took me to the hospital, where I was told that my asthma was now diagnosed as seasonal or mild asthma. I felt like I was back to square one again.

As a young adult, I started researching ways to strengthen my lungs. I came across an article in which I read that swimming was a great way to improve and possibly even cure asthma. The only problem was that, I didn’t know how to swim. I looked into local pools in my community and signed up for swimming lessons. What started out as a way to stay healthy ended up becoming a lifeguard and learning to help others.

For many years I used my asthma as a crutch to be less active and now as an adult, I have learned to keep my asthma in check. Asthma did not stop me from accomplishing my goals and becoming a better, healthier me.

Our lives together

We were married in July 2010 and are committed to living a healthy lifestyle both with diet and exercise. If it weren’t for diligent parents and caring health professionals we would not be here to share our story.

May 2012 will be 15 years since my lung cancer diagnosis and my wife hasn’t had an asthma attack in over 10 years. We are truly blessed and hope to encourage others to make their health, body and soul a priority in their lives.

 Abraham and his wife Yolanda are from the Bronx, NY. Abraham graduated from Iona College in 2004, with a degree in Psychology and currently works for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Hudson Valley. Yolanda graduated from Lehman College with a degree in Speech Pathology and currently works for the Department of Education. She is currently completing her masters in teaching English to speakers of other languages – TESOL.

Kim Wieneke is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Hello. I’m Kim Wieneke, living in Portland, Oregon. I am 36, former athlete, and have stage 4 lung cancer. I learned about my condition in May of 2011. From that moment on, life has been drastically different.

I’ve been though standard chemotherapy, chest radiation, targeted chemotherapy, and whole brain radiation to keep the cancer managed. I hope, as all cancer patients do, that the treatment continues to work and that I’m always at least one step behind medical research.

Each day I get better at living with cancer. I still enjoy an active lifestyle. Pre-diagnosis activities like rock climbing, running, and working as a project manager in civil engineering have been replaced with walking, meditation, and blogging about my lung cancer experience at Aquarius vs Cancer. I’m determined to enjoy the life I have. It takes endless amounts of effort on my part. I am, as all people should be, accountable for my own happiness.

I hate that cancer has affected my life and those around me whom I love. My greatest fear is that someone I love will be diagnosed with cancer, specifically lung cancer. Like me, more and more, healthy, non-smoking, young people are identified with having this horrible illness.

Charlie Horner is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

When Charlie Horner joined the Army, he did so to serve his country.  He is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and served in the Vietnam War. 

From Charlie Horner’s own words and what the numbers show, lung cancer is the most deadly form of cancer and the second leading cause of death in this country. Veterans face twice the incidences of lung cancer as civilian populations, yet still smoke at a rate that is 50 percent greater. In an ideal world, you would never start smoking but, as anyone who has served in combat knows, that environment encourages rather than discourages smoking. While quitting smoking can reduce lung cancer risks, former smokers remain at very high risk for many years.

Environmental factors associated with lung cancer are grossly underestimated. At the direction of Congress, the Institute of Medicine began studying the health impact of Gulf War exposure to depleted uranium, the residue left after nuclear-grade uranium is extracted. Like radon, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer, depleted uranium, used in weapons and armor shielding, can give off radioactive products of decay that can be carcinogenic. While the first Institute of Medicine report in 2000 found insufficient evidence of a definite link to lung cancer, the 2008 update report now assigns “high priority” to continued review of the link with lung cancer. The institute has also been reviewing the impact of exposure to fuel exhausts, smoke from burning oil wells, kerosene cookers and heaters in enclosed tents and other battlefield emissions. The “strongest finding” was the association of combustion products and lung cancer.

Only 16 percent of lung cancer patients are currently diagnosed at a stage when they can be treated and cured; the symptoms for the disease are usually too difficult to detect until it’s too late. I was extremely fortunate in that I was diagnosed at an early stage. After extensive radiation and chemotherapy my surgeon was able to operate to remove the tumors. Researchers believe that the only way to improve the curability rate for lung cancer and drive down associated costs is to increase early detection and treatment options for patients.

Rapid advances in imaging technology are now giving those at high risk for lung cancer their best option for detecting the disease at its earliest, most treatable and most curable stage. Released earlier this month were the results of the National Lung Screening Trial conducted by the National Cancer Institute. The study found that low-dose computer tomography, or CT, screening can reduce the number of lung cancer deaths in a high-risk population by as much as 20 percent. The National Cancer Institute’s findings confirm the results of previous research that had proven that CT scans for high-risk patients can detect lung cancer when up to 92 percent of cases can be cured.

Despite these advancements and the deadliness of this disease, lung cancer research remains the lowest-funded cancer. Congress has recognized that military beneficiaries are in the highest risk category for lung cancer and has provided leadership in this area by appropriating funding to the Department of Defense for early detection. Unfortunately, DOD has dragged its feet in implementing this lifesaving screening initiative. The VA currently spends more than $1 billion a year to treat lung cancer.

Patient concern over the lack of available funding and data for lung cancer research has been the driving force behind the creation of a database that marks the first time that CT scans linked to personal data have been available for open research access on the Web. The Give-A-Scan program, launched by the Lung Cancer Alliance, enables patients to donate their CT chest scans and treatment information to a website that researchers worldwide can access. Improving the number, size and quality of CT scan open archives will improve research into the detection and treatment of this disease.

As servicemen and servicewomen, it’s our job to take action. Veterans must speak with their health care providers about risk factors associated with lung cancer and any symptoms they may be experiencing. It is important to discuss with your physician the pros and cons of a CT scan and get scanned only at centers experienced in lung cancer diagnosis. Donating your scan to the Give-a-Scan program will only improve research access to valuable information that could ultimately save your life.

Jessica Rice is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Jessica Rice was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at age 30 in November of 2011.  She has never smoked.  She does not have a family history.  Nothing ‘caused’ her cancer.  Prior to her diagnoses she was an established project manager for a Fortune 100 company.  Since her diagnoses, she has started her own blog at and has provided information and inspiration for many others living with this horrible disease.