Ryan Chavira was a senior in high school when she began feeling sluggish, fatigued and, well, “down.” Trips to the doctor ended in “you’re fine” pronouncements; blood tests results showed nothing of real concern.
But Chavira’s grandmother had passed away from ovarian cancer when she was in eighth grade, and the distended stomach and bloated feeling that Chavira was experiencing reminded her of her grandmother’s symptoms.
When the bloating gave way to pain, then excruciating pain, Chavira went to a hospital emergency room. A CT scan revealed a tumor the size of a watermelon engulfing her ovaries. Emergency surgery was the only option.
Chavira, now 22, describes the diagnosis and decision on a course of action in this way: “They come in, say ‘You have cancer and we’ll be right back to operate.’” There was no time for the diagnosis to sink in. » Continue Reading
Brain tumors are exceptionally difficult to treat. They can be removed surgically, but individual cancer cells may have already spread elsewhere in the brain and can escape the effects of both radiation and chemotherapy. To prevent tumors from recurring, doctors need a way to find and stop those invasive cancer cells. Researchers at City of Hope think a special type of cell, known as a neural stem cell, could be the answer. Neural stem cells – known for their ability to become any type of cell in the nervous system — not only are attracted to cancer cells, they have the ability to deliver drugs directly to the tumor sites, sparing healthy tissues and minimizing side effects.
A drive to bring discovery to patients
As a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Karen Aboody, M.D., discovered the natural ability of neural stem cells to target cancer cells in the brain. Her pioneering work helped to establish a new field of cancer treatment, one that uses neural stem cells to deliver drugs or other therapies directly to tumor sites. » Continue Reading
Breast cancer risk is personal; breast cancer risk assessment should be, too. To that end, City of Hope researchers have developed a starting point to help women (and their doctors) with a family history of the disease begin that risk assessment process.
The result is an iPhone app, called BRISK, for Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Application. It’s the work of City of Hope’s Division of Research Informatics, in collaboration with the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics.
For women with a family history of the disease, the app walks them through their age-specific risk of developing the disease, beginning with a question about whether the family history involved a first-degree relative, a second-degree relative, a mother and paternal aunt, and so on.
The app clearly cautions that it is not fail-safe. It is not a substitution for a formal cancer risk assessment by a skilled physician. It doesn’t include risk factors other than family history, and it’s not to be used by women who are carriers of gene mutations making them more susceptible to breast cancer.
But it does help women and their physicians gain some perspective.
Cancers of the blood and immune system are considered to be among the most difficult-to-treat cancers. A world leader in the treatment of blood cancers, City of Hope is now launching an institute specifically focused on treating people with lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma, as well as other serious blood and bone marrow diseases.
Through this institute, laboratory and physician investigators will expand their work and develop new therapies and possible cures for leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. The Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute at City of Hope is built upon a foundation that was created by City of Hope’s Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope, and the leader of the institution’s Hematologic Malignancies Program, and Steven T. Rosen, M.D., the provost and chief scientific officer at City of Hope.
Both are known worldwide for the vision, discipline and compassion with which they approach some of the most complex and difficult diseases that afflict men, women and children. Both are committed to continuing to make scientific breakthroughs while caring for patients in the uniquely patient-centered environment for which City of Hope is known.
“Over the years we have seen the development of therapies that, had we known then what we know now, could have saved more lives. The institute will create a collaborative culture of research and individualized care that will accelerate our research breakthroughs for the patients and families who come to us for help,” Forman said. » Continue Reading
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 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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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