On Saturday, April 13, Celebrating the Art of Healing: Treatment and Beyond will take place at the Mary K. Chapman Plaza at St. John Medical Center. The annual event is a free educational symposium allowing cancer survivors and medical professionals to share their inspiring stories and learn more about the current state of cancer research. One of the speakers at this year’s event will be renowned physician Neil Caporaso, MD, Chief of the Genetic Epidemiology Branch at the National Cancer Institute. Caporaso specializes in genetic and environmental causes of cancer, particularly lung cancer and leukemia.

Since observing the poor results of existing cancer treatments as a young physician at the National Cancer Institute in the 1980s, Caporaso has led his field in research to better understand what could be done to craft more effective interventions.

Despite his knowledge and experience, his passion for cancer prevention transcends mere professional advancement. For Caporaso, the terrible plight of cancer hits home directly.

Both of Caporaso’s parents and both of his wife’s parents suffered from smoking-related cancers. This personal relevance sparked Caporaso to go beyond the surface in research, and his passion for first-hand knowledge of the disease has not relented since.

He consistently meets with families across the country in order to investigate cases where there is a rare genetic form of cancer.

“In some cases, collections of families with cancer can be signposts that point to specific genes,” says Caporaso.

He was first introduced to Celebrate the Art of Healing a little over a year ago through a family whose son had been diagnosed with cancer. Since then, Caporaso has been inspired by the hope and promise exemplified by the individuals within the organization and is excited about the opportunity to share ideas and research during the symposium.

In his lecture, Caporaso will speak on the various ways genetics and lifestyle work together to cause or block lung cancer and leukemia’s development.

Since President Richard Nixon first declared war on the vastly mysterious disease in the ‘70s, cancer research has come a long way. Currently, physicians and scientists gain new insight and advances on the disease every year. It’s clear, however, that the race to a cure and complete prevention is not over.

For this reason, “cancer research is both exciting and frustrating,” says Caporaso.

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2013 alone, an estimated 228,190 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed. Still, Caporaso and officials associated with Celebrating the Art of Healing firmly believe that no amount of research or statistics could fully depict the scope of the human will when faced with cancer.

Caporaso recalls a patient of his who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that had spread throughout her body. At the time, Caporaso was young and didn’t realize just how hopeless her case was.

“She looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Look, I’m gonna beat this thing.’ And she did just that,” says Caporaso. “I’m convinced that it was her desire to fight that kept her alive.”

Although much of cancer still remains a mystery, healing continues to spring around, and that certainly is a reason to celebrate.

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