Clinical Trials, Vaccines and Hope

My hope factor increased today and I hope yours will as well! I got an update today that improved my world! Researchers are working on bringing a whole lot of good our way, and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

Over a year ago I participated in the American Association for Cancer Research Scientist <–> Survivor Program. Today through Wednesday, the AACR is putting on a Virtual Meeting on COVID-19 and Cancer. I really want to tell you about two virtual sessions I attended today: one about clinical trials, and the other about vaccine development.

I was very excited to hear the clinical trials forum speakers talk about how their clinical trial communities have reacted to world changes brought on by COVID-19. I’ve heard some people express fear that clinical trials might take a back seat to COVID-19, but there’s a lot more good reason for hope and optimism! Speakers in today’s forum described how they had worked creatively to overcome challenges, leverage tools and technologies, while focusing on patient safety and accuracy of data.

This pandemic has shifted the focus of many clinical trials to be more patient-centric. Researchers and doctors are finding that telehealth can work really well, and many tests are being done closer to home, sometimes even at home, thanks to the quick pivoting of regulators and investigators which makes clinical trials work effectively in these different times.

Decentralizing clinical trials improves and expands access. Clinical trials accrual is increasing, as is diversity. Underserved populations are being recruited, getting improved access to clinical trials. This is important good news!

[It’s something we have been working on in Canada, too. 3CTN recently announced two new initiatives to increase access to cancer clinical trials, with nearly $1 million in funding from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Great news! #AccessMatters]

Leaders in clinical trial research are not just reacting quickly to unusual times, they are also taking advantage of what they are learning to reimagine and work for a future with better, faster, simpler and cheaper ways of making innovative new life-extending therapies available to people affected by cancer.

The vaccine development symposium was fascinating, exciting and inspiring! Researchers are working at breakneck speed, crushing previous vaccine development records and producing hopeful results. Researchers made it clear that they are building on earlier work of MERS, SARS and other researchers who laid the framework upon which current work is built. Pandemic preparedness matters. #ResearchMatters

So grateful for front line workers, researchers and all who work to make research happen. Thank you.

www.aacr.org #AACRCOVID #hope

More details about the events below these pictures from the awesome AACR Annual Meeting 2019 #AACR19 …

FORUM 1: REGULATORY AND OPERATIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF CANCER CLINICAL TRIAL CHANGES DURING COVID-19
1:05-2:05 P.M.
MODERATOR: KEITH T. FLAHERTY, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

José Baselga, AstraZeneca, Gaithersburg, Maryland
James Doroshow, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland
Kristen M. Hege, Bristol-Myers Squibb, San Francisco, California
Paul G. Kluetz, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland
Patricia M. LoRusso, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
Caroline Robert, INSERM U981 (Gustave Roussy), Villejuif, France

SYMPOSIUM 3: COVID-19 VACCINE DEVELOPMENT
2:20-4:20 P.M.

Introduction
E. John Wherry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Rapid SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine development enabled by prototype pathogen preparedness
Kizzmekia S. Corbett, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Bethesda Maryland

Pan-HLA prediction of SARS-CoV-2 epitopes*
Katie M. Campbell, University of California, Los Angeles, California

Sequence-based prediction of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine targets using a mass spectrometry-based bioinformatics predictor identifies immunogenic T cell epitopes*
Asaf Poran, BioNTech US, Cambridge, Massachusetts

A computational approach to identify a possible SARS-CoV-2 vaccine from receptor binding domain peptide sequence on spike glycoproteins*
Majid Al-Zahrani, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Synthetic DNA for EID outbreaks including SARS-CoV2
David Weiner, The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Closing Remarks / Discussion

E. John Wherry

*Short talks from proffered papers

Three More Reasons to Hold onto Hope

In a challenging season, there are opportunities to be seized. When life is hard, there is still good going on. Here are three more reasons to hold onto hope…

3) Canadian Cancer Society/Canadian Institutes of Health Research Cancer Survivorship Team Grants

Last summer Jennifer Wilson, director of research operations for the Canadian Cancer Society, asked me to serve with some awesome review panelists to help decide which survivorship team research projects would receive funding. The $10 million competition, CCS/CIHR Cancer Survivorship Team Grants, had the goal of improving health outcomes for cancer survivors. We anticipated that at least four teams would be funded, but then just before the announcement could be made, COVID-19 struck.

Everything changed.

Prior to COVID-19, this $10M competition would have been the largest investment in cancer survivorship research ever made in Canada at one time.

The recipients were announced this month. During the delay brought on by COVID-19, additional partner funds were secured from the Alberta Cancer Foundation and McMaster University, which enabled SIX grants!!

Jennifer Wilson and team worked hard during a global pandemic to make the largest investment in cancer survivorship research even larger! Way to go team! Here is the announcement

2) Great news! The US FDA approved SEVEN new lung cancer treatments in May 2020 (during COVID-19)!!

Tabrecta – Capmatinib (METex14)

Retevmo – Selpercatinib (RET)

Opdivo – Nivolumab + Yervoy – Ipilimumab

Tecentriq – Atezolizumab (first line)

Alunbrig – Brigatinib (ALK)

Opdivo – Nivolumab + Yervoy – Ipilimumab + chemo

Ramucirumab – Cyramza + erlotinib – Tarceva (EGFRex19 or ex21)

WOW! WOW!! WOW!!!

What tremendous achievement from multiple teams! Time to celebrate!! #ResearchMatters

1) What a feeling!

This is insignificant in comparison, but I am also thankful because I have feeling in my hands this evening.

Neuropathy (nerve damage / dysfunction) is a common side effect from some cancer treatments. My hands have been generally numb or in significant pain (usually burning, stabbing or electrical) for the past six and a half years of survivorship. I try to keep perspective, since these are side effects of drugs that are keeping me alive.

Tonight I was making biscuits, and as I rubbed my hands together to remove bits of dough, I realised that I could feel the palms of my hands. They felt almost normal, and they still do, a few hours later. Happiness and gratitude! So thankful to be alive six and a half years after diagnosis!! My kids were 6, 10 & 12 at diagnosis, and now they are 13, 17 & 19. That means so much! I’m so glad I get to be here with them. So very grateful!

The costs of survivorship are real. New and improved treatment options mean that (in general) people are living longer and better post diagnosis. Survival rates vary significantly, but about two thirds of people will live at least five years after a cancer diagnosis. This means that over one million Canadians are now living with cancer, and that number is expected to rise dramatically in the next twenty years. (Canadian Cancer Society statistics)

Research matters, to improve both quantity and quality of life.

Research brings hope.

Hold onto hope.

Research and Hope

Research makes a world of difference! Research is a reason to hope, and daily there are advances in cancer research.

Patients, survivors and caregivers can speak into the research process, making it better. There is need for people who have cancer experience to participate as research advocates.

I’m glad to finally have my computer back and running, the corrupted hard drive replaced. Not having a computer made life and advocacy much more challenging. Even without it, I’ve been busy with a lot of lung cancer activities, including ongoing research advocacy with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group and the International Lung Cancer Foundation.

If you are a lung cancer survivor advocate who is interested in learning and growing as a research advocate, please consider applying to the (IASLC) International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s “STARS” program, in which I participated as a mentor for six months last year. Such a great learning opportunity! You’ll need a reference and to set aside a few hours to apply. (The AACR Scientist <–> Survivor Program is also excellent, and open to advocates for all cancers.)

I spoke as part of a team to a group of patient advisors at The Ottawa Hospital in January, with the goal of working together to improve cancer clinical trials. They were engaged and inspiring! We are walking in new territory and innovating new pathways. I’m hopeful.

Our monthly lung cancer hope outreach tables at the Cancer Centre continue with good coordinating work from Andrea Redway, with support from The Ottawa Hospital, Lung Cancer Canada and the IASLC. It is clear that the information and conversations make a real difference for survivors who stop by, many are newly diagnosed or in process of being diagnosed, which is one of the most challenging parts of the lung cancer journey. We are privileged to invite them into community, share information and stories, and (perhaps most importantly) listen. It is clear by their facial expressions and body language that they tend to leave much more uplifted and encouraged. We have an amazing team of compassionate and skilled people. From time to time, we talk about the emotional toll it takes on our team. Most agree that it leaves us feeling a little emotional fatigue by the end of the day, but after a bit of rest we are restored. Overall, this work brings so much joy and fulfilment to team members. We get along well and enjoy each others’ company. It’s really good to work together as a team. I’m very grateful for these people and other teammates who invest a day each month.

There are many amazing people doing good work for people affected by lung cancer and other cancers. What a privilege to get to know some of them, and sometimes connect them with each other! It brings me joy to connect people to form strategic partnerships.

It was great to meet Amy Desjardins, Director of the Canadian Cancer Society, Ottawa Region, in person in January, and to learn that their holiday fundraising appeal which used my story has raised over $280,000 for cancer research.

I’m part of several online lung cancer communities, which offer information, empathy and support. I’ve met many hundreds of people around the world through these groups, and it’s exciting to meet in person. When Kim told me that she was coming to Ottawa for the Family Day long week-end, I asked my kids how they felt about having her family over for dinner. They jokingly gave me the “Stranger Danger” talk! They are very supportive of my lung cancer work because we’ve talked about it and they understand how important lung cancer survivor community and advocacy are. They know that it’s up to us to support people and stand up for better outcomes for people with lung cancer. We were very happy to welcome Kim and her family into our home. It was great to spend time together.

I continue to connect with many people affected by lung cancer and spend hours each month listening, encouraging and seeking to inspire hope. It’s an honour. We have the choice to live in hope or fear, so why not choose hope?

Did I mention that my youngest turned 13 recently? That’s right, now all three are teens and life is wonderful! I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be alive and be here with them and for them. I cherish these precious moments, and hope for many more. I dedicate time and effort to advocacy with hope that this will help improve outcomes for others affected by lung cancer, today and in the days to come.

Day Ten – Thanksgiving

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

HUGE THANK YOU to all who have given so far in our 12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials!!

THANK YOU for giving to lung cancer clinical trials!!! You are making a difference for people now and into the future! It takes a team to tackle lung cancer. Thank you #team!

Your gift will help people living with lung cancer experience longer and better survivorship, and it will contribute to the eradication of lung cancer. That means so much. Thank you.

Huge thank you to Team Draft and Chris Draft for your hard work putting on the Super Bowl Challenge, developing leaders and supporting people affected by lung cancer around the world. You make a real difference. Today marks eight years since Keasha Draft’s passing. Chris, you have put in far more work than we realize and you deserve far more appreciation than we show. THANK YOU.

Sunday the 29th is the last day to give to the Super Bowl Challenge, but we will continue to accept donations for clinical trials into January. I’ll be honest with you. I would LOVE to win the Super Bowl Challenge, earn a trip to Florida in the Winter, the experience of a lifetime and opportunity to share lung cancer’s story with that huge platform … but …

What really matters is that we pull together as a team to tackle lung cancer. What matters is that we rally together for better care for people affected by lung cancer. Clinical trials matter because they actually extend lives.

Anyone can get lung cancer. I am frequently contacted by people shocked and saddened by a diagnosis, whether their own or someone they love. Lung cancer affects almost everyone.

Research is changing the story & saving lives, so we need more research! I have a deep passion for driving change in this field and sadness that so far we have raised less than $1000.

It’s not too late to raise more money for lung cancer research!

It takes a #team to tackle lung cancer. Join us!

Would you please consider giving if you haven’t yet? Would you have family or friends who you might ask to give to this important cause? Please invite them. This is a good year end tax deductible investment. It could extend your own life or the life of someone you love.

It’s not too late to give to lung cancer clinical trials. Please give, #team!

Team Jill:  https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/2020-lung-cancer-survivors-super-bowl-challenge/jillhamer-wilson

OR: Team Jill’s Canadian page (for Canadian Income Tax receipts): http://donate.ottawacancer.ca/goto/jill 

#12Days of giving to #lungcancer #clinicaltrials #Hope #Care #Team #Support #SilverLinings #Stories #Awareness #Early Detection #Treatment #Research #Survivorship #TeamDraft #ChrisDraft #ThankYou #lcsm

5 Gold Rings Pillars of Lung Cancer

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

What do you think of when you think of lung cancer?

Before I was diagnosed, I did not know much beyond the connection between smoking and lung cancer.

For decades, an enormous anti-smoking, lung cancer prevention campaign has been waged. Huge amounts of energy and funding have been invested, but prevention alone is not enough. In spite of prevention efforts, the Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 29,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019. That’s the size of a town. 

A town-full of people diagnosed with lung cancer each year.

Clearly a prevention campaign is not enough.

Candid conversations which evaluate the past and examine the present shine light on paths into the future.

It’s time for lung cancer to shift to a well-rounded campaign which dedicates appropriate resourcing to five pillars of lung cancer:

Awareness, Early Detection, Treatment, Research and Survivorship.

When we allocate funding appropriately, we will drive change in lung cancer survivorship.

A town full of people each year! Who will get lung cancer next year?

Anyone can get lung cancer.

The research we fund today might extend your life.

#ResearchMatters

Team Jill:  https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/2020-lung-cancer-survivors-super-bowl-challenge/jillhamer-wilson

OR: Team Jill’s Canadian page (for Canadian Income Tax receipts): http://donate.ottawacancer.ca/goto/jill 

#12Days of giving to #lungcancer #clinicaltrials #Hope #Care #Team #Support #SilverLinings #Stories #Awareness #Early Detection #Treatment #Research #Survivorship #ThankYou

3 French Hens: Support Groups

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

All it takes is two. Put two lung cancer survivors together and anything could happen! Get three together and it could be a support group!

There’s nothing like meeting someone you really connect with! It has happened time and time again, the spark, the recognition that someone else gets it, they understand your experience, and they care.

Two survivors together is powerful. There is strength in numbers, and two is enough. Get three and now we’re really cooking! There is no telling what could happen!

Two survivors plus a social worker or psychologist, or any third who is willing to lead, and all kinds of good could come of that. Just ask Alyson and Christine about what happened in Winnipeg less than a year ago. The lung cancer support group they started in Spring of 2019 stood up and clapped with gratitude for them. They just celebrated the holidays with a party this week! What a difference this support group is making! Way to go, Alyson, Christine, Mike, Kelly and team!

It may seem hard to start a support group, but it’s not too hard. People do it all the time. Support groups are best practices and they do good for people around the world. It’s not too hard to start one. There are courses in leading groups, lots of books, experienced leaders, and other resources to learn from. Right in cancer centres all over the world, there are loads of trained, caring people working in psychosocial oncology. It’s not too late to learn. Alyson and Christine asked a lot of questions when they were getting started, and a social worker here in Ottawa helped them connect with teammates in Winnipeg. Reach out! Ask questions! Support groups are best practices, and lots of people could benefit if we had more of them.

We’re very grateful for the lung cancer support group in Ottawa. It was started (in October 2017) by Social Worker Diane Manii and a team here in Ottawa, with Lung Cancer Canada and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. It continues with their support and the support of The Ottawa Hospital. There is much generosity toward the Ottawa support group, and strong support within the group. The group has also started reaching out at the Cancer Centre with monthly hope tables (since August 2018) which are greatly appreciated. The group participated in Ottawa Race Weekend (#LungCancerStrong) in May 2019, raising funds as “Lung Cancer Team Canada” for Lung Cancer Canada, and growing numbers are participating in political advocacy for lung cancer.

I’m very grateful for the women and men I’ve met through our Ottawa support group. They are silver linings of lung cancer.

If you don’t have a support group and you would like to explore starting one, please start looking around and asking questions. You may be in an area where it may not look like there are enough people or resources for a lung cancer specific group, but don’t let that discourage you. People are willing to help; reach out!

Once you have three, there’s no telling what you can do!

To celebrate support groups and survivorship, please give generously to lung cancer research!

Team Jill:  https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/2020-lung-cancer-survivors-super-bowl-challenge/jillhamer-wilson

OR: Team Jill’s Canadian page (for Canadian Income Tax receipts): http://donate.ottawacancer.ca/goto/jill 

#12Days of giving to #lungcancer #clinicaltrials #Hope #Care #Team #Support #SilverLinings #ThankYou

2 Turtle Doves

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

Here’s to all the care givers, whether family or friends, and neighbours and even strangers who reach out with care, knowing that people going through lung cancer, or any tough time, need extra care. It’s not good to be alone. We all need team. Cheers to the people who reach out with kindness, compassion, care, comfort, empathy, gentleness, grace, support, understanding, muffins, meals, encouragement.

We all benefit from from kind words and actions. How much better our world is when people are uplifting, inspiring, cheering, caring and giving.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King said, Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Cheers to all the people who shine a light. Cheers to everyone who makes this world a better place by walking – even part of the way – through the valley with someone who has received difficult news like a lung cancer diagnosis. Cheers and THANK YOU.

It’s not good to be alone. We are better together, stronger together. #TeamMatters

Cheers to everyone who makes a difference through caring!

To celebrate care givers and survivorship, please give generously to lung cancer research!

Team Jill:  https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/2020-lung-cancer-survivors-super-bowl-challenge/jillhamer-wilson

OR: Team Jill’s Canadian page (for Canadian Income Tax receipts): http://donate.ottawacancer.ca/goto/jill 

#12Days of giving to #lungcancer #clinicaltrials #Hope #Care #Team #ThankYou

1 Partridge in a Pear Tree

12 Days of Giving to Lung Cancer Clinical Trials

Clinical trials mean life for people with lung cancer. They not only make a difference for people in the future. Clinical trials extend lives right now. Clinical trials matter!

Hope Matters. We all need hope, especially in hard times. Everyone goes through them, and in the midst of the darkness, hope is an act of defiance.

In Spring 2015, my health was bad. After a year and a half of first chemo then targeted therapy, I was weak and concerned that there might not be any more treatment options for me. My kids were 8, 11 and 14.

We were incredibly thankful for the clinical trial that my oncologist told me about. It brought hope, and I eagerly signed up. I wrote about it at the time, and here in An Act of Defiance, where I told the story of asking my family to plant an apple tree for me for my birthday in the Spring of 2015. The pear tree immediately brought to mind this story of hope.

Apple trees take years to bear fruit. Would I live to see it? Only one way to find out! Fast forward to 2019: we have harvested loads of apples and are very thankful I’m alive to enjoy them. Choose hope!

Hope is an act of defiance! When times are tough we can run low on hope. Hope matters. We need to nurture the hope within us, and when running low on hope, ask for help! #HopeMatters

That clinical trial kept me alive for over a year and a half, long enough for new and better treatment options to become available. I’m on my second treatment line since that clinical trial. I’m alive (and so very thankful) today because of grace and that clinical trial.

Research works. It is working to help give more and more people longer and better survivorship! Lung cancer research matters because people matter.

Four and a half years later I am filled with gratitude for that clinical trial and all who funded it, giving me the gift of extra years of life, such important years that I’ve cherished with my family and friends. My kids are now 12, 16 and 18. We’re incredibly grateful for these years.

Four and a half years later I know from the depth of my being that research matters. Four and a half years later I keep shouting from the rooftops: RESEARCH MATTERS!

I’m raising funds this month, posting these 12 days of giving to lung cancer clinical trials. Please give generously: your gift could mean years of life for someone like me, and what a difference that makes for so many!

To celebrate SiX years of lung cancer survivorship, please give generously to lung cancer research!

Team Jill:  https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/2020-lung-cancer-survivors-super-bowl-challenge/jillhamer-wilson

OR: Team Jill’s Canadian page (for Canadian Income Tax receipts): http://donate.ottawacancer.ca/goto/jill

#12Days of giving to #lungcancer #clinicaltrials #HopeMatters #appletree #peartree #HopeisanActofDefiance #ChooseHope #Hope

SiX Years!

To celebrate SiX years of lung cancer survivorship, we are fundraising for lung cancer research! This is such an important cause because anyone can get lung cancer, even active moms of young children.

Join Team Jill to celebrate survivorship!

Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer by far, yet in Canada it gets less than 0.1% of all cancer donations from individuals and businesses.

Join Team Jill to celebrate survivorship and change that statistic!

This year, Team Jill is entering the 2020 Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge, raising funds for lung cancer research. Please join in and celebrate survivorship by supporting Team Jill!

Support Team Jill by:

  • making a generous donation
  • asking friends and family to donate
  • inviting Jill to speak at your workplace, community group or living room gathering
  • asking your colleagues to donate to lung cancer research
  • holding a bake sale or other fundraiser
  • sharing on social media
  • brainstorming ideas and acting on one or more
  • talking with Jill about your ideas, and working on them together

Team Jill’s page:  https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/2020-lung-cancer-survivors-super-bowl-challenge/jillhamer-wilson

Team Jill’s page for Canadian income tax receipts: http://donate.ottawacancer.ca/goto/jill

Support Team Jill now, because this special window is only open until December 29! We are entering the Super Bowl Challenge to raise funds for lung cancer research. This unique fundraiser gives lung cancer survivor-advocates the opportunity to compete against each other to raise funds for lung cancer awareness and cutting edge research. The top three fundraisers earn trips to Florida for the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, and Taste of the NFL, but the real winner is the people (who may not have been diagnosed yet) who will benefit from the research.

People affected by lung cancer live with a sense of urgency! Lung cancer doesn’t wait. Join Team Jill now!

“This is a fight we can win, but it takes at team to tackle cancer, and we need your help,” says Chris Draft (of Team Draft & the Super Bowl Challenge).  Will you choose to stand up for your community?

Ottawa has a strong history of people standing up publicly to fundraise for lung cancer (many of whom are pictured above), but this is rare across Canada. I know of some and would love to hear of other efforts across Canada!

Stand up and support lung cancer research by supporting Team Jill now!

Thank you!

#ResearchMatters

Team Jill has chosen the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation as beneficiary for this year’s Super Bowl Challenge. 90% of funds raised will go to lung cancer clinical trials through the ORCF, provided we raise a minimum of $5000. USD.

The Super Bowl Challenge is a great opportunity to raise lung cancer funds and also potentially earn the experience of a lifetime, and speak about the importance of lung cancer on one gigantic international platform. Thank you, Team Draft and the NFL for this tremendous opportunity! Team Draft is an initiative of the Chris Draft Family Foundation dedicated to increasing lung cancer awareness and research funding; more information below. 

Team Draft’s Press Release:

For Immediate Release

December 3, 2019

Contact:  Randall Hawkins, rhawkins@chrisdraft.org

Team Draft Marks Giving Tuesday With A Call To Support Sixth Annual Lung Cancer Survivors’ Super Bowl Challenge

 (ATLANTA, GA) – Today is Giving Tuesday—a day designed to unleash the power of people to change their communities by supporting the organizations they care about.  On this Giving Tuesday, Team Draft is challenging people to help change the face of lung cancer by supporting its 6th Annual Lung Cancer Survivors’ Super Bowl Challenge.  This one-of-kind fund raising challenge gives lung cancer “survivor-advocates” the opportunity to compete to against each other to raise funds for critical public awareness of this often misunderstood disease and for cutting-edge research that is giving new hope to those battling it.  The top three fundraisers, announced on December 30, 2019, will earn trips to the Super Bowl in Miami, the Pro Bowl in Orlando, and the 29th Taste Of The NFL, an exclusive food and wine festival held in Miami the night before the big game where guests will savor dishes prepared by some of the top chefs in the country while rubbing shoulders with legendary players from all 32 NFL teams.

Team Draft was founded by former NFL linebacker and internationally-recognized health advocate Chris Draft and his late wife Keasha on November 27, 2011—their wedding day.  At the time, Keasha, a never-smoker, was battling Stage IV Lung Cancer after being diagnosed with the disease in December 2010.  Despite the diagnosis and knowing the long odds they faced, Chris and Keasha decided to fight back, and standing side-by-side, they launched Team Draft at their wedding.  Keasha died one month later.  

Since its founding, Team Draft has been dedicated to using its unique platform to raise lung cancer awareness and research funding through its Campaign To Change The Face Of Lung Cancer.  And the centerpiece of that Campaign is Team Draft’s annual Lung Cancer Survivors’ Super Bowl Challenge.  As Draft explains, “the Super Bowl Challenge gives us a unique opportunity to use the overwhelming media coverage surrounding the Super Bowl to raise lung cancer awareness on an international level.”

Team Draft’s efforts are paying off.  “The Challenge achieves some amazing things in terms of public awareness and changing perceptions about lung cancer,” says Dr. Ross Camidge, Director of Thoracic Oncology at Colorado University Cancer Center.

By giving survivor-advocates like Gina Hollenbeck, one of last year’s Challenge winners, a world-wide platform to share their stories, Team Draft is weaving a broader narrative about the true nature of lung cancer and the hope that now exists for survivors.  As Gina put it last year, “I am super excited about this opportunity to go to the Super Bowl with my husband, but I am even more excited to give lung cancer a voice”—a sentiment echoed by Jeff Meckstorth, another past winner.  “In many ways,” says Jeff, the Super Bowl Challenge is “a once and a lifetime opportunity to thank our community, fight for all lung cancer families, but most importantly to educate the public about the reality of lung cancer.”

In addition to raising critical public awareness, the Super Bowl Challenge also raises funds for lung cancer organizations and treatment centers across North America.  And because Team Draft’s National Campaign has always been about “we” and not “me,” just as Keasha intended, participating survivor-advocates who raise more than $5,000 during the Super Bowl Challenge may commit 90% of the funds they raise to a lung cancer organization or cancer center of their choice with the remaining 10% going to support Team Draft and its mission.  Of this aspect of the Super Bowl Challenge, Dr. Camidge says, “you need somebody working on the national level.  You need somebody working on the local level.  Everybody wins.”  

As Draft points out, “anybody can get lung cancer.”  “The disease doesn’t care where you live, but your zip code often determines the quality of care you receive,” he explains.  “In football, we understand the importance of the home field advantage.  By allowing survivors to direct where funds go, we’re giving people the opportunity to fight for better cancer treatment in their communities—to give themselves and their neighbors the home field advantage,” he says.  

But for the competing survivor-advocates, the Super Bowl Challenge is so much more than a fundraiser.  “Team Draft has really helped boost our family’s spirits during this challenging time,” says Dr. Lucy Kalanithi.  In 2015, Lucy and her husband, Dr. Paul Kalanithi, won Team Draft’s inaugural Super Bowl Challenge and were able to join Team Draft in Phoenix for Super Bowl 49.  Paul went on to write the bestselling memoir When Breath Becomes Air—a powerful and moving chronical of his life and lung cancer journey—before passing away at the age of 37.

While Team Draft hopes to have survivor-advocates from all 32 NFL cities participate in the Super Bowl Challenge, the ultimate goal is for all NCI designated cancer centers and lung cancer organizations—regardless of location—to identify and support a survivor-advocate in the Challenge every year.  “We know the key to winning this fight is for everybody in the lung cancer community to support one another,” says Draft, adding that “the only way a community or an organization loses is if nobody stands up.” 

On this #GivingTuesday, Team Draft is challenge everybody to make the choice to fight for their communities by joining the Campaign To Change The Face Of Lung Cancer by donating to the Chris Draft Family Foundation at www.chrisdraftfamilyfoundation.org or supporting a participating survivor-advocate in the Super Bowl Challenge at https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/2020-lung-cancer-survivors-super-bowl-challenge.  

“This is a fight we can win, but it takes at team to tackle cancer, and we need your help,” Draft says.  Will you choose to stand up for your community?

About Team Draft

Team Draft is an initiative of the Chris Draft Family Foundation dedicated to increasing lung cancer awareness and research funding.  To learn more or to donate, visit www.teamdraft.org.

###

Why I work hard as a lung cancer advocate:

Six years and seven weeks ago, like many other parents of young children in the schoolyard that year, I had a cold with a cough which persisted.

Six years ago I was constantly coughing, and beginning to realize that the inhaler the doctor prescribed wasn’t working. I coughed so much I had to step down from the choir I had been rehearsing with to sing Messiah. 

Six years ago we had started to suspect something was terribly wrong. I could hardly speak a sentence without coughing. When faced with a flight of stairs, I wondered if I could climb them. 

We knew something was wrong, but had no idea it could be lung cancer. I started undergoing a myriad of tests, and when we finally got my diagnosis that December, it seemed impossible. When I learned I had advanced lung cancer I had no hope.

I did not know what to expect, but I never expected this: that six years later I am living life!

I had no idea I would still be alive six years later, never imagined I could be this alive and vibrant.

I never dreamed I would live this long. 

Shortly after my diagnosis I read the research on Crizotinib, the first new targeted therapy pill my oncologist mentioned. I rejoiced that so many of the people on Crizotinib were still alive six months later. Six months seemed like such a long time, such a lot of opportunity to live, such a great gift for someone with lung cancer…  and here I am, six years later.

Six years: chemo, Crizotinib, Clinical Trial: Ceritinib, Alectinib, Lorlatinib. Cutting edge new research keeping me alive these years. Every time the cancer outsmarted a med, a new treatment has been available – typically just in the nick of time – so very grateful! Research is giving me so many days to celebrate, gifts of countless moments, memories, milestones.

My children were 6, 10 and 12 when I was diagnosed. They have had a Mom right with them as they’ve grown these six years. My daughter is now 12, my sons 16 and 18. My oldest started University this Fall (Electrical Engineering and Physics, still living at home!). I’m still in the picture. I still get to talk with them, cook for them, hug them, encourage them, love them.

“Grateful” is only the beginning of how immensely thankful I am to be alive and living so well six years later. I thank God for lung cancer research and the difference it makes. 

#ResearchMatters