Research


Neural stem cells: On the frontier of brain cancer therapy

September 29, 2014 | by

Gliomas, a type of tumor that grows in the brain, are very difficult to treat successfully due to their complex nature. That might not always be the case.

brain tumors

Brain tumors can be difficult to treat. A new therapy, using neural stem cells, may offer a powerful new treatment option.

First some background: The most aggressive and common type of primary brain tumor in adults is glioblastoma. Although the brain tumor mass can often be removed surgically, complete resection (or removal) of all the tumor cells is virtually impossible due to the invasive nature of glioblastoma, and tumor recurrence is the norm.

Karen S. Aboody, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery at City of Hope, believes the key to recurrence prevention lies in special cells called neural stem cells. She has collaborated with Jana Portnow, M.D., associate professor of Medical Oncology and associate director of the Brain Tumor Program at City of Hope, on a Federal Drug Administration-approved clinical trial that aims to deliver drugs to  brain tumor cells without damaging healthy tissue. » Continue Reading


Rise in skirt size linked to rise in breast cancer risk. Here’s why

September 26, 2014 | by

Weighing your breast cancer risk? One study suggests a measure to consider is skirt size.

A British study suggests that for each increase in skirt size every 10 years after age 25, the five-year risk of developing breast cancer postmenopause increases from one in 61 to one in 51 – a 77 percent increase in risk.

women trying on skirt

New British study suggest increasing skirt size is an indicator of increase breast cancer risk.

The new study, published online in BMJ Open, was based on information from 93,000 women in a British database for cancer screening between 2005 and 2010. All were 50 years old or older, and their average skirt size was a 10. Three out of four women reported gaining sizes. The average size for these women at age 25 was 8, and when they entered the study, the average size was 10.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Gynecological Cancer Research Center at University College London.

Even when considering other risk factors – such as hormone replacement and family history – increased skirt size emerged as the strongest predictor. The skirt size served as a measure of abdominal weight gain. While scientists haven’t pinned down the exact mechanism linking abdominal fat to breast cancer risk, it is known that obesity increases the amount of estrogen in the body. Many breast cancers rely on this hormone to grow. » Continue Reading


How is environment linked to cancer? Study helps explain

September 23, 2014 | by

The environment plays a role in causing cancer – this much we know. But scientists are still trying to understand what that role is, what environmental factors are in play and how precisely those factors are linked to cancer.

Traffic

Nickel, known to cause lung and nasal cancers, enters the air mostly through fossil fuel combustion. New City of Hope research explains how nickel leads to cancer.

Now City of Hope researchers have unlocked a clue as to how one carcinogen triggers cancer, and they hope this discovery will shed light on how other environmental factors may cause cancer. The study, published online recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on one carcinogen in particular, nickel.

In the United States, fossil fuel combustion is the leading culprit for spewing nickel into the air we breathe. In other countries, heavy metal factories are also a common cause. Breathing in nickel increases the risk of nasal cancer and of lung cancer, the leading cancer killer of men and women in the U.S.

“Nickel has been proven to be a carcinogen, but unlike most carcinogens, it doesn’t change the DNA at all,” said Dustin Schones, Ph.D., assistant professor of cancer biology at City of Hope and a lead author of the paper. » Continue Reading


Cancer insights: Active surveillance is not avoiding the issue

September 22, 2014 | by

Jonathan Yamzon, M.D., assistant clinical professor of surgery in the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology, explains his approach to what’s known as “active surveillance” of men with prostate cancer. Patients need to be educated about their treatment options, he writes.

Active surveillance eligibility

Prostate cancer expert Jonathan Yamzon

Men with prostate cancer need to understand their options, says Jonathan Yamzon, a prostate cancer expert at City of Hope. Immediate treatment isn’t always warranted.

Active surveillance is an option offered to patients with “low-risk” prostate cancer. It entails forgoing any immediate treatment, and instead monitoring a patient’s cancer to ensure it shows no signs of worsening. If there are any signs of disease progression, the option for curative treatment can still be offered. Active surveillance attempts to avoid unnecessary treatments for patients with prostate cancers that may not become clinically significant or impactful to a man’s life.

Such treatments have potential risks for side effects. Those considered low-risk have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) value of less than 10, a biopsy Gleason of six or less, and a rectal exam that reveals nothing beyond a small nodule confined to one side of the prostate. When one of my patients embarks on active surveillance, I repeat the PSA, rectal exam and biopsy to ensure that their tumor is in fact truly low-risk. The success of this strategy is predicated on recurring follow-ups and reassessment to detect worsening changes of the tumor grade, volume or stage. It is important to understand that if there are signs of cancer progression, we can still offer treatment with curative intent.

Currently, our ability to stratify who is low-risk is based on clinical parameters of the PSA, Gleason score and clinical stage, which is detected by a rectal exam. Newer biomarkers are being studied to improve risk stratification, including the use of novel markers in serum, urine, biopsy tissue and radiographic test like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

» Continue Reading


Join the fight to fund cancer research

September 17, 2014 | by

Cancer research has yielded scientific breakthroughs that offer patients more options, more hope for survival and a higher quality of life than ever before.

City of Hope supports the Rally for Medical Research on Capitol Hill this week, which urges lawmakers to make funding medical research a high priority.

City of Hope supports the Rally for Medical Research on Capitol Hill this week, which urges lawmakers to make funding medical research a high priority.

The 14.5 million cancer patients living in the United States are living proof that cancer research saves lives. Now, in addition to the clinic, hospital and laboratory, there is another front for the fight against cancer: The battle for funding to keep this research ongoing.

City of Hope joins the American Association for Cancer Research in support of the Rally for Medical Research on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Sept. 18. Hundreds of organizations and individuals – comprehensive cancer centers, research advocacy groups, clinicians, business leaders, survivors and others – are joining the call to members of Congress to make funding for the National Institutes of Health a priority and stop the chronic decline of public funding for science.
» Continue Reading


AACR report: Now is the time to invest in cancer research

September 16, 2014 | by

Advances in cancer treatment, built on discoveries made in the laboratory then brought to the bedside, have phenomenally changed the reality of living with a cancer diagnosis. More than any other time in history, people diagnosed with cancer are more likely to survive and to enjoy a high quality of life.

Scientist in laboratory

With new drugs approved and new scientific breakthroughs, the chances of surviving cancer have never been higher. Now is the time to keep investing in cancer research.

However, much work remains to be done. On average, one American will die of cancer every minute of every day this year, according to the American Association for Cancer Research, which today released its annual Cancer Progress Report.  Following a year that saw six new cancer drugs approved, an estimated 14.5 million cancer survivors living in the United States, and considerable research breakthroughs, now is the time to continue fueling lifesaving cancer research through investment in the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute and other organizations and agencies devoted to cancer research.

While gains in cancer research have been impressive, the pace of progress has been slowed due to years of budget cuts at the NIH and NCI.

“Incredible strides have been made in advancing our understanding, enhancing prevention and improving therapy of cancer,” said Steven Rosen, M.D., provost and chief scientific officer at City of Hope and director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center. “To maintain momentum with the ultimate goal of maximizing cure of these devastating diseases, the necessary funds must be available.”

» Continue Reading


More children are being diagnosed with kidney cancer and thyroid cancer

September 12, 2014 | by

Kidney cancer rates and thyroid cancer rates in adults have continued to rise year after year. Now a new study has found that incidence rates for these cancers are also increasing in children — particularly in African-American children.

thyroid cancer in children

The rates of kidney cancer and thyroid cancer are increasing in children and adolescents, according to a new study published in the October issue of Pediatrics.

The study, published online this month in Pediatrics, examined childhood cancer incidence rates from 2001 to 2009 and found an annual increase of nearly 5 percent for thyroid cancer and a 5.4 increase for renal carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer.

Researchers also found that there was a 1.3 percent increase in the overall cancer trend among African-American children and adolescents.

Raynald Samoa, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism at City of Hope, told CBS News that the rise in pediatric patients with thyroid cancer is undeniable. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase,” said Samoa. “I think we’ve seen almost a [doubling] of referrals over past several years.”

» Continue Reading


Teens, young adults with brain cancer need comprehensive cancer centers

September 10, 2014 | by

Older teenagers and young adults traditionally face worse outcomes than younger children when diagnosed with brain cancer and other central nervous system tumors. A first-of-its-kind study shows why.

Teens with brain cancer have better outcomes at NCI-designated cancer centers.

Older adolescents and young adults with brain and spinal cord tumors have better outcomes when treated at National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers, research finds.

A team of researchers from the departments of Population Sciences and Pathology at City of Hope recently examined the cancer registry, looking at the entire Los Angeles County population of older adolescents and young adults — collectively known as AYAs — and children diagnosed with central nervous system (CNS) cancers, which include tumors of the brain and spinal cord.

The study included nearly 1,350 patients: children 14 years old and under and AYAs, who fall between the ages of 15 and 39. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has determined that AYA patients form a special group because of unique challenges they face in cancer treatment, and this study was the first to assess the impact on survival of where an AYA patient receives care.

The scientists, led by Julie Wolfson, M.D., M.S.H.S., assistant professor, and Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H., the Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences, found that both children and AYAs with a select group of CNS tumors who were treated at NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers such as City of Hope fared better than those seeking care at adult community facilities. In some cases, the difference in five-year survival rates was more than 10 percent. Of special note, the AYAs with these cancers fared worse than the children, but by receiving care at an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, this difference was wiped away.

» Continue Reading


7 tips for managing cancer pain: First, control it early

September 4, 2014 | by

There’s more to cancer care than simply helping patients survive. There’s more to cancer treatment than simple survival.

pain illustration

Cancer patients should report their pain to their caregivers, and enlist their doctors to help them manage it. Pain does not have to be part of daily life, even during cancer treatment, says City of Hope’s Betty Ferrell and other experts in palliative care.

Constant pain should not be part of conquering cancer,  insists Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., R.N., director of nursing research and education at City of Hope. She wants patients and caregivers alike to understand, and act on, this principle.

Ferrell, an international expert in palliative care, and her colleagues have spent years investigating pain management and the barriers that prevent patients from receiving the help and medication needed to manage their pain. Overcoming these barriers starts with understanding that pain management is vital. Even when people are fighting cancer, their day-to-day lives should not hampered by physical pain.

“Patients and caregivers need to understand that pain is important,” she said. “Pain has a tremendous impact on quality of life. There is an urgency. If pain is not controlled, their lives are out of control.”

» Continue Reading


Bone marrow transplant may be answer to incurable, fatal blood disease

September 4, 2014 | by

Even its name is daunting. Systemic mastocytosis is a fatal disease of the blood with no known cure. But a new study suggests a bone marrow transplant may be the answer for some patients.

Nakamura and Pullarkat

Systemic mastocytosis is currently considered a fatal blood disorder. City of Hope researchers Ryotaro Nakamura, left, and Vinod Pullarkat have found that bone marrow transplantation could offer a cure.

While rare, systemic mastocytosis is resistant to treatment with drugs and, when aggressive, can be fatal within four years of diagnosis. No standard therapy currently exists for the disease, which is caused by an overabundance of mast cells in the blood and bone marrow.

Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that normally helps in wound healing and in defending against infectious disease agents. The cells also are involved in allergic reactions including anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can sometimes lead to death.

Patients with mastocytosis tend to develop hives and itching and are prone to anaphylactic shock. They also can develop other blood cancers such as leukemia and myelodysplasia together with systemic mastocytosis. » Continue Reading