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

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

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

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

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

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.

Kathi Roberts– Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

March 30th, 2013

Let’s start this week off on an upbeat note! And you can’t get more upbeat than our wonderful lung cancer survivor and Free to Breathe Charlotte committee member, Kathi Roberts.

Let me begin by saying I have had a very wonderful life. By 2006 my husband and I had raised our four children and they had successfully begun their adult lives. I had a job I simply loved – helping new teachers begin their careers in the classroom. I’m still married to a wonderful man that was and still is my best friend. We had just moved into a house for grown-ups- you know, master down, upstairs for company, all the bells and whistle that you would want. I am also a rule-follower in some things, especially when it comes to my health. Always ate healthy. Exercised to some degree. Went to every checkup and did every test one does as we age- and that list does get longer doesn’t it?

May 2006 changed my life drastically and forever: a bolt-from-the-blue diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer, with bone and liver involvement, discovered when I fractured my spine. Me, a nonsmoker! If you are not familiar with cancer staging, stage IV is the absolute end of the line- cancer has spread from the original tumor- the doctor in fact used the term “peppered” when we asked how much bone involvement there was.
We all know that we are going to die someday, but I suddenly had a very definitive, in-your- face timeline that was absolutely terrifying.

So we stepped into the storm of tests and decisions and treatment; it was overwhelming. The first thing they tried to decide was whether to biopsy the lung first or the liver – both risky procedures, but necessary to decide the course of treatment. After a lot of discussion they decided to do an ultrasound instead and look at the liver. Remarkably, the good news came; the liver did not have tumors but cysts!

The newest treatment protocol at that time was a triple threat chemo: Avastin, Carboplatin and Taxol. Whew! Three weeks on, one week off for 3 months. Also Zometa every month for the bone mets. After that I started Tarceva and have since switched to Xegeva for my bones. I added an exercise program through Strides for Strength, designed for cancer patients, and holistic treatmenst and acupuncture as well.

So fast-forward six years. God has given me six more years, and I am thankful for every day. Is my life perfect now? Yes and no – I am not in remission; I have some minor and some major issues to deal with. I am still apprehensive with every scan or test, hoping for the word stable, knowing that someday that will change.

But my life is perfect in another way. I have discovered a small community of survivors who are all passionate about changing the perceptions of lung cancer. We are appalled at how little is known about it and we work fervently to talk about “the elephant in the room.” The Free to Breathe team has been such a welcome organization to come into our lives; we are all thankful for that. We are planning our second run in Charlotte and are eager to do even more in the coming years as we raise interest and awareness in both detection and treatment for lung cancer.

- Kathi Roberts
Respond and Donate

James J. Urbanic, MD, Wake Forest Baptist Health Comprehensive Cancer Center

March 29th, 2013







James J. Urbanic, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Radiation Oncology
Comprehensive Cancer Center
Clinical Specialties
Lung Cancer, Radiation Oncology, Radiosurgery, Brachytherapy, Breast Cancer

Education & Training

M.D., Medical Univ Of South Carolina , 2003
B.S., US Merchant Marine Academy , 1992
Internship, Internal Medicine, Med U SC Teaching Hospital, 2004
Residency, Radiation Oncology, North Carolina Baptist Hospital, 2007
Residency, Radiation Oncology, North Carolina Baptist Hospital, 2008



American Association of Cancer Research
Radiation Research Society
American Medical Association
Radiological Society of North America
American Society of Clinical Oncology
American Society of Therapeutic Rad & Oncology


James J. Urbanic, MD, Wake Forest Baptist Health Comprehensive Cancer Center from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Francesco J. DeMayo, Ph. D, Baylor College of Medicine, Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center in Houston, TX

March 29th, 2013

Francesco J. DeMayo, Ph.D., 
Professor, Baylor College of Medicine
Ph, D. Michigan State University, East Lansing 
Postdoc, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

Molecular regulation of cellular differentiation and physiology

The goal of my laboratory is to investigate the molecular regulation of cellular differentiation and physiology. This research is conducted on two model organ systems, the lung and uterus. Although these two tissues are significantly divergent in their biological functions, many of the molecular mechanisms regulating the cellular differentiation and physiology are conserved. In order to investigate the biology of these tissues, my laboratory has manipulated the mouse genome to generate novel animal models to identify molecular mechanisms regulating the cell biology of these organs.

The lung is composed of 40 different cell types. This makes the lung an interesting organ to investigate the developmental control of cellular differentiation. The pulmonary cell types my laboratory is interested in investigating are the Clara cells, the neuroendocrine cells and the alveolar type II cells. Clara cells are the non-ciliated secretory cells of the pulmonary epithelium. My laboratory has used transgenic technology to execute in vivo promoter analysis to investigate the molecular regulation of Clara cell gene expression. The information gained from these studies has allowed us to generate an animal model for lung cancer, to generate cell lines to further investigate the elements regulating Clara cell differentiation and finally to determine how elements involved in lung development play a role in the regulation of the response of the Clara cell to environmental challenges. In the investigation of the factors that control neuroendocrine cell differentiation, my laboratory is interested in identifying what factors regulate this process as well as determining the role of these cells in damage and repair of the pulmonary epithelium. We have shown that the transcription factor, achaete scute, can cause a transformed Clara cell to express markers of neuroendocrine differentiation in vivo. Finally, in the investigation of the biology of the alveolar type II cell my laboratory has developed an transgenic “Gene Switch” system to investigate how growth factors which are involved in regulating lung development can function to regulate the biology of the alveolar type II cell in the adult.

The uterus functions to support the development of the fetus. The ability of the embryo to attach and thrive in the uterus is under tight hormonal control. Ablation of the receptor for the steroid hormone progesterone has demonstrated that this hormone is critical for the uterus to initiate and support the implanting embryo. My laboratory is interested in understanding the cascade of events regulated by progesterone. This is being accomplished by using current techniques in gene expression analysis to determine which genes are regulated by progesterone. Finally my laboratory is generating novel approaches to investigate the role of specific genes in uterine biology in vivo.

The overall goal of the above investigations in the understanding of the molecular regulation of cellular differentiation and physiology is to shed light on pathways to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of human disease. Understanding the molecular regulation of pulmonary cell differentiation will help design treatments for pulmonary diseases such as lung cancer, and asthma. The investigation of uterine biology will aid in the treatment of infertility.

Francesco J. DeMayo, Ph. D, Baylor College of Medicine, Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center in Houston, TX from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

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

March 9th, 2013

Linda and Jerry Wortman are Tackling Lung Cancer from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Micheal Barkins is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

March 2nd, 2013

In August of 2012 I went to the doctor for a routine checkup. While the doctor was listening to my heart and lungs he told me to take in a deep breath which I did and I cough, he asked me how long have I been coughing, I said I do not have a cough, he ask me when was the last time I had a chest x-ray I said a few years ago, He said let’s do a chest x-ray. So we did and when the x-ray came back the whole left lobe of my lung was shades white, he asked me if I ever had pneumonia I said yes when I was a baby he then said it looks like you have pneumonia or a lung infection he prescribed me some antibiotics and referred me to a lung specialist.

I had to wait 4 days to see the pulmonary doctor. When I did see the doctor I asked him if it was cancer he told me it did not look like a typical cancer x-ray but he wanted to run some test so I was to come back on that Wednesday to get some lymph nodes biopsy. Well I didn’t make it till Wednesday… That Monday morning my wife rushed me to the ER. I had shortness of breath I could hardly breathe. I was admitted in the hospital I was told that I had fluid around my heart and that is why I was having problems breathing, they had to perform a procedure to drain the fluid that had accumulated in the pericardia sac of my heart. So that was done I was in the hospital for a week and a half having all kinds of test done and every test was coming back negative for cancer, even though I had symptoms that appeared to lead to cancer, finally my doctor said let’s do a lung biopsy.

Three days later the doctor came into my room and set down beside me and told me and my wife that I have stage 4 Lung Cancer and my prognosis was 6 months and I could try Chemotherapy to try to prolong my life that since I was in good shape that I might response well to the Chemo.

I was numb and my family was devastated. He told me he will recommend me to an Oncologist. I asked if I could go home he said yes, The Oncologist came in and reconfirmed with me what the doctor had told me. We discussed the time for the chemotherapy treatments to start.

I went home and a week later I was back in the hospital with the fluid around my heart again. This time I had heart surgery the surgeon cut a window in the pericardium sac off my heart so the fluid could flow out I was told after this it would not return. I had a PET scan done and the results were really bad. The cancer had metastasized to my bones, pericardium sac of my heart, my skull, the thyroid gland, and the lymphatic system. The prognosis changed from 6 months to 3-5 months without chemotherapy and maybe longer with chemotherapy.

So we decided to do chemotherapy. I was scheduled for 6 rounds of chemotherapy 5 hours a day once every 3 weeks. After the third round of chemotherapy I had to get a PET scan done to see if the treatment was working or if the cancer had progressed.

Praise be to GOD the most high, we had to wait 3 weeks to get the results of the scan. On the day when we went to get the results the doctor came in to the room and said “Michael, Michael, Michael I—we have never seen anything like this. You had stage 4 lung cancer, but we can’t find cancer anywhere in your body, we checked the scan twice to make sure we were reading it right!”

Hallelujah, praise God. We know that prayer and faith in GOD and the strength of my family is what healed me. On January 11, 2013 a week after my last round of chemotherapy I had another scan and I am by the grace of GOD still cancer free. We thank GOD everyday for performing a miraculous healing and showing favor to our family and we stand on faith that when GOD put his hands on it, it is resolved.