As breast cancer survivors know, the disease’s impact lingers in ways both big and small long after treatment has ended. A new study suggests that weight gain – and a possible corresponding increase in heart disease and diabetes risk – may be part of that impact.
In the first study to evaluate weight change in women with a family history of breast cancer, those who had survived breast cancer were found to gain more weight than women who remained cancer-free. The research, comparing 303 breast cancer survivors with 307 cancer-free women matched by age and menopausal status, was published July 15 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
According to the study, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath in Baltimore, breast cancer survivors gained significantly more weight than their cancer-free counterparts in the first five years after diagnosis – an average of about 4 pounds. Women who had been diagnosed with estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer gained an average of 7 pounds more than women who had never had cancer.
Further, women who had received chemotherapy were twice as likely, compared to cancer-free women, to have gained at least 11 pounds. The findings raise new questions about life after cancer and how to better prepare women for new challenges and risks.
Laura Kruper, M.D., director of the Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center at City of Hope and head of breast surgery service, put the findings in perspective in an interview with HealthDay. » Continue Reading
Becoming what’s known as an independent scientific researcher is no small task, especially when working to translate research into meaningful health outcomes. Yet that independent status is vital, enabling researchers to lead studies and avenues of inquiry that they believe to be promising.
Clinicians, especially, can find themselves with little training in the intricacies of research studies and analyses.
“While training as a fellow, you are busy learning the clinical side,” said Joanne Mortimer, M.D., vice chair and professor of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research at City of Hope. “Having enough time to learn research so that you can be independent is not realistic.”
To bridge that gap, and help develop clinical scientists, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers mentored career-development awards, known as K awards, for young researchers and clinicians. These awards are intended to develop scientists who can be a connection between the lab bench and the patient bedside. That connection, and the people who create it, are at the heart of what’s known as translational medicine.
As a leader in translational medicine, City of Hope has been home to a significant amount of K12 funding – with the “12” referring to the method of distribution, that is, through the institution, rather than to individuals – for the past 20 years. » Continue Reading
Women diagnosed with breast cancer quickly learn their tumor’s type, meaning the characteristics that fuel its growth. That label guides the treatment of their disease, as well as their prognosis when it comes to treatment effectiveness.
Sometimes, however, doctors can’t accurately predict treatment effectiveness because their knowledge about tumor types has gaps. Each tumor genome is unique, and small variations in gene expression can affect how a particular tumor type responds to particular treatment regimens.
Women whose tumor types are both ER positive and HER2 positive, for instance, generally have more negative outcomes than women whose tumors are ER positive and HER2 negative. Estrogen receptor, or ER, positive tumors are fueled by the hormone estrogen. HER2 positive tumors make excessive amounts of a protein called HER2/neu and tend to be aggressive and fast-growing.
Researchers and physicians have known that women with tumors that are both ER positive and HER2 positive have poorer survival outcomes. What they haven’t known is how to predict how these women might fare.
The question is an important one because approximately 10 percent of breast cancer patients have such tumors. What researchers and physicians need are biomarkers – biochemical signs that can be reliably measured and analyzed for changes – that could help them predict outcomes for women with that particular tumor type.
They appear to have found one. » Continue Reading
A gliobastoma patient has become the first person to be treated by City of Hope’s new Alpha Clinic for Cell Therapy and Innovation (ACT-I), heralding a potential breakthrough in the treatment for brain tumors and in the use of stem cells.
“Glioblastoma is the most aggressive-behaving, malignant primary brain tumor, and new treatments that target cancer cells in the brain are desperately needed,” said Jana Portnow, M.D., associate professor of medical oncology and associate director of the Brain Tumor Program at City of Hope, who is leading the current phase I neural stem cell study.
The patient underwent surgery for recurrent glioblastoma and was then treated in a clinical trial using genetically-modified neural stem cells – which naturally home to cancer cells – to help deliver chemotherapy to brain cancer cells. The aim of this neural stem cell research is to develop a treatment that is more potent and less toxic than existing treatments for brain tumors.
“We’ve genetically modified these cells to produce chemotherapy at the sites of the tumor in the brain,” said Karen S. Aboody, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery and co-leader of the Developmental Cancer Therapeutics Program at City of Hope. “Rather than putting chemotherapy through the whole body and possibly causing significant side effects that affect quality of life, the neural stem cells produce active chemotherapy only at the sites of the tumor, killing surrounding cancer cells.” » Continue Reading
A strict diet and insulin shots can’t always control type 1 diabetes. What people with the immune disorder really need are insulin-producing cells of their own – currently only available through a still-experimental procedure known as islet cell transplantation.
A new clinical trial at City of Hope will make that possible for some patients, with physicians in the newly launched Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute at City of Hope now providing this transplantation to suitable candidates. The trial, they say, could be the first step in a multipronged effort to permanently cure type 1 diabetes.
The new phase I/II trial is open to adults with type 1 diabetes who have had the disease for more than five years and who experience frequent episodes of hypoglycemia or hypoglycemia unawareness, in which blood sugar drops precipitously without corresponding symptoms. Diabetic patients who have hypoglycemic unawareness are at risk of injuries and accidents, because the drop in their blood sugar can go undetected until they suddenly lose consciousness.
“We are one of only a few islet cell transplant programs in the country,” said Fouad Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Clinical Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism at City of Hope, who is leading the islet cell transplantation trial. “This trial, in addition to providing a much needed potential cure for patients with severe type 1 diabetes, will also be vital in opening the door to other major studies to address the medical needs of these patients.”
The goal of the trial is to further evaluate the effectiveness of transplantation as a treatment and possible cure for type 1 diabetes. Researchers also hope to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of islet cell rejection if it occurs.
Patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia may soon find themselves with improved treatment options.
Interim results from a study not conducted at City of Hope suggest that, for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, a new oral drug given in combination with standard treatment significantly reduced the risk of disease progression or death. Although the results are interim, not final – meaning the study and its analysis are not yet completed – the study itself is a randomized, placebo-controlled study, considered a marker of high-quality methodology.
City of Hope’s Guido Marcucci, M.D., co-director of the Gehr Family Center for Leukemia Research, is watching the results of the study closely. He recently offered some measured perspective to other physicians in an interview with MedPage Today.
“The implications of this study are very broad, and certainly may impact how we will treat CLL patients in the next years to come,” he said.
The new study combined the current standard of care for CLL – a combination of bendamustine and rituximab – with a new oral drug called ibrutinib. Ibrutinib targets a specific protein that disrupts the signals the cancer cells need to survive and proliferate. Patients in the study received up to six cycles of the standard treatment and were randomized to receive either a placebo or a dose of ibrutinib.
The combination of ibrutinib and the standard therapy reduced risk of CLL progression or death by 80 percent compared to the placebo group. The ibrutinib group also had a higher overall response rate to the therapy, with 83 percent of cancers responding to the treatment versus 68 percent in the placebo group.
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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