Hollywood Takes Notice Of Little Known Deadly Lung Disease

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Pulmonary Fibrosis

As many people die each year of pulmonary fibrosis as of breast cancer, yet the disease is vastly unknown. Due to the recent deaths to the disease of high profile celebrities such as Evel Knievel and Robert Goulet, Hollywood is beginning to take notice and hit TV shows are spreading the word, as well.

HBO's Thursday night hit new show, Autopsy, focused on pulmonary fibrosis in last night's episode by telling the real-life story of a 9/11 responder named Frank Maisano, a New York City police officer forced to take early retirement, who is dying from the deadly, incurable lung disease. Cases of pulmonary fibrosis have been diagnosed amongst 9/11 workers including in James Zadroga, a first responder who died in 2006 from the disease.

The recent controversial Michael Moore film, Sicko, featured pulmonary fibrosis patients including Vito Valenti, a 9/11 responder and CPF volunteer and advocate.

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Other hit but fictional TV shows have featured pulmonary fibrosis in their plots in recent months. Fox TV's House medical drama aired two shows last season that included pulmonary fibrosis diagnoses or suspicions. TNT's Heartland medical drama features actor Dabney Coleman whose character suffers from pulmonary fibrosis and uses supplemental oxygen in the series.

"When Hollywood takes notice of something and celebrities are associated with a cause, things really start to happen," said Mishka Michon, Chief Executive Officer of the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis. "We are thankful for the work being done in TV and film to raise awareness and increase interest in pulmonary fibrosis. It is this kind of interest, as with AIDS and breast cancer, that takes a disease from terminal to treatable."

Pulmonary Fibrosis is a lung disorder characterized by a progressive scarring -- known as fibrosis -- and deterioration of the lungs, which slowly robs its victims of their ability to breathe. Approximately 128,000 Americans suffer from IPF and 40,000 will die this year.

Other Hollywood celebrities to die from pulmonary fibrosis include actors Marlon Brando, James Doohan (Scotty of Star Trek) and Gordon Jump (Maytag Repairman, WKRP in Cincinnati). Jaws author Peter Benchley also died from the disease.

About Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF)

IPF is a lung disorder characterized by a progressive scarring -- known as fibrosis -- and deterioration of the lungs, which slowly robs its victims of their ability to breathe. Approximately 128,000 Americans suffer from IPF, which is the most prevalent of a classification of lung disorders known as interstitial lung diseases (ILDs). There is currently no known cause or cure for IPF, nor is there an FDA-approved treatment. An estimated 48,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. IPF is difficult to diagnose, and an estimated two-thirds of patients die within five years of diagnosis.

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