By Ben Leach
Nine years ago, Bonnie J. Addario was a successful fiftysomething California businesswoman whose active lifestyle was being disrupted by persistent chest pain. Her doctors thought the pain stemmed from a bulging neck disc and, after months of fruitless exercising and frustration, she decided to pay for her own full-body computed tomography (CT) scan.
As it turned out, she had stage IIIB lung cancer.
Addario emerged from the trauma of her cancer journey with a desire to improve the experience for others. “It shouldn’t be that hard to get a good diagnosis and get good care,” Addario said during an interview at the 13th International Lung Cancer Congress. “There needs to be a change. And I am determined and committed to being a critical part of making that happen.”
Today, Addario’s name is synonymous with ground-breaking research and meaningful support for patients. In 2006, she established the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, which has raised more than $9 million. In 2008, the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute was established as a nonprofit research consortium among top institutions spanning North America and Europe.
Addario’s foundation also sponsors a lectureship award, which “recognizes luminaries in the quest to eradicate lung cancer” and supports a keynote presentation at the International Lung Cancer Congress. In July, D. Ross Camidge, MD, PhD, director of the Thoracic Oncology Clinical Program at the University of Colorado Denver, received the fifth annual award.
As Addario has gone from patient to survivor, she has learned much about what patients are looking for in terms of information and care. Through her organizations, she is determined to play a part in helping patients with lung cancer achieve better outcomes.
“There really is no consensus on standard of care for lung cancer like there is for breast cancer, for instance,” Addario said. “And because there’s such a good standard of care for breast cancer and early detection, the five-year survival rate for early-stage disease is about 90%. That’s where we need to be for lung cancer.”