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Healthy You

Treating Advanced Lung Cancer and an Aggressive Tumor

At age 79, John Zygokostas belies his age. With typical determination and energy, you can usually find him hard at work at Sunset House—a restaurant he owns in Waukegan.

A loyal NorthShore patient for half a century, Zygokostas has been staying on top of his health in recent years. He quit smoking in 2003 when he underwent successful heart bypass surgery. Later, in 2016, after experiencing persistent sinus pain and pressure, Zygokostas wasted no time making an appointment with his Primary Care Physician John Revis, MD.

“I felt okay, but not great. It was like I had a cold or something,” recalled Zygokostas, who places a lot of trust in Dr. Revis. “I knew he’d get to the bottom of it.”

John Zygokostas

Serving Up a Definitive Diagnosis
Following a thorough examination, Zygokostas’ sinus issues turned out to be something far more serious: advanced lung cancer. Dr. Revis referred his patient to the experts at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center to develop a targeted treatment plan that would include a combination of surgery and chemotherapy designed to stop cancer in its tracks.

Thoracic Surgeon Seth Krantz, MD, quickly determined that Zygokostas had a tumor in his lung that was pressing up against a critical artery providing blood to his heart.

“That artery was keeping him alive, and the tumor was almost growing into it,” Dr. Krantz explained. He consulted with Medical Oncologist Nicholas Campbell, MD, and together they recommended Zygokostas undergo chemotherapy before surgery, to reduce the tumor’s size and make it easier to remove from a difficult location. Both specialists hold academic appointments at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

“Presurgical chemotherapy isn’t unusual for some cancers,” noted Dr. Campbell. “But in this particular case it was more unusual because we were specifically trying to shrink a tumor located just off the artery supplying blood to John’s heart.

House Specialty: Excellent Outcomes
In the surgery that followed, Dr. Krantz removed the shrunken tumor and a portion of the lung without any damage to the critical artery. NorthShore Heart Surgeon Hyde Russell, MD, assisted in the operating room due to tumor’s proximity to the major artery. The results were far better than even the care team expected.

“The pathology report showed that the chemo had gotten rid of all of John’s cancer,” said Dr. Krantz. “Fewer than one out of ten people experience that kind of outcome.”

“John had such a perfect, complete response to chemotherapy that he didn’t even need post-surgery radiation,” added Dr. Campbell. “And, at his most recent follow-up, he was still cancer-free.”

Grateful for his return to health and his passionate role as a restaurateur, Zygokostas not only feels well looked after by his NorthShore doctors and nurses but a family care team, too, including his wife, two daughters, two sons-in-laws and three granddaughters.

“Yes,” he said, laughing. “In addition to NorthShore, I have a lot of nurses watching out for me at home!”