Meaghan Latone attended the 2008 Meaghan's 5K race.

Meaghan Latone, center with megaphone, attended the inaugural Meaghan's 5K race in 2008. She died four months later, losing her battle with nonsmokers' lung cancer.

Image courtesy Dale J. Bizub/Courtesy Meaghan's 5K

Each year, Meaghan's 5K, a charity race in the Rochester, N.Y., area, raises money for research into the early detection of lung cancer. Meaghan Latone grew up in a Rochester suburb. In 2006, at age 35, she entered a hospital suffering from severe discomfort in her back. Doctors soon found the source of the pain: bone cancer that had spread from her lungs. Her chances of recovery were slim.

During treatment, Latone found that there was a stigma attached to lung cancer. Because patients must have smoked, many people thought, they caused their own problem. In fact, Latone had never smoked. She was one of a growing number of patients, the majority of them women, who suffer from nonsmoker's lung cancer. Latone thought the stigma and the lack of research into the disease was unfair, and she was determined to speak out.

In November 2007, she published an essay in the local newspaper, "Do Not Give Lung Cancer Short Shrift." She noted that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, but that few people know it. Because of a lack of early detection, "about half the people diagnosed with lung cancer are in the advanced stages of the disease," she wrote. "Most of us in stages 3 and 4 will die within five years. This is unacceptable. I'm 36. I'm married with two young children. I have things to do" [source: Meaghan's Hope].

Latone's determination caught the attention of Gail Wagner, a former runner. She visited Latone and began to organize the first Meaghan's 5K in 2008. Working with Meaghan's family and a small cadre of volunteers, Wagner's effort was a resounding success, raising almost $60,000 the first year [source: Meaghan's Hope].

Insisting that all the money raised go to support lung cancer research, Latone and her family evaluated a number of proposals from the Wilmot Cancer Center, a leading research and care institution at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The program they chose to fund was one aimed at developing screening methods for lung cancer. It would not have existed without Latone's efforts and the financing from the race.

Read on to learn more about the important cause that Meaghan's 5K helps to support.