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The Importance of Research - It Is Intensely Personal

A Blog Post by Chuck Maniscalco  | Sept. 21, 2017

There are many arguments that can and are made for the importance of investing in cancer research: reducing healthcare costs, providing funding for promising young investigators, economic vitality. I want to share with you my own, very personal story that is still unfolding but is as powerful an argument for cancer research that I know.

It was exactly one year ago today that I received a phone call from my doctor informing me that the MRI, conducted to assess whether issues with my spine were causing my pain, showed that I had a mass in my chest, which was likely a malignant tumor. I was at the Jewel grocery store at the time and, needless to say, put down my basket and went home to figure out what to do next.

It is now is a year later, and this brings up many things. Pain. Weariness. Exhaustion. Worry. But also gratitude and appreciation.

Gratitude that I'm still here — not just alive, but back in my life. Working, running, giving back through advocacy for cancer research. Appreciation for the great care I've been given and, more importantly, for all of the wonderful people who are supporting, praying, chanting, meditating and otherwise being the best circle of friends and family a guy could ever hope for.

So, here I am one year later, and just that fact means I've already defied the odds. Half of the people with my diagnosis don't make it to the one-year anniversary. By all rights, I shouldn't be alive, much less up and at it every day with full energy (well, maybe not full energy, since I need a nap every afternoon). I am more than alive; I am thriving. And I am not a cancer patient; I am a cancer fighter.

Speaking of fighting cancer, there's a new development. Just this week, a study was published assessing a new treatment approach for Stage 4 Lung Cancer. The medication, called Tagrisso, works in much the same way that Tarceva, my current medication, does. But, it does so with fewer and less severe side effects — and this new research shows that it improves patient outcomes by almost two-fold.

In the world of cancer treatment progress, two-fold improvements are almost unheard of. Ten or 20 percent improvements are usually greatly celebrated. Because of this, and because I've been feeling worrisome symptoms that are much like what I felt last year before my diagnosis, I will be switching to Tagrisso at some point next week.

There is no guarantee that Tagrisso will lessen or eliminate the pain and spasms I've been experiencing, but there is virtually no downside to giving it a try. And, as a fighter and thriver, I intend to utilize every weapon at my disposal to do my damnedest to give myself every chance to be here a year from now, marking the two-year anniversary of my diagnosis.

So that’s my story so far, and my final point is this: Tarceva was just approved as a first-line treatment four years ago. Now, a mere four years later, there is an alternative that doubles survival rate. This did not materialize out of thin air. This is the product of years of research — first in the laboratory, then in clinical trials. And this research needs funding.

My chances of having a second and third anniversary of my lung cancer diagnosis relies directly on improved treatments that grow out of much-needed research. For me, the argument for donating to and for funding cancer research is literally a matter of life and death.

About Chuck Maniscalco

Chuck Maniscalco

Diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in October 2016, Chuck benefitted from the advanced, individualized and research-based treatment options offered at the Lung OncoSET, part of the Lurie Cancer Center.

Chuck retired after a long and accomplished career in business, including roles as President of Gatorade, CEO of Quaker, Tropicana and Gatorade, and CEO of Seventh Generation. A man of many passions, he was an avid runner and guitar player, and took daily joy in completing the New York Times crossword puzzle. Chuck passed away March 19, 2019 at his home in Winnetka.

About Lung OncoSET

The Lung OncoSET is an extension of the Lurie Cancer Center's breakthrough OncoSET Program. OncoSET (Sequence, Evaluate, Treat) is based on the premise that each individual and every person's cancer is unique. It harnesses the power of precision medicine to identify tailored therapies for patients based on the abnormal genes specific to their tumor.

In 2014, the Lurie Cancer Center became the first academic cancer center in Chicago and one of only a handful in the nation to provide this kind of personalized medicine to patients with tumors — especially those tumors that are resistant to traditional cancer therapies. Learn more about Lung OncoSET and support more effective treatments for patients with lung cancer.

Support Lung OncoSET

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