KCTV: Local man who never smoked pushes for lung cancer awareness after diagnosis

December 1, 2021

November is lung cancer awareness month. A local man is working to raise awareness and change perceptions here in Kansas City.

Don Gallagher is fighting stage 3b lung cancer which has slowly metastasized. What he thought was a prolonged cough due to infection, turned out to be cancer. When he got sick in 2019, it came as a complete shock because he believed lung cancer was something you got after smoking, which he had never done.

Don came to Saint Luke's Cancer Institute, where he started his treatment.

"Lung Cancer is the biggest killer when it comes to cancer for both men and women," said Dr. Janakiraman Subramanian, oncologist and Director of Saint Luke's Center for Precision Oncology and Don's oncologist. "There is a stigma attached to it that comes in automatically…that they must be a smoker, and that is not always true."

10-15% of patients in the US, like Gallagher, never smoked a cigarette in their life. That comes out to 20,000 to 30,000 patients each year. Most lung cancer patients who have smoked quit 10-20 years ago.

Precision Oncology played a significant role in Don's treatment. Precision oncology specialized experts look at the cancer mutation to identify the exact genomic alteration causing the tumor and find the best individualized treatment plan for the type of cancer. And that is precisely what they did for Don. 

Together with Saint Luke’s Hospital, Gallagher got the go ahead to use a new drug 6 months before it was approved by the FDA.  

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