Wide shot of Dr. Cooke w/ group of students and white ribbon.

UC Davis students join campaign to raise lung cancer awareness

‘White Ribbon Relay’ makes stop-over at cancer center on a cross-country journey to reduce the stigma of the nation’s most lethal cancer


An international movement to raise awareness about lung cancer came to UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center as part of a first-ever cross-country “White Ribbon Relay” organized by college students participating in the American Lung Cancer Screening Initiative (ALCSI). The initiative is dedicated to changing the perception of lung cancer, which often carries a stigma due to its link to tobacco use.

College campuses affiliated with ALCSI chapters are collaborating with the White Ribbon Project, a grassroots effort in which participants create two-foot-tall white ribbons made from wood that symbolize lung cancer — the No. 1 cause of cancer death in the U.S.

The students are simulating a relay by sending the oversized white ribbons, one from the West Coast and one from the East Coast, to fellow participants in communities across the U.S., including Sacramento.

Man in a white doctor’s coat accepts two-foot-tall white ribbon from two female students standing next to him.
Cancer center Interim Physician-in-Chief David Cooke (center) accepts white ribbon from students Mindy Tieu (left) and Anjolie Doan (right) during cross-country relay.

The ALCSI chapter at UC Davis received the West Coast white ribbon in late December and presented it to David Tom Cooke, the center’s interim physician-in-chief and chief of UC Davis Health’s Division of General Thoracic Surgery.

Cooke took possession of the ribbon from two of the chapter members, posed for a photo, then handed the ribbon back to the students who sent the ribbon to its next destination in the relay — the University of Washington.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, lung cancer is a killer and, while we are making great strides, we need more attention and more research funding to cure more people with this disease,” Cooke said. “I applaud these students, their enthusiasm and dedication, and the creative way they are using the White Ribbon Relay to spread awareness about lung cancer.”

The UC Davis ALCSI chapter was started in 2022 by four undergraduate students: Doriana Le, Sara Mukai, Anjolie Doan and Mindy Tieu. Their work is being overseen by Cooke and Jeffrey Yang a thoracic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School

Before arriving at the cancer center, the white ribbon made stops at UCLA, University of Southern California, Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

The final destination for the ribbons moving inland from both coasts will be the home of White Ribbon Project founders Pierre and Heidi Onda, in Denver.

“We included UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in the White Ribbon Relay to thank the center for its work in changing the face of lung cancer,” Le said. “Every ribbon is crafted with care and intended to break down the stigma surrounding lung cancer and, most importantly, to send a message to lung cancer patients and survivors that they are not alone in their journey.”

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center has numerous lung cancer clinical trials that benefit diverse communities. It also recently launched a dedicated Lung Cancer Integrated Service Line offering innovative screening and care navigation.

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, making up almost 25% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

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. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 100,000 adults and children every year and access to more than 200 active clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 240 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit cancer.ucdavis.edu.