John's Story Lung Cancer

John Kane

During the spring of 2009, John Kane developed a cough that wouldn’t quit. His wife sent him to see his doctor; the physician prescribed a course of allergy medication. And yet, John’s cough persisted.

John coughed his way through the summer and into the fall. Then, in September, while John and his daughter strolled the grounds of the Devon Horse Show, he experienced an excruciating pain in his left back — pain that stopped him in his tracks and horrified his daughter.

And, now it was his daughter’s turn to insist that John see his doctor. The doctor was upset that John had not followed up for the cough. But what was done was done. The physician immediately sent John for a chest X-ray.

“I saw the cancer from across the room”

When the doctor returned with the X-ray results, John saw that his left lung appeared dramatically different from his right one, even from across the room. “I could see there was trouble,” says John. 

To make a differential diagnosis, John had a bronchoscopy, a test where a thin, tube-like instrument is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs. It enables a physician to remove tissue samples and examine them for cancer. When John’s biopsy results came back, they revealed an advanced stage of lung cancer.

A Common Killer: Non Small-Cell Lung Carcinoma

John had the most common type of lung cancer, non small-cell carcinoma --- which did not make it any less deadly. Fortunately, the Lung Cancer Program at Penn has been in the national forefront of lung cancer treatment for decades. Its robust, interdisciplinary program bridges state-of-the-art clinical care with world-renowned basic and clinical research. John knew he was in great hands.

Surgery, Chemo and Dr. Kucharczuk’s State-of-the-Art Clinical Trial

Treatment for John’s lung cancer started with surgery during which the upper left lobe of his left lung was removed. Four ribs were also removed because of possible bone metastases. Next, John underwent six sessions of chemotherapy.

As part of his treatment plan, John was asked if he would participate in a unique five-year Penn clinical trial for non small-cell lung carcinoma. John says, “I jumped at the chance, as way to enhance my treatment and advance medicine.” The study director, John Kucharczuk, MD, Chief of Thoracic Surgery in Penn Medicine’s Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine explains, “At Penn we push the frontiers of medicine with the goal of achieving positive outcomes for every patient.”

Four Years and Cancer Free

“I’m still going strong four years after my diagnosis,” says John. He sees Dr. Kucharczuk on a regular basis and continues take part in the clinical trial. 

John says, “Penn has given me four cancer-free years to be with my family, to take vacations, to celebrate life. I am a medical miracle thanks to Penn.”