Research


Immunotherapy trials use viruses to teach immune cells to fight lymphoma

August 27, 2014 | by

Hijacking the same sorts of viruses that cause HIV and using them to reprogram immune cells to fight cancer sounds like stuff of the future.

virus, antibodies and t-cells

Immunotherapy research at City of Hope is using viruses to program a patient’s own immune cells to fight lymphoma.

Some scientists believe that the future is closer than we think – and are now studying the approach in clinical trials at City of Hope. Immunotherapy is a promising approach for cancer treatment, and while the science is quickly advancing, the idea isn’t exactly new.

In the late 1800s – before much was known about the immune system – William Coley, M.D., a New York surgeon, noticed that getting an infection after surgery actually helped some cancer patients. So he began infecting them with certain bacteria, with positive results.

Today, doctors continue to seek ways to harness the immune system to fight disease. City of Hope researchers are examining immunotherapy techniques to treat some of the toughest cancers including gliomas, ovarian cancer and hematologic cancers. One especially promising approach is called adoptive T cell therapy.

» Continue Reading


Meet our doctors: Dermatologist Jae Jung on preventing melanoma

August 23, 2014 | by

With Labor Day just around the corner, summer is on its way out. But just because summertime is ending doesn’t mean we can skip sunscreen. Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is needed all year round. Exposure to UV radiation — whether from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps used in tanning beds — increases the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

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Jae Jung says melanoma is easily treated when caught at the earliest stages.

Here, Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in dermatology at City of Hope, shares simple prevention tips to lower the risk of melanoma. She also explains that the disease is almost always curable if detected and treated in its earliest stages.

What is melanoma and what causes it?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It arises from melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment in our skin. They are most common in sun-exposed areas of the skin, but can arise anywhere including under the fingernails, oral or genital mucosa, and eyes.

Melanoma is usually caused by too much UV exposure, either from natural sun or in tanning booths. Use of tanning beds can increase your risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Patients with fair skin, light hair and eyes, have a propensity to sunburn and are at higher risk of developing melanoma. Patients with many moles (greater than 50), atypical moles, and a family history of melanoma are also at increased risk. » Continue Reading


Most women forgo breast reconstruction after breast cancer, study finds

August 22, 2014 | by

Undergoing reconstructive surgery may seem like a forgone conclusion for survivors of breast cancer, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. A new study has found that most breast cancer survivors who undergo a mastectomy decide against surgical reconstruction of their breasts.

Breast implant

Only 42 percent of women opt for breast reconstruction after mastectomy, a new study finds. One reason cited was a fear that breast implants would prevent detection of a recurrence; a fear that experts say is unwarranted.

The reasons for such a decision vary, according to the breast reconstruction study published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery. More than 48 percent of those who decide against reconstruction say they don’t want to undergo additional surgery, almost 34 percent say reconstruction isn’t important and 36 percent  cite a fear of breast implants.

In fact, only about 42 percent of women choose reconstructive surgery after their mastectomy.

Not only is Laura Kruper, M.D., director of the Rita Cooper and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center, unsurprised by the number of women who forgo reconstruction, she finds the number of patients who do choose surgery encouraging.  » Continue Reading


For bone marrow transplant patients, outcomes and data matter

August 22, 2014 | by

Nearly four decades ago, City of Hope began its bone marrow transplant program. Its first transplant reunion celebration was a single patient and his donor, also his brother.

BMT Reunion 2014

City of Hope has performed nearly 12,000 hematopoietic cell transplants, and has the best outcomes in the nation. Here are some of our survivors at the 2014 BMT reunion.

This year, City of Hope welcomed hundreds of hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) recipients to the annual bone marrow transplant/HCT reunion. Since the program’s inception, City of Hope has performed more than 12,000 hematopoietic cell transplants, for patients ranging in age from less than 1 year old to more than 79 years old.

The reunion of bone marrow transplant patients, one of the highlights of the year for City of Hope, underscores the close relationships that City of Hope caregivers have with their patients, even those who have been free of their cancer for decades. The outcomes for the program underscore the importance of those relationships and the high level of expertise provided here: They are among the very best in the nation. » Continue Reading


Your chances of regular finger sticks just got a lot higher

August 21, 2014 | by

The burgeoning type 2 diabetes epidemic casts a pall over the health of America’s public. New research now shows the looming threat is getting worse. Much worse.

DiabetesCheck

Diabetes will be treated differently in the future. City of Hope is committed to understanding the disease better, and to developing better treatments for it.

A diabetes trends study published earlier this month in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology by researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for the average 20-year-old man has doubled since the late 1980s from 20 percent to 40 percent. For women, the diabetes risk has risen from 27 percent to 39 percent.

Hispanics and black women face an even steeper threat, with half destined to develop the disease in their lifetimes. » Continue Reading


Aspirin might reduce risk of breast cancer recurrence for obese women

August 20, 2014 | by

An aspirin a day might help keep breast cancer away for some breast cancer survivors, a new study suggests.

Aspirin closeup

A new study indicates that aspirin and similar painkillers could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence in obese and overweight women. More research is warranted, experts say.

Obese women who have had breast cancer could cut their risk of a recurrence in half if they regularly take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs, report researchers from the University of Texas in Austin. The results of the NSAIDS study were published recently in the journal Cancer Research.

A City of Hope expert says the researchers’ conclusion makes sense. Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., R.N., director of the Division of Etiology at City of Hope, said the study echoes some of the findings of her own research on obesity. » Continue Reading


Diet during cancer treatment: ‘metal mouth’ and managing your taste buds

August 18, 2014 | by

Cancer treatment and the cancer itself can cause changes in your sense of taste or smell. These side effects typically subside after treatment ends, but there are ways to help alleviate those bitter and metallic tastes in your mouth.

Here are tips from the National Cancer Institute to help keeps tastes and food interaction as pleasant as possible.

During cancer treatment changes in sense of taste or smell can make foods unappetizing, but there are ways to trick your taste buds.

During cancer treatment changes in sense of taste or smell can make foods unappetizing, but there are ways to trick your taste buds.

  • Eat with plastic forks and spoons if you have a metallic taste in your mouth. Chopsticks are a good alternative, too.
  • Cook foods in glass pots and pans instead of metal ones.
  • Use special mouthwashes, brush often and floss. Ask your dentist or doctor about mouthwashes that may help.
  • Choose foods that look and smell good. Avoid foods that do not appeal to you. Red meat may taste or smell strange, so try chicken or turkey instead.
  • Marinate foods. You can improve flavor of meats and poultry by soaking them in marinade. While marinating it, keep meat in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
  • Try tart foods and drinks. These include oranges and lemonade or adding lemon or lime juices to food or water. Tart lemon custard might taste good and help add extra calories. (Note: do not consume tart foods if you have a sore mouth or sore throat).
  • Make foods sweeter. If foods have a salty, bitter or acidic taste, adding sugar or sweetener can help.
  • Experiment with adding extra flavor or flavors you’ve never had before so you have no expectation of how it should taste. Try bacon bits, onions or herbs like basil, cumin, coriander and rosemary. Use barbecue sauce on meats and chicken.
  • Avoid foods and drinks with smells that bother you.

» Continue Reading


Adoptive T cell therapy: Harnessing the immune system to fight cancer

August 15, 2014 | by

Immunotherapy — using one’s immune system to treat a disease — has been long lauded as the “magic bullet” of cancer treatments, one that can be more effective than the conventional therapies of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. One specific type of immunotherapy, called adoptive T cell therapy, is demonstrating promising results for blood cancers and may have potential against other types of cancers, too.

In adoptive T cell therapy, T cells (in blue, above) are extracted from the patient and re-engineered to recognize and attack cancer cells. They are then re-infused back into the patient, where it can then target and kill cancer cells throughout the body. (Photo credit: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory)

In adoptive T cell therapy, T cells (in blue, above) are extracted from the patient and modified to recognize unique cancer markers and attack the cells carrying those markers. They are then reinfused back into the patient, where they can kill cancer cells throughout the body. (Photo credit: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory)

Here, Leslie Popplewell, M.D., associate clinical professor and staff physician in City of Hope’s Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, explains what this treatment entails.

What is adoptive T cell therapy and how does it work to treat cancer?

Every day, our immune system works to recognize and destroy abnormal, mutated cells. But the abnormal cells that eventually become cancer are the ones that slip past this defense system. The idea behind this therapy is to make immune cells (specifically, T lymphocytes) sensitive to cancer-specific abnormalities so that malignant cells can be targeted and attacked throughout the body.

Who would be good candidates for this type of therapy? » Continue Reading


Metastasis creates a battle between the brain and invading cancer cells

August 14, 2014 | by

Today, when cancer spreads from its original site to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis, patients face an uphill battle. Treatments are poorly effective, and cures are nearly impossible. Further, incidence rates for these types of cancers are increasing – particularly for cancers that have spread to the brain.

brain metastasis

In the August issue of Cancer Research, City of Hope scientists provide insight on cancer’s spread into the brain.

City of Hope researchers are trying to change that scenario.

City of Hope neurosurgeon and scientist Rahul Jandial, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Neurosurgery, and John Termini, Ph.D., researcher and professor in molecular medicine, want a deeper understanding of how cancer cells metastasize to the brain in order to find more effective treatments.

In the August issue of Cancer Research, the two scientists provide insight on how cancer spreads in the brain. Their review, published online in July, provides research data along with a new assessment of cancer metastases.

“Given that the brain is the most complex and dynamic biological system, there was a surprising lack of research about the brain’s response to tumor cells that arrive after migrating away from the organs in which they originated,” Jandial said. » Continue Reading


Even low doses of chest radiation in childhood boosts breast cancer risk

August 13, 2014 | by

Radiation therapy can help cure many children facing Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers. When the radiation is delivered to a girl’s chest, however, it can lead to a marked increase in breast cancer risk later in life.

Smita Bhatia, M.D.

In a new study, Smita Bhatia found that women who received even low doses of radiation therapy to their chests as children have an increased breast cancer risk later in life.

A recent multi-institutional study that included City of Hope’s Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H., the Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences, examined the long-term effects of chest radiation on female survivors of childhood cancers, primarily Hodgkin lymphoma. The researchers wanted to determine whether more current therapies using less radiation could reduce the breast cancer risk, and if the amount of area exposed was a factor.

Past research has shown that standard doses of radiation therapy to the chest increase breast cancer risk, with incidence rates among these women ranging from 5 percent to 14 percent by age 40.

For the current chest radiation study, lead author Chaya Moskowitz, Ph.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and the research team looked at more than 1,200 women who received various amounts of radiation in treatment of childhood cancers. They found that even women who received lower amounts of radiation as children still were much more likely to develop breast cancer than the average woman, with as many as 30 percent developing breast cancer by age 50. » Continue Reading