The White Ribbon Project comes to cancer center to shine light on deadliest of cancers

Retired linebacker Chris Draft, who played on the 49ers and Falcons as well as other NFL teams, was at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center on Tuesday, Aug. 24 to acknowledge the cancer center’s efforts to tackle lung cancer.

Retired NFL player Chris Draft and lung cancer patient Shyreece Pompey present white ribbons to lung cancer specialists.

Draft is a national spokesperson for The White Ribbon Project, an international grassroots movement to raise awareness about lung cancer. He was joined by local lung cancer patient advocates at a ceremony honoring four UC Davis Health chest specialists who are aggressively tackling lung cancer through research and innovative treatments.

“I’m here to present white ribbons to the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is working to change the face of lung cancer,” said Draft, who lost his wife Keasha to lung cancer in 2011. “Each ribbon is made with love and intended to break the stigma of lung cancer by beating it with love. We thank the Cancer Center and these doctors for all they are doing to fight the deadly disease.”

Wooden white ribbons were presented to David Tom Cooke, chief of general thoracic surgery at UC Davis, along with surgeons Lisa Brown and Luis Godoy, as well as general thoracic nurse coordinator Valerie Kuderer. White ribbons were also given in a later presentation to UC Davis oncologist Jonathan Riess, as well as research team members Ashley Linh-Dang, Stacy Joo, Diem Li and Megan Jones.

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, accounting for nearly 25% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die from lung cancer than from colon, breast and prostate cancer combined.

Cooke said at the ceremony for the cancer center, “It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Asian-American or Latino, lung cancer is a killer and while we’re making great strides, we need more research funding to tackle this disease. ”

Several relatives of the lung cancer victims attended the ceremony and signed the backs of the nearly six-foot white ribbon plaques that will be hung at the cancer center.

“Thank you, UC Davis. You give us hope,” said Draft standing next to a stage IV lung cancer patient attending the event.

“What drives us is hearing stories like the ones being shared today. It makes us have to work even harder to find a cure,” Cooke said.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. The specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care to more than 15,000 adults and children each year and have access to more than 150 active clinical trials at any time. The innovative research program includes more than 225 UC Davis scientists working together to advance the discovery of new tools for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Patients have access to advanced care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. The Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses the disparities in cancer outcomes across populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and staffing programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit

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