"Ragtime" Author E. L. Doctorow Succumbs to Lung Cancer

Award-winning author dies of complications from lung cancer at age 84.

American author E. L. Doctorow died in July 2015 at the age of 84. According to his son, Richard, the cause of death was complications of lung cancer.

Doctorow’s novels, such as "Ragtime," "Billy Bathgate," and "Welcome to Hard Times" placed fictional characters in "recognizable historical contexts, " according to The New York Times.

Doctorow wrote 12 novels, three collections of short stories, and one stage drama. A few of his novels were adapted for the screen, including "Welcome to Hard Times," "Billy Bathgate," "Daniel" and most notably, "Ragtime." A Broadway adaptation of "Ragtime" in 1988 won four Tony awards.

Doctorow was the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for "Ragtime," "Billy Bathgate," and "The March" and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Fiction.

What Everyone Needs To Know About Lung Cancer

The lungs are a pair of cone-shaped breathing organs in the chest. The lungs bring oxygen into the body as you breathe in. They release carbon dioxide, a waste product of the body's cells, as you breathe out. Each lung has sections called lobes. The left lung has two lobes. The right lung is slightly larger, and has three lobes. A thin membrane called the pleura surrounds the lungs. Two tubes called bronchi lead from the trachea (windpipe) to the right and left lungs. The bronchi are sometimes also involved in lung cancer. Tiny air sacs called alveoli and small tubes called bronchioles make up the inside of the lungs.

There are two broad types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is by far the most common type, representing about 85 percent of cases.

NSCLC has been traditionally divided into three subtypes based on the appearance of tumors as seen through a microscope:

  • Adenocarcinomas: (50 percent) begin in mucus-producing cells of the lung.
  • Squamous cell carcinomas: (35 percent) arise in the thin, flat cells resembling fish scales that line the respiratory tract.
  • Large cell carcinomas: (15 percent)

What Causes Lung Cancer?

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars is the most common cause of lung cancer. The earlier in life a person starts smoking, the more often a person smokes, and the more years a person smokes, the greater the risk of lung cancer. If a person has stopped smoking, the risk becomes lower as the years pass.

Other risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke;
  • Having a family history of lung cancer;
  • Being treated with radiation therapy to the breast or chest;
  • Being exposed to asbestos, chromium, nickel, arsenic, soot, or tar in the workplace;
  • Being exposed to radon in the home or workplace;
  • Living where there is air pollution; and
  • Being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

What Are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

Common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time;
  • Constant chest pain;
  • Coughing up blood;
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness;
  • Repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis;Swelling of the neck and face;
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss; and
  • Fatigue.

How is Lung Cancer Treated?

About 70 percent of NSCLC cases are diagnosed at advanced stages that are not curable by surgery alone, according to the NCI. Very effective targeted drug treatments are available and the specific drugs used are "tailored" (personalized) for each patient based on the genetics of their tumor. For example, tumors that have a mutation in a gene called ALK can be treated with an oral medication called crizotinib (XALKORI) that is shown here binding to the ALK protein.


Another example are tumors that have a mutation in a gene called EGFR. Both oral medications (e.g. erlotinib/TARCEVA) and antibody drugs (given by injection) can be used to personalize therapy based on the genetic characteristics of a patient’s tumor. An antibody drug used to treat lung cancer is cetuximab (ERBITUX) which is shown in the picture binding to the EGFR molecule.




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