LATEST POSTS

Meet our doctors: Reconstructive urologist Kevin Chan on quality of life

July 2, 2015 | by   
Kevin Chan

Kevin Chan is head of reconstructive urology and a clinical associate professor of surgery at City of Hope, specializing in urology and urologic oncology.

The childhood journal of Kevin Chan, M.D., foreshadowed his future: At the tender age of 6, he wrote that he wanted to be a surgeon when he grew up. “I liked the idea of fixing broken arms and legs,” Chan said. “Back then, those were the procedures I could relate to.”

Although his passion for medicine never waned, Chan eventually chose a new specialty. Today he is head of reconstructive urology and a clinical associate professor of surgery at City of Hope, specializing in urology and urologic oncology.

Chan’s interest in urology was launched soon after he entered USC medical school and met Donald G. Skinner, M.D., its urology chair. “He did these amazingly elegant urologic surgeries, and afterward the patients were doing very well,” Chan said. “I was immediately drawn to urology.”

In particular, Chan was inspired by the neobladder procedure pioneered by Skinner. In this complex surgery, a new bladder is created out of intestine, and the kidneys are connected to this pouch, which is connected to the urethra, or as Chan explains to his patients, “the original plumbing.”

According to Chan, if a patient’s bladder needs to be removed, most urologists offer only an “incontinent diversion,” in which the urine drains into an external bag.

However, City of Hope has a much higher percentage of “continent diversions,” either the neobladder or an Indiana pouch, an internal pouch fashioned from intestine that allows the patient to drain urine by passing a tube through a small opening in the abdomen, called a stoma. No drainage bag is necessary. » Continue Reading

Purging pancreatic cancer with bacteria-based immunotherapy

July 1, 2015 | by   
pancreatic cancer

City of Hope researchers have identified a promising new strategy: a bacterial-based therapy that homes to tumors and provokes an incredibly effective tumor-killing response.

The outlook and length of survival has not changed much in the past 25 years for patients suffering from an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). These patients still have few options for therapy; currently available therapies are generally toxic and do not increase survival by more than a few months.

Now, City of Hope researchers have identified a promising new strategy: a bacterial-based therapy that homes to tumors and provokes an extremely effective tumor-killing response.

In a study that appears in the journal Cancer Immunology Research, published by the American Association for Cancer Research, they report that the therapy frequently triggered the complete regression of pancreatic tumors and significantly extended survival in preclinical mouse studies. The study was led by Don J. Diamond, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at City of Hope, who believes that this method can be used to treat a variety of cancers that share similar features to PDAC.

Bacteria-based therapies have been used to treat solid tumors for decades and are commonly used to treat bladder cancer. Typically, an attenuated (i.e. weakened) form of the microbe is used as the therapy itself, or as a delivery vector to generate anti-tumor responses confined only to the cancer site. » Continue Reading

Our bladder cancer experts give patients more, and better, choices

July 1, 2015 | by   

“With bladder cancer, the majority of patients that I see can be cured,” said urologist Kevin Chan, M.D., head of reconstructive urology at City of Hope. “The challenge is to get patients the same quality of life that they had before surgery.”

bladder cancer alternative

Bladder alternative allows bladder cancer patients to live a more normal life.

To meet this challenge, Chan and the urologic team at City of Hope ensure that bladder cancer patients who need a cystectomy, or bladder removal, are fully aware of their options. According to Chan, the majority of urologic surgeons will recommend only an “incontinent diversion,” in which the urine drains into an external bag.

But at City of Hope, 60 percent of patients receive “continent diversions” — either a neobladder or Indiana pouch—in which a section of intestine is used to create an internal reservoir. The neobladder allows patients to urinate out of their urethra, whereas the Indiana pouch results in a stoma on the abdomen that patients catheterize to empty.

“We spend an hour with each patient, explaining all three reconstructive procedures,” said Chan. “We go through the pros and cons of each one in that patient’s particular situation. And as long as it’s reasonable and makes sense from a cancer perspective, we will do everything we can to give them the reconstruction they want.” » Continue Reading

New clinical trial harnesses CAR-T immunotherapy to fight brain cancers

June 30, 2015 | by   
Already pioneers in the use of immunotherapy, City of Hope researchers are now testing the bold approach to cancer treatment against one of medicine’s biggest challenges: brain cancer. This month, they will launch a clinical trial using patients’ own modified T cells to fight advanced brain tumors.

immunotherapy

A new clinical trial at City of Hope uses CAR-T cell immunotherapy to treat brain cancers.

One of but a few centers in the United States offering human studies in chimeric antigen receptor or CAR-T cell therapy, City of Hope is the only center investigating CAR-T cells in injection form, administered directly to brain tumors. In this first-in-humans study, patients with advanced brain tumors will receive injections – directly at the tumor site – of immune cells genetically modified to recognize certain markers on cancer cells.
“The data from our preclinical studies makes us confident that this treatment has the potential to be very powerful and last longer than previous attempts at immunotherapy for brain cancer,” said Behnam Badie, M.D., chief of neurosurgery at City of Hope. “This could take the treatment of brain tumors to the next level, and open up a new avenue of treatment to patients who badly need it.”

» Continue Reading

Brain cancer: New advances in research, treatment, technology (w/PODCAST)

June 29, 2015 | by   

Behnam Badie, M.D.

Behnam Badie is the director of the Brain Tumor Program and chief of the Division of Neurosurgery at City of Hope.

Brain cancer may be one of the most-frightening diagnoses people can receive, striking at the very center of who we are as individuals. Further, it often develops over time, causing no symptoms until it’s already advanced.
Listen to City of Hope Radio as Behnam Badie, M.D., director of the Brain Tumor Program and chief of the Division of Neurosurgery at City of Hope, discusses how City of Hope’s nationally recognized experts in neurosurgery and neuro-oncology not only employ today’s most advanced therapies, but are also on the leading edge of research and discovery, giving brain cancer patients the best treatment options possible.

 

 

**

For other interviews with City of Hope experts,  go to our list of City of Hope podcasts.

**

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

Community members come together to advise City of Hope

June 27, 2015 | by   

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It takes a village. No man is an island.

community benefit advisory council

Patricia Duff Tucker, left, and Viki Goto are co-chairs of City of Hope’s new Community Benefit Advisory Council. With their help, and that of the other council members, City of Hope is determined to improve the health of its community.

Choose your aphorism: It’s a simple truth that collaboration usually is better than isolation. That’s especially true when you’re trying to introduce healthful habits and deliver health care to people at risk of disease and with little access to care.

City of Hope knows that reaching the most vulnerable residents of the Greater San Gabriel Valley requires what the military might call boots on the ground — people working within the community who are invested in its well-being. That’s where City of Hope’s new Community Benefit Advisory Council comes in. The council’s goal is to identify issues that affect the area’s vulnerable populations – and support strategies to solve those issues.

The council works within a web of intersecting lines to craft policy and pass judgment on how the hospital pursues its community benefit mission. It’s made up of 28 community members, plus six nonvoting City of Hope representatives. The council’s next big decision is in July, when it will decide which community groups will receive funds from City of Hope’s Healthy Living Grant Program.

“Many of the final decisions the council makes are based on the broader community,” said Nancy Clifton-Hawkins, community benefit manager at City of Hope. “They’re not from on high.” » Continue Reading

Maryland governor’s diagnosis puts focus on non-Hodgkin lymphoma

June 26, 2015 | by   
non-hodgkin lymmphoma

Maryland’s governor’s diagnosis with non-Hodgkin lymphoma highlights current, and future, treatment advances against the disease.

When Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced earlier this week that he has the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, he was giving voice to the experience of more than 71,000 Americans each year. The announcement came with Hogan’s promise to stay in office while undergoing aggressive treatment for the disease.

That promise highlights the advances made against non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as the need for additional therapeutic options. In both the delivery of the most advanced possible care, and the creation of new treatment options, City of Hope is a national leader.

The most effective treatment plan for non-Hodgkin lymphoma starts with proper diagnosis, City of Hope experts said. There are many different subtypes of the disease, which is marked by tumors that develop in the immune system’s lymphocytes, or white blood cells. Often, as in Hogan’s case, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed in later stages, but it’s nevertheless highly treatable; some 70 percent of patients are alive five years after diagnosis.

“To make sure that the correct type of NHL is diagnosed, the first step after the initial diagnosis is having the biopsy reviewed by a reputable hematopathologist,” said Leslie Popplewell, M.D., associate clinical professor and staff physician in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope.

Patients who come to the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center at City of Hope enter one of the largest and most successful treatment centers that specializes in both non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma. The center offers a state-of-the-art range of therapies. » Continue Reading

The facts about spinal tumors (w/PODCAST)

June 25, 2015 | by   

Spine tumors

Surgeon Mike Chen discusses spinal tumors, their diagnosis and how City of Hope is leading the way in less-invasive spine tumor surgery.

The spine can be affected by many different kinds of tumors.

Malignant, or cancerous, tumors can arise within the spine itself. Secondary spinal tumors, which are actually much more common, begin as cancers in another part of the body, such as the breast and prostate, and then spread, or metastasize, to the spine.

Because the spinal cord is enclosed within the rigid, bony spinal column, any abnormal growth can cause problems by compressing the spinal cord and nerves, or compromising the structural integrity of the spine.

Here, City of Hope’s Mike Chen, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of neurosurgery, discusses spinal tumors, their diagnosis and how City of Hope is leading the way in less-invasive spine tumor surgery.

**

For other interviews with City of Hope experts,  go to our list of City of Hope podcasts.

**

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

City of Hope nurse receives Oncology Nursing Society’s 2015 Cancer Award

June 24, 2015 | by   
Oncology Nursing Society's 2015 Cancer Award

Peggy Burhenn, center, a professional practice leader at City of Hope, receives the Oncology Nursing Society’s 2015 Excellence in Care of the Older Adult with Cancer Award.

Although most cancer occurs in older adults, the bulk of cancer research doesn’t focus on this vulnerable and fast-growing population.

City of Hope and its Cancer and Aging Research Team aim to change that, and they’re getting a significant boost from Professional Practice Leader Peggy Burhenn, R.N., M.S., C.N.S. As the 2015 recipient of the Oncology Nursing Society’s Excellence in Care of the Older Adult with Cancer Award, Burhenn is calling attention to the overarching need for such care, as well as to City of Hope’s efforts and its progress.

The Oncology Nursing Society is a national organization for oncology nurses that supports education, research and certification. It is the largest organization of its kind in the U.S. and sets standards for oncology care. It gives this particular award each year “to recognize and support an oncology nurse who demonstrates age-sensitive health interventions, quality care, and symptom management to older adult patients with cancer.” Burhenn received a similar award from the Los Angeles chapter of the organization in fall 2014.

“It is truly an honor for me to receive this award,” Burhenn said. “I accept it not only for me but for my colleagues who are taking the journey with me to improve care for older adults, specifically the geriatric resource nurses, geriatric patient care assistants and other members of the Geriatric Resource Interdisciplinary Team, which I like to call GRIT.” » Continue Reading

Brain tumor patient: ‘I am enjoying my life for the first time in years’

June 23, 2015 | by   

Liz Graef-Larcher’s first brain tumor was discovered by accident six years ago.

Former brain tumor patient Liz Graef-Larcher

Brain tumor patient Liz Graef-Larcher, right, with husband Doug and daughters Madelyne Joyce and Milly, received surgery for two tumors at City of Hope.

The then-48-year-old with a long history of sinus problems and headaches had been sent for an MRI, and the scan found a lesion in her brain called a meningioma – a tumor that arises in the meninges, the layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord.

Meningiomas compress the nerve tissues near them, and can cause a variety of problems including seizures, headaches, blurred vision. and personality or memory changes. They’re the most common type of brain tumor in adults, according to the American Cancer Society, and occur twice as often in women.

The tumors occur in approximately seven to eight of every 100,000 people and about 80 percent are noncancerous. They can be removed by surgery, but unless the meningioma is causing symptoms, most doctors, including Graef-Larcher’s, usually advise monitoring over time.

Then, in 2009, Graef-Larcher was given a series of follow-up MRIs, and this time the scans found another brain tumor – one that had metastasized from her lung. “Although I had no symptoms, my doctor told me that I had cancer in my pelvis, abdomen, lungs and brain,” she said. » Continue Reading