Webmd health heroes winner
bonnie j. addario
Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003, Bonnie Addario says her first thought was, “I can’t believe this.” Her second thought: “I’m going to beat this.”
Her odds weren’t great: The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 16% (compared with 99% for both early-stage breast cancer and prostate cancer). But after months of difficult treatments, Addario, 65, recovered and decided to help others survive the disease. Lung cancer research receives a fraction of the funding other cancer research attracts. So in 2006, she set up the Bonnie J. Addario Foundation from her home in San Carlos, Calif., to raise awareness of lung cancer and money for research. To date, her foundation has raised $10 million.
Then she held a summit in San Francisco for lung cancer researchers. “I asked, ‘If money were no object, what’s the one thing you would do to increase survivability?” she says. The answer: Develop a bio-repository of tissue, blood, and plasma samples from lung cancer patients that researchers could study. In response, Addario’s second nonprofit, the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute, developed bio-repositories in California and Colorado that scientists and doctors at 17 institutions in the United States and Europe now use for joint research.
Addario believes lung cancer research funding is so low because the disease carries a stigma. “People associate lung cancer with smoking,” she says. “But 80 percent of newly diagnosed patients never smoked or quit decades ago. We have to get around that so we can turn survival into the norm, not the exception.”