Missy Petersen


Missy is a 47 year-old mother of two who teaches kindergarten, has never smoked, and who had the training and the endurance to run a half-marathon.

In 2009, Missy was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, after she had lost her voice and suffered intense chest pains. Her prognosis was grim: the cancer had spread to her brain, and was inoperable.

When you look at Missy, “Lung Cancer” is certainly NOT something that comes to mind. But, people exactly like Missy are the new faces of this disease.

When Missy was diagnosed, genetic testing of her tumor was not offered.  The hospital “didn’t have genomic testing — that was incredibly frustrating that it existed and we didn’t know about it,” she said. She was given the accepted standard of care which included radiation, chemotherapy and Avastin — a drug that blocks blood supply to tumors — which kept the disease at bay for two years. But, in 2010 the cancer returned, this time spreading to her hip. Although it took until 2012 for Missy to be able to have the type of genomic testing done that determined her lung cancer would respond to one of the new FDA-approved targeted therapies, Xalkori, Missy is one of the lucky ones.  Only four percent of lung cancer patients have this particular biomarker.

Missy continues to respond well to the Xalkori.  “That’s the one that works,” she said. Today, after 30 months of treatment, “there’s no evidence of cancer. It’s amazing.”