The changing face of lung cancer
|Dennis and Carol Sill|
Lung cancer rates are dropping in men, and climbing in women
When Carol Sill learned she had lung cancer in November 2004, she and her husband, Dennis, searched the Web for a support group near their Sacramento home. They called the American Cancer Society. They checked with the American Lung Association. Nothing.
"If I had breast cancer, I'd be able to choose from literally dozens of support groups and help lines right in our area. But there was nothing for lung cancer," Sill said.
Now there is. Determined to reverse the stigma she believes has kept lung cancer patients from stepping forward and seeking the help they need, Sill went to work. She founded a support group that meets twice a month at UC Davis Cancer Center under the leadership of Cancer Center social worker Carolyn Guadagnolo. Sill also forged ties with the Gail P. Ramos Lung Cancer Foundation in Fairfield, to help that group expand its fundraising efforts for lung cancer research in Sacramento. She also told her story to the Sacramento Bee and the regional ABC and NBC affiliates.
Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States, but it lags far behind breast and prostate cancer in terms of public attention. At one recent meeting of the support group Sill established, a woman talked about ribbons. Breast cancer has a pink ribbon; prostate cancer's is blue. The lung cancer ribbon is clear, she had discovered. "Invisible. Like us," she told the group.
UC Davis Thoracic Oncology Program
Among the largest and most comprehensive of its kind, the Thoracic Oncology Program at UC Davis Cancer Center provides a wide array of clinical and research services for patients with lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies.
The program includes nationally prominent clinicians and researchers from multiple disciplines who meet weekly to develop individualized treatment plans for each patient. The team includes medical oncologists, thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, radiation oncologists, nuclear medicine specialists and radiologists.
Every patient's clinical history and medical record, including PET scans, CT scans and other imaging studies, are reviewed by this team before treatment recommendations are made. The team is rounded out by nurses with advanced training in thoracic oncology, dietitians, social workers and clinical research associates. In addition, UC Davis Cancer Center offers clinical trials for almost every situation and stage of lung cancer. The therapies evaluated in these trials often become the recognized standards of care nationally and internationally.
The Thoracic Oncology Program is headed by David R. Gandara, a professor of hematology and oncology and associate director for clinical research at UC Davis Cancer Center. Gandara is co-chair of the National Cancer Institute's Investigational Drug Steering Committee, which is charged with recommending reforms in the way cancer clinical trials are conducted in the United States. He also chairs the Southwest Oncology Group's Lung Committee, overseeing thoracic cancer-related clinical trials at 283 institutions throughout the United States and Canada. He is a co-founder of the California Cancer Consortium, which coordinates early phase clinical trials at four institutions in California and Pennsylvania.
For more information about the Thoracic Oncology Program at UC Davis Cancer Center, please call (916) 734-8500 or visit our Web site, www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/cancer.
"Invisible like us"
That's changing. ABC anchorman Peter Jennings' death from lung cancer last year put the disease in the headlines. Shortly after his death, Dana Reeve, widow of actor Christopher Reeve, confirmed her lung cancer diagnosis, helping to raise awareness that lung cancer is increasingly a disease of younger women who have never smoked. She died of the disease March 6.
"Twenty years ago, the typical lung cancer patient was an older man who had a smoking history," said David R. Gandara , director of the Thoracic Oncology Program at UC Davis Cancer Center. "But lung cancer rates for men are down, while they are climbing in women. And in my clinic, more than one-third of our lung cancer patients are never-smokers — individuals who have smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime."
|David Gandara, director of the UC Davis Cancer Center's Thoracic Oncology Program, with radiation oncologist Zelanna Goldberg.|
Treatments are also changing. Last year, a Southwest Oncology Group study led by Gandara demonstrated the best long-term survival rates yet reported in patients with locally advanced, non-small cell lung cancer. Another study, co-authored by Gandara, showed that administering chemotherapy after surgery can boost five-year survival for patients with early stage, completely resected non-small cell lung cancer tumors to more than 60 percent. Both studies made national headlines.
Newer drugs are targeting tumors in more specific ways. Half a dozen of these molecularly targeted agents are being evaluated at UC Davis Cancer Center right now. UC Davis researchers are also looking for clues that will let doctors better determine which patients will respond to which targeted agents, and are studying new methods of preventing lung cancer recurrence.
In its first three months, Sacramento's first lung cancer support group grew to 60 members. Meetings are held on Wednesdays to coincide with the Cancer Center's multidisciplinary lung clinic and Thoracic Tumor Board. Patients from as far away as Palo Alto, Tahoe and Turlock attend, often because no lung cancer support group is available closer to home.
In their own words
Read first-person stories written by Sill and two other members of the Legacy support group:
|Carol Sill||Angie Lee-Ow||Jacque Painter|
For information about cancer support groups available in the greater Sacramento region, please visit the Cancer Resource Center on the first floor of the UC Davis Cancer Center, 4501 X St. in Sacramento, or call (916) 734-5935. Information is also available at www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/cancer.