Archive for the ‘News and Media’ Category

Not just a smoker’s disease — Former NFL player raises awareness for lung cancer

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Lung cancer is often perceived as a smoker’s disease. But a hard look at lung cancer diagnosis data reveals that 45 percent of patients with the disease are former smokers, and an additional 15 percent never smoked at all.

For Chris Draft, a former San Francisco 49ers linebacker who also played for the Stanford football team, this last statistic is all too real.

His wife, Keasha Draft, never smoked. She was 37 in December 2010 when she was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. She died a year later, a month after she married Chris. According to the Chris Draft Family Foundation’s website, at the time of diagnosis, “her only ‘symptom’ was a slight shortness of breath a few days earlier.”

Typical symptoms of lung cancer are notoriously subtle and often do not appear until the late stages of the disease. They can range from a chronic cough to a slight shortness of breath or an ache in the back, chest or arm. As a result, only 16 percent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed when the cancer is still localized and easily treatable. There is also no current approved screening for early detection of lung cancer. This combination results in a devastatingly low the five-year survival rate.

According a National Cancer Institute study conducted from 1973 to 2008, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 16.3 percent—significantly lower than colon cancer (65.2 percent), breast cancer (90 percent), and prostate cancer (99 percent).

However, lung cancer research is also underfunded compared to these other cancers. According to a 2012 American Cancer Society study, lung cancer causes more deaths than the next three most fatal cancers—colon, cancer, and prostate—combined. However, it receives significantly less federal funding than the other three. Breast cancer alone received five times more federal funding than lung cancer in 2011, according to the Lung Cancer Foundation of America.

According to Draft, lung cancer research is underfunded because of the overemphasis on the link between the disease and smoking.

“All you see is a prevention message,” Draft said. “People think that guys who don’t smoke don’t get lung cancer.”

Draft and his wife launched Team Draft at their wedding in November 2011, hoping to use Keasha’s story to change the face of lung cancer, and to prevent it from being labeled a “smoker’s disease.”

Since Team Draft’s inception, Draft has visited over 80 medical centers nationwide.

“I wanted to find out what was being done, out there, in the field,” Draft said. “And who better to go to than the doctors?”

Draft is not only concerned with educating the public about the devastating effects of lung cancer, but also of the efforts being made to fight the disease. He says he hopes to motivate the public donate money and advocate for more lung cancer research.

“The key is hope,” Draft said emphatically. “With every cancer center that we’ve visited, there’s change. Changes, even changes that are small, are cause for hope.”

Last Tuesday, Draft visited Stanford Hospital. Prior to his visit, the medical center had never offered a tour of its newest lung cancer treatment facilities to anyone but government officials.

“We don’t do this for everyone, with this many physicians,” Whitney Greene, the service line administrator for the oncology department, said. “We did it for [Draft] because of his connection to Stanford and the 49ers, as well as his efforts to spread lung cancer awareness.”

Although the prognosis for lung cancer patients is still grim, new technology and treatment techniques have surfaced in disease research. Stanford Hospital is currently collaborating with the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, originally named Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, to devise the next line of linear accelerators machines to use in treating lung cancer.

The newest linear acceleration device, the Cyberknife, has the ability to track the tumor’s movement throughout the treatment procedure, while firing targeted radiation beams at the tumor. This device increases accuracy in comparison to previous radiation techniques, where tumors were not tracked during the treatment procedure.

The hospital has also made improvements in the patients’ comfort and quality of life. Among other developments, oral medication replaces certain treatments that require time in the hospital, and mesh face masks are now used in place of uncomfortable metal head-clamps that keep patients still while receiving treatment.

“Maybe [this campaign] can extend [a lung cancer patient's] life for two years more,” Draft said. “Some people think, oh, it’s only two years. But when you put it in perspective of your mom, your kids; it’s a different two years. Those two years are worth fighting for.”

Lung cancer remains a major killer

Friday, June 21st, 2013

By Kathryn Roethel of the SF Gate

The No. 1 killing cancer is not the one many people think of first. It’s not the one with the pink ribbon, or the one whose controversial screenings are grabbing headlines. It’s lung cancer. And even though it’s the third-most commonly diagnosed type, behind prostate and breast cancers, it claims more than twice as many lives annually than both of those – combined.

The majority of lung cancer patients are current or former smokers, but even non-smokers are at risk. And while survival rates have increased for many cancers over the last 40 years, the lung cancer five-year survival rate – 15 percent – hasn’t changed much. Symptoms don’t usually surface until the disease is in late stages, and even then they’re ambiguous – coughing, chest pain, weight loss and shortness of breath – so lung cancer is difficult to catch and treat early.

Researchers are trying to change that. Dr. Ann Leung, professor of radiology at Stanford, cites a recent New England Journal of Medicine study showing that a lung CT scan using a low dose of radiation could be a good screening option for some of the heaviest smokers. But the screening comes with risks of its own.

The numbers tell the story.

The percentage of lung cancer patients who have never smoked, according to the Lung Cancer Foundation of America.

The percentage of lung cancer patients who are former smokers. The remaining 40 percent are current smokers.

The number of “pack-years” New England Journal of Medicine researchers used to qualify someone as a heavy smoker with a high risk of lung cancer. If you smoke a pack (20 cigarettes) a day for one year, you’ve smoked one pack-year. To meet the 30 pack-year criteria, you could have smoked one pack a day, every day for 30 years, or two packs a day, every day for 15 years. If you meet this standard, researchers recommend talking to your doctor about having a CT scan to screen for lung cancer.

1 in 4
The ratio of heavy smokers in the study who had CT scans reveal potentially cancerous lung abnormalities. Upon further examination, about 95 percent of those abnormalities proved not to be cancer. Leung, who was not involved in the research, admitted that the high rate of false positives are a downside to the scan and can be stressful for patients. But she also noted that the screening improved survival rates by 20 percent for the patients who actually did have cancer.

Samantha Mixon is Changing thr Face of Lung Cancer

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

ATLANTA — Samantha Mixon looks and feels great, but she is fighting stage four lung cancer and all the assumptions that people make about her disease.

“The first thing they ask is, ‘Did you smoke?’ It’s annoying at this point,” Mixon told 11Alive’s Jennifer Leslie.

She’s a non-smoker with no family history and only 33 years old.

She was diagnosed in November at Piedmont Henry Hospital after complaining of migraines. Turns out, she had a tumor that formed when the lung cancer metastasized to the brain.

“Telling my daughter was the hardest part about it,” Mixon said. “How do you tell her your mommy’s odds are not very good for five years, its one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”

Mixon is part of a troubling trend, according to Piedmont Atlanta thoracic surgeon Dr. Saeid Khansarinia.
“We’re seeing more and more lung cancer in people who don’t smoke, especially women,” Dr. Khansarinia said.

Dr. Khansarinia said no one really knows why, but he said new targeted chemotherapy drugs are working well for younger, nonsmoking women.
“They seem to have much better success in controlling the disease and putting some of our patients even into remission,” he added.

Mixon and her 8-year-old daughter Karley still struggle with statistics that show a very low survival rate.
But the new drugs are making a difference, and Mixon is determined to do her part to raise awareness.

“It can happen to anyone,” she said. “It’s not a smoker’s disease anymore.”
For more information about lung cancer, Piedmont Healthcare has a list of symptoms, risk factors and treatment options.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.

Lung cancer usually does not cause symptoms when it first develops, but symptoms often become present after the tumor begins growing. A cough is the most common symptom of lung cancer.
Other symptoms include: constant chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, recurring lung infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, bloody or rust-colored sputum and hoarseness.

A tumor that presses on large blood vessels near the lung can cause swelling of the neck and face.

A tumor that presses on certain nerves near the lung can cause pain and weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand.

Linda Wortman — A Survivor at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Linda and Jerry Wortman are Tackling Lung Cancer 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.

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


Mayo Clinic Cancer Center NIH

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center is a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center with a multisite presence. Its three campuses — in Scottsdale, Ariz., Jacksonville, Fla., and Rochester, Minn. — give the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center a broad geographic reach, enabling it to serve diverse patient populations around the world. The campuses are also home to outstanding, internationally recognized physicians and scientists who collaborate across the full spectrum of cancer research, from basic biology to treatment, as they seek ways to reduce the burden of cancer.

Mayo Clinic Cancer Center NIH from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Team Draft Tours OHSU

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013


A former NFL linebacker came to Portland to see how researchers at Oregon Health & Science University are bringing new hope to cancer patients.

Chris Draft lost his wife to lung cancer in 2011. Before she died, the couple launched Team Draft to raise money and awareness to fight the disease.

Keasha Draft was not a smoker. Experts say nearly 60 percent of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients are former smokers or have never smoked.

Chris Draft said he was inspired by what he saw at OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute Thursday.

He talked to scientists who are working to test DNA so they can determine which cancer drugs work best for each patient.

“It really brings a lot of hope to patients right now and to future patients,” he said.

Chris Draft played in the NFL from 1998 to 2009 on six different teams, including the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers.

Copyright 2013 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

Team Draft Co-founder Chris Draft Sits Down With CNN’S Don Lemon

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Joe Melcher of Patterson California shared his late wife, Sandy, of 32 years battled Staged 4 lung cancer for 17 months.

Frank Halden of Craftsbury Vermont shared “I saw your story on CNN this evening. I would like to congratulate you for your effort. I too lost my wife to lung cancer almost 10 years ago and since then I have been working to help find a cure. Please go to my web site and take a look. This is a team effort and I thank you for your participation. Please go Keep up the great work.”

Jim Capristo of Tunkhannock Pennsylvania shared “Sir just saw your interview on CNN sat 11-17-12. My wife Cindy passed away December 25, 2008 at 5.30am. I helped her lead the fight. I took her to Sloan Kettering the best cancer treatment center in the north. With lung cancer being the slowest painful death, lung cancer sucks. It took my wife. Yes, she smoked like a chimney. She did it her way and would not hear it any other way. We were together almost 12 years. God bless you Chris and all who suffer with this terrible sickness which does not care who you are how, much money you have or you’re age as well as the families who deal with this terrible sickness too.”

Alan Rader of Dauphin Pennsylvania stated “I’m writing to you Chris because I am so inspired with your story. I was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer in June, 2009. It was inoperable due to its location and the involvement with my spine at the T1 vertebra. I was treated with the newest forms of highly targeted radiation and the heavy hitters of chemotherapy. The tumor shrunk, died and became a chunk of scar tissue that remains. I go back to the treatment center for periodic scans, blood work and visits with all the team members who took part in this successful journey. Living with the threat of a recurrence and adjusting to the new normal over these past 3-1/2 years has not always been a walk in the park. I have found great solace in meeting other survivors with all sorts of cancers and have a particular affinity with my fellow lung cancer survivors. I have become friends with many and know the pain of losing people we have all befriended. I know that they are all still among us and will remain in our hearts forever. I have and continue to feel every emotion that accompanies this type of diagnoses. True joy is always available in the company of all those who have been affected by this most wicked killer. Lung cancer changed my life dramatically and now I know it has been for the better. I am proud to be able to join you Chris in all your efforts to raise awareness and funding for research to help find answers for all those who suffer now and will in the future. Every survivor’s story is very important to hear and I admire your ability to use your platform to further this cause. I am sorry for the loss of your beautiful wife and am inspired by your efforts to make sure her loss in the end will benefit many.”

C.R. Evans of Malaoff Texas shared “I have been cancer free for 8 years, 6 months and 15 days! Every day is a new day and a new life. To be told you have lung cancer is about the worst thing that can happen yet I am a survivor.”

Lois Girt of Anderson Indiana stated “After having surgery for colorectal cancer in 2007 in 2008 I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I started chemo and stayed on chemo until May of this year when my doctor suggested I try this new radio surgery. It is a machine that is able to concentrate radiation doses on the tumor while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. I had five treatments that lasted for one hour each time. I am now in remission. I was listening to CNN and heard your story. I took the treatment at St. Vincent Cancer Center Indianapolis.”

Tricia & Serafino Giambattista of Niagara Falls New York shared “We just watched you on CNN and I am so happy you are standing up for your wife and all Lung Cancer Survivors!” Tricia also stated her husband is a stage 4 Adenocarcinoma Lung Cancer Survivor which was diagnosed on 7/1/11. After 6 rounds of chemo his tumors shrunk 80%. He was then able to have radiation after 30 days. They have been fundraising for Relay For Life for 6 years. This year they had a Prayer Vigil for Lung Cancer Survivors at Church and held a workout fundraiser for Lung Cancer and presented the money at the Breath of Life Celebrate at Roswell Park Cancer Inst. of Buffalo NY, where we go and also spoke on behalf of caretakers. That money was given for funding for early detection. We have pushed to have articles in our local paper and Serafino’s interview was on YNN and Channel 4 of Buffalo NY. Just to see you and hear your story had us in tears. We have so many people wearing pearls and white this month and our local Jeweler turn his store White for November and is teaming up with Roswell for Lung Cancer. We would love to help in any way we can. Chris, you are the Angel of Lung Cancer Survivors, Caretakers and the Angel we have been waiting for, Thank-you and God Bless.”

Rosemary Stone of Easley South Carolina shared “I am a Stage III lung cancer survivor. My sister Margie was diagnosed in 1993 and died within 8 months. My other sister Kathleen was diagnosed in 1994 and died 16 months later. Our only brother Ted, was diagnosed at autopsy, both lungs were full of cancer with metastasis throughout his body. I was diagnosed in Sept. 2008 with a lesion on my right lung and lymph node outside the lung. I have been fighting this disease in honor of my siblings and all who have died from lung cancer. I want desperately to increase the public’s awareness without judgment as to association to smoking. The lack of symptoms prior to end stage carcinoma are nearly nonexistent and the death rates speak for themselves. We must continue to get the word out. With awareness and early detection we can survive.”

Janet Maloof of Sanford North Carolina shared “In 2001 my husband was throwing me an early birthday party during the summer (my birthday is November). He had over 100 people there from my childhood on up. I was sick as a dog on my second course of antibiotics for bronchitis. The day before the NP at my Family Care Physicians office asked me to get a chest x-ray over the weekend to see if there was any pneumonia or something going on. Sunday the day after the party I went to the local hospital for the x-ray. On Tuesday, my doctor’s day off, he called and wanted David and I to stop up to see him as soon as we could that morning. That is when I received the diagnosis of Lung Cancer. On Friday I went for a biopsy (chance of having to spit my sternum to get it) I came out with just a small slice because it had spread to the lymph nodes in my neck. The surgeon explained that it was small cell lung cancer and he would let my oncologist explain the rest when I saw him on Monday. I got the news and the fact that the Mortality rate was 93%; I told the doctor I would change that. Well, it turned out it was small cell lung and lymph node which was wrapped around the pulmonary artery of my heart. This explained my consistently rising blood pressure and the discussion of blood pressure medication. My cancer was inoperable due to the wrapping of the artery and the location. I was treated with Chemo and Radiation at the same time (talk about felling like you have been run over by a bus). Several times I was hospitalized for IV therapy for different reasons. I lost my hair, which didn’t bother me, and on I went. Thanksgiving had always been at our house and I had always done all the cooking and preparation. This year they convinced me to let them do all the work (we averaged 35 people for dinner) I agreed only if I could still help somehow. Dinner was great, not that I ate, but the houseful was wonderful. I had strong family support and a husband like the rock of Gibraltar, but most of all I had been raised with and continued into adulthood with a strong belief in God. After they felt they had all the Cancer obliterated they then did radiation to my brain with each passing year causes more short term memory problems. When I reached my 5yr the doctor hugged me and said that I was not supposed to be one of the four of us treating for lung cancer at the time, but I was. I told him he was a great doctor with the most incredible staff but that the ULTIMATE PHYSICIAN (God) made the decision. Seems he wasn’t done with me yet and as it turned out I have had to help with raising my grandchildren. If I can say one thing, don’t ever give up hope. Also, talk about what is going on. I educated every visitor I had about my disease and the treatment. Today as soon as I hear someone has Cancer I give the person who told me my personal business card to be passed on to the patient and tell them if they want to talk call me. It is now 11 years and I was so happy to see this on CNN tonight and find out there was a group out there. These past two weeks I have been talking to my friends about researching how to start something for Lung Cancer.”

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Friday, November 16th, 2012

The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center will host a Tweet chat to discuss the latest approaches to lung cancer treatment on Nov. 27 at 1 p.m. in recognition of Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Twitter users are invited to log in and join the conversation about new medical, surgical and radiation oncology approaches to the disease from cancer center experts. Read More