LUNGevity: Leading the Way Against the Leading Cancer Killer

Issue 20, 2012

Largest nonprofit to fight lung cancer in United States puts focus on early detection

Andrea Stern Ferris Andrea Stern Ferris
President, LUNGevity

Four of the worst words anyone can hear: “You have lung cancer.”

LUNGevity Foundation President Andrea Stern Ferris discovered this in 2006, when her mother Patricia Stern was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.

The disease is usually found too late, as was the case for Andrea’s mother, who lost her fight to lung cancer less than two years later.

During her mother’s battle with the disease, Andrea’s family was shocked to see the lack of support and options for those diagnosed with lung cancer, as well as the limited funding for research into early detection and treatment.

In fact, even though it is by far the leading cancer killer in the United States, for more than 40 years lung cancer has remained one of the least-funded of all major malignancies.

The statistics surrounding the disease are sobering. At more than 160,000 deaths annually, lung cancer takes more American lives than breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined. In fact, one in 14 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in his or her lifetime.

And you don't have to be a current smoker to get this disease, since more than half of those diagnosed with lung cancer have either never smoked or have won the difficult battle to quit smoking.

Yet with so many people affected, there is still no widely available and costeffective early diagnostic test, and only 16 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer will survive five or more years post-diagnosis.

Following her mother's death, Andrea’s family decided to help those impacted by the disease. They ultimately joined forces with LUNGevity Foundation, to create what is today the nation's largest lung cancer-focused nonprofit. LUNGevity is making a real difference by funding cutting edge research, inspiring the nation through its grassroots network, and providing much needed support and education through its lung cancer support community.

LUNGevity's Breathe Deep walk series in Washington, DC.

“For so long, lung cancer has been overlooked. We are working to change that and build a nationwide commitment to stopping lung cancer now,” Ferris said.

To do so, LUNGevity has created the largest grants award program for lung cancer research among lung cancer nonprofit organizations in the U.S. Since early detection is crucial, the nonprofit funds research aimed at spotting all lung cancers in their earliest stages, while they are still localized and potentially curable. LUNGevity also invests in research to provide patients with targeted therapies in order to more effectively increase their survival time and improve their quality-of-life.

In total, the Foundation has supported 92 projects in 23 states since 2002, efforts that are giving the lung cancer community reason to be hopeful. And in just the past two years, LUNGevity has awarded over $5 million to the most promising lung cancer research projects. From helping researchers identify biomarkers for the early detection of the disease, to examining changes in a tumor's genomic makeup, LUNGevity’s contributions are crucial for advancing research to help prevent, detect and treat lung cancer and save lives.

Lungevity's work extends far beyond funding research as it seeks to build a strong and vital support community for lung cancer patients and their loved ones. Resources for patients include the largest lung cancer-specific online community, the LifeLine phone/email buddy program, an online Ask the Experts blog, and a clinical trials matching service.

The Foundation continues to help thousands of lung cancer patients and loved ones through its grassroots network. LUNGevity hosts over 60 volunteercoordinated grassroots events annually across the nation, and this network is getting stronger and more vibrant every year. These events include the organization’s signature Breathe Deep walks and runs, a brand of events launched by LUNGevity to raise public awareness and critical funds for lung cancer research.

Besides raising much-needed funds, LUNGevity events offer a place for those impacted by the disease to share, remember, hope and heal. The walks are a key tool for building a much needed sense of community for those impacted by lung cancer.

According to Ferris, the work LUNGevity does is a testament to her mother's struggle and to the hope that someday, no one will have to struggle against this killer disease.

In the end, she said, “organizations such as LUNGevity Foundation are critical to the quest for finding more effective detection methods and treatments for lung cancer, raising public awareness of the disease and providing support for those affected.”