LATEST POSTS

Made at City of Hope: Cancer vaccine with a two-pronged approach

October 24, 2014 | by   

Although chemotherapy can be effective in treating cancer, it can also exact a heavy toll on a patient’s health. One impressive alternative researchers have found is in the form of a vaccine. A type of immunotherapy, one part of the vaccine primes the body to react strongly against a tumor; the second part directly attacks the tumor itself. This double-pronged approach could be both more powerful against cancer and far less toxic to the body than traditional chemotherapy.

Don Dimond, Ph.D. and Vincent Chung, M.D.

City of Hope researchers Don Diamond, left, and Vincent Chung have developed a cancer vaccine and are now testing its effectiveness in clinical trials.

A partnership

Don J. Diamond, Ph.D., director of the Division of Translational Vaccine Research, developed the anti-cancer vaccine in his lab with former colleague Joshua D.I. Ellenhorn, M.D. The vaccine consists of two parts: a vector, or carrier, virus, and an active agent that does the work. The carrier is a well-known, modified smallpox virus often used in research. The active agent — the real powerhouse in the vaccine — is the gene p53. Normally, p53 suppresses tumor growth. But in many cancer patients, the gene is mutated, allowing cancers to grow. The vaccine is designed to deliver normal, nonmutated versions of the gene to the body. » Continue Reading

With breast cancer treatment, expertise – and research – matter

October 23, 2014 | by   

The breast cancer statistic is attention-getting: One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. That doesn’t mean that, if you’re one of eight women at a dinner table, one of you is fated to have breast cancer (read more on that breast cancer statistic), but it does mean that the risk of developing breast cancer is not to be taken lightly. Neither is the decision on where to get breast cancer treatment.

Breast cancer treatment and research

In breast cancer treatment, location matters. That location should also be the home of research. City of Hope understands this.

As a nationally known biomedical research institution and as one of the nation’s few comprehensive cancer centers, City of Hope can provide access to therapies, research and clinical trials that other hospitals can’t.

Let’s start with clinical trials and research. The clinical trials available to City of Hope patients often stem from the research conducted on the City of Hope campus, where breast cancer specialists and researchers work together on therapies to improve survival and quality of life. Those clinical trials include assessments of new chemotherapy drugs, targeted therapies, hormone therapies, new surgical techniques and new radiation approaches — all focused on improving breast cancer treatment, detection and prevention. » Continue Reading

Advice from Rob: How to overcome anxiety during a hospital stay

October 22, 2014 | by   
Cancer survivor Rob Darakjian

Cancer survivor Rob Darakjian shares tips on how to overcome anxiety and depression while being treated for cancer.

Rob Darakjian was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at just 19 years old. He began chemotherapy and was in and out of the hospital for four months. After his fourth round of treatment, he received a bone marrow transplantation from an anonymous donor. Today, he’s cancer free.

In his first post, he shared his story and explained what NOT to do when you’re depressed and have cancer. In his second post, he explained what cancer patients SHOULD do if they’re depressed. Here, he offers seven tips on how patients can confront cancer and anxiety.

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How to ease anxiety: 

Listen, watch: I find this technique to be particularly helpful when I’m experiencing anxiety at almost any level. I call it “listen, watch” because that’s what I do: I try and place myself in the present moment by paying attention to what I can see and what I can hear. Try to pick up on everything you can hear, from your own breathing, to the faint sound of conversation somewhere outside. Then, after awhile turn to a different sense, say sight, and just look around your physical environment. » Continue Reading

2 researchers (one on aging, one on genetics) get breast cancer grants

October 21, 2014 | by   

Advanced age tops the list among breast cancer risk factor for women. Not far behind is family history and genetics. Two City of Hope researchers delving deep into these issues recently received important grants to advance their studies.

Arti Hurria, M.D., director of the Cancer and Aging Research Program, and Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., chief of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics, recently each received $240,000 in breast cancer grants from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). The studies aim to improve treatment and outcomes for older women and for Latino women at risk of hereditary breast cancer.

Cancer researchers Arti Hurria and Jeffrey Weitzel receive breast cancer grants

City of Hope researchers Arti Hurria and Jeffrey Weitzel each received breast cancer grants of $240,000 from the BCRF.

Breast cancer and age

Hurria’s renewal grant supports her efforts to understand how chemotherapy affects older adults with breast cancer. Even though women age 65 and older account for nearly half of all new U.S. breast cancer cases, little information is available to guide clinicians in their choices of chemotherapy for these women. » Continue Reading

International Medicine Program launches with Chinese outreach

October 20, 2014 | by   
International Medicine Program

Our International Medicine Program is extending our expertise to patients abroad.

City of Hope is extending the reach of its lifesaving mission well beyond U.S. borders. To that end, three distinguished City of Hope leaders visited China earlier this year to lay the foundation for the institution’s new International Medicine Program.

The program is part of City of Hope’s strategic efforts to grow its clinical programs and find innovative ways to expand access to its high-quality care to patients worldwide. The program is designed to attract and support international patients coming to City of Hope for care, with the initial focus on China.

Outreach abroad and locally

The trio of City of Hope ambassadors — Steven Rosen, M.D., provost, chief scientific officer, director of Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope and director of the comprehensive cancer center; Yuman Fong, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery and director of the International Medicine Program; and David Horne, Ph.D., vice provost and associate director of Beckman Research Institute — journeyed to major Chinese research and treatment institutions to build relationships with physicians and researchers and educate them about the institution’s cancer expertise. » Continue Reading

Brain metastasis from breast cancer: Our research means better treatments

October 17, 2014 | by   


A hallmark of cancer is that it doesn’t always limit itself to a primary location. It spreads. Breast cancer and lung cancer in particular are prone to spread, or metastasize, to the brain. Often the brain metastasis isn’t discovered until years after the initial diagnosis, just when patients were beginning to regain some sense of normalcy and control over their lives.

Like many patients, Joan Rose-Hall thought she had completely recovered from breast cancer. She thought she was past the treatment, past the fear. Then she begin to experience changes, small things really, in her daily routine.

“I noticed that I had difficulty concentrating, difficulty finding my words. I became slow on the keyboard,” she says in the video above. “I actually thought I was cracking up.”

Rose-Hall didn’t associate the changes with her previous diagnosis of breast cancer. Many people wouldn’t.

Instead, she went to see a psychiatrist. That psychiatrist referred her to City of Hope.

» Continue Reading

Natural therapies hold untapped (for now) potential against cancer

October 16, 2014 | by   

Blueberries, cinnamon, baikal scullcap, grape seed extract (and grape skin extract), mushrooms, barberry, pomegranates … all contain compounds with the potential to treat, or prevent, cancer.

Blueberries against cancer

These aren’t just blueberries. They’re a potential cancer-fighting powerhouse.

Scientists at City of Hope have found tantalizing evidence of this potential and are determined to explore it to the fullest. They’re researching, testing and developing new therapies made from nature’s bounty — from the vegetables, fruits and herbs many people take for granted as simply plants, not medicine.

To help them in their work, City of Hope has launched a Program in Natural Therapies, an effort to find more effective, but also less toxic, cancer therapies. The researchers have already made considerable progress. » Continue Reading

Many patients unaware that breast cancer reconstruction is an option

October 15, 2014 | by   

Most women who are treated for breast cancer with a mastectomy do not choose to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Breast implant

Only 42 percent of women opt for breast reconstruction after mastectomy, a new study finds. Lack of adequate insurance coverage is one reason, says City of Hope expert Laura Kruper.

The reasons for this, according to a recent JAMA Surgery study, vary. Nearly half say they do not want any additional surgery, while nearly 34 percent say breast cancer reconstruction simply isn’t important to them. Fear of implants is another oft-cited factor, including worries that the implants might interfere with detection of recurrence – a fear cancer experts say is not founded.

The study also identified lack of access as a troubling issue. About 18 percent of women said they were not aware that breast cancer reconstruction was an option. Despite federal laws requiring that most group insurance plans that cover mastectomies also cover reconstructive surgery, 12 percent of women cited lack of insurance.

Laura Kruper, M.D., director of the Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center, acknowledges that many women will opt out of reconstructive surgery. However, with her patients, she stresses the importance of evaluating their options and weighing those choices very carefully. » Continue Reading

Breast cancer risk: 6 things you can do to reduce (not eliminate) risk

October 14, 2014 | by   

The leading risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman. The second top risk factor is getting older.

Lacing up sneakers

Many breast cancer risk factors, such as gender and aging, cannot be controlled. But lacing up for a walk a few times a week can put a dent in breast cancer risk.

Obviously, these two factors cannot be controlled, which is why all women should be aware of their risk and how to minimize those risks. Many risk factors can be mitigated, and simple changes can lead to a reduction in risk.

1. Know your family history. Have genetic screening if appropriate: The overwhelming majority of breast cancers – about 85 percent – occur in women who have no family history of cancer. However, as many as 10 percent of cases are linked to inherited genetic mutations, such as those on the BRCA1, BRCA2 or PALB2 genes. An estimated 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70. Women with family histories of breast or ovarian cancer should discuss screening options with their doctor.

If women opt for screening, a cancer risk counselor with training in cancer genetics will be best equipped to interpret test results and guide patients through their options. Identifying a gene mutation will open up more insurance-covered options, including more frequent mammograms and MRI screening. » Continue Reading

Breast cancer among minorities: Access to care is critical to saving lives

October 13, 2014 | by   

All women are at some risk of developing the disease in their lifetimes, but breast cancer, like other cancers, has a disproportionate effect on minorities.

multi-ethnic women talk breast cancer

While breast cancer is most common among white women, minority women, especially African-American women, are more likely to die from the disease. Access to screening, quality care and follow-up care are crucial to bridging the gap.

Although white women have the highest incidence of breast cancer, African-American women have the highest breast cancer death rates of all racial and ethnic groups. They are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. The five-year survival rate for African-American breast cancer patients is 78 percent, compared to 90 percent for white women, according to the American Cancer Society. Many factors contribute to this disparity, including that black women tend to have cancers that are more aggressive and harder to treat.

But access to screening, prompt follow-up when a mammogram indicates something is not normal, and access to high quality medical care also play a significant role. In fact, City of Hope experts on breast cancer among minorities found that 15 percent of black women who have had breast cancer do not receive yearly follow-up mammograms – despite their increased risk of developing the disease. » Continue Reading