After clinical trial reveals lung cancer, survivor becomes early detection advocate

When Sherry Zorzi first picked up a cigarette as a teenager, she never dreamed that one day she’d be telling people not to smoke. “Back then, it just seemed like an adult thing to do,” she says. “Most of my friends gave it up after a few years, but I was addicted.” After her decade-older sister — also a longtime smoker — was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2000, Sherry got scared. “I thought, ‘That’s you in 10 years if you don’t quit now,’” she says. So with her doctor’s help and a prescription for Wellbutrin, Sherry kicked the habit. Chance encounter leads to clinical trial Thirteen years later, Sherry passed through a room and overheard a news program that changed her life. It was about a new lung cancer screening program, and she immediately thought, “I need to do that.” The study was for people like Sherry – current and former smokers who’d smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years. The Baton Rouge resident had her first scan done locally. The doctor saw something suspicious on the film, but it was small enough that he felt comfortable waiting another three months before taking another look. “My daughter, who worked at MD Anderson at the time, said, ‘No, no, no. If anything’s wrong, you’re coming here,’” Sherry says. Once at MD Anderson, Sherry entered a clinical trial for early lung cancer detection under Jeremy Erasmus, M.D. She had another scan, and Erasmus saw the same thing on the film. But the spot on Sherry’s lung didn’t seem to have grown, so she remained...