Posts Tagged ‘Team Draft. Changing the Face of Lung Cancer’

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.

Kathi Roberts– Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Saturday, 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

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

Friday, 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

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Linda and Jerry Wortman are Tackling Lung Cancer 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.

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