Research


Have breast cancer in family? Need to know risk? There’s an app for that

October 30, 2014 | by

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.

breast cancer risk app

An app developed at City of Hope helps women with a family history of breast cancer assess their breast cancer risk by age. Doctors find it useful, too.

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.

Here, Bita Nehoray, a genetic counselor in the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics, answers questions about the app, its purpose and how it should be used: » Continue Reading


City of Hope launches institute focused on hematologic malignancies

October 28, 2014 | by

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.

hematopoietic cell transplantation survivors

City of Hope’s success in treating blood and bone marrow cancers is just the beginning. The institution is launching the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute to speed cures to patients even more efficiently and quickly. Here, survivors of hematopoietic cell transplantation celebrate at City of Hope’s 2014 Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion.

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


Made at City of Hope: Cancer vaccine with a two-pronged approach

October 24, 2014 | by

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 Dimond, Ph.D. and Vincent Chung, M.D.

City of Hope researchers Don Diamond, left, and Vincent Chung have developed a cancer vaccine and are now testing its effectiveness in clinical trials.

A partnership

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


With breast cancer treatment, expertise – and research – matter

October 23, 2014 | by

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.

Breast cancer treatment and research

In breast cancer treatment, location matters. That location should also be the home of research. City of Hope understands this.

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


2 researchers (one on aging, one on genetics) get breast cancer grants

October 21, 2014 | by

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.

Cancer researchers Arti Hurria and Jeffrey Weitzel receive breast cancer grants

City of Hope researchers Arti Hurria and Jeffrey Weitzel each received breast cancer grants of $240,000 from the BCRF.

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


International Medicine Program launches with Chinese outreach

October 20, 2014 | by
International Medicine Program

Our International Medicine Program is extending our expertise to patients abroad.

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


Brain metastasis from breast cancer: Our research means better treatments

October 17, 2014 | by


A hallmark of cancer is that it doesn’t always limit itself to a primary location. It spreads. Breast cancer and lung cancer in particular are prone to spread, or metastasize, to the brain. Often the brain metastasis isn’t discovered until years after the initial diagnosis, just when patients were beginning to regain some sense of normalcy and control over their lives.

Like many patients, Joan Rose-Hall thought she had completely recovered from breast cancer. She thought she was past the treatment, past the fear. Then she begin to experience changes, small things really, in her daily routine.

“I noticed that I had difficulty concentrating, difficulty finding my words. I became slow on the keyboard,” she says in the video above. “I actually thought I was cracking up.”

Rose-Hall didn’t associate the changes with her previous diagnosis of breast cancer. Many people wouldn’t.

Instead, she went to see a psychiatrist. That psychiatrist referred her to City of Hope.

» Continue Reading


Natural therapies hold untapped (for now) potential against cancer

October 16, 2014 | by

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.

Blueberries against cancer

These aren’t just blueberries. They’re a potential cancer-fighting powerhouse.

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


Many patients unaware that breast cancer reconstruction is an option

October 15, 2014 | by

Most women who are treated for breast cancer with a mastectomy do not choose to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Breast implant

Only 42 percent of women opt for breast reconstruction after mastectomy, a new study finds. Lack of adequate insurance coverage is one reason, says City of Hope expert Laura Kruper.

The reasons for this, according to a recent JAMA Surgery study, vary. Nearly half say they do not want any additional surgery, while nearly 34 percent say breast cancer reconstruction simply isn’t important to them. Fear of implants is another oft-cited factor, including worries that the implants might interfere with detection of recurrence – a fear cancer experts say is not founded.

The study also identified lack of access as a troubling issue. About 18 percent of women said they were not aware that breast cancer reconstruction was an option. Despite federal laws requiring that most group insurance plans that cover mastectomies also cover reconstructive surgery, 12 percent of women cited lack of insurance.

Laura Kruper, M.D., director of the Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center, acknowledges that many women will opt out of reconstructive surgery. However, with her patients, she stresses the importance of evaluating their options and weighing those choices very carefully. » Continue Reading


HIV/AIDS summit unites experts, activists. Their goal: Stop the disease

October 10, 2014 | by
Alexandra Levine, M.D., M.A.C.P.

Alexandra Levine, chief medical officer of City of Hope and deputy director for clinical programs of the cancer center, reflects on how far HIV/AIDS treatment has come. But more must be done, she says.

First, the good news: HIV infections have dropped dramatically over the past 30 years. Doctors, researchers and health officials have made great strides in preventing and treating the disease, turning what was once a death sentence into, for some, a chronic condition. Now, the reality check: HIV is still a worldwide health threat.

Worldwide, more than 34 million people are living with HIV or AIDs, and 1.1 million of those live in the United States.

City of Hope’s eighth annual San Gabriel Valley HIV/AIDS Action Summit brought together experts and activists to discuss, and help raise awareness of, the prevention, treatment and ultimate cure of HIV and AIDS.

Former State Assemblymember Anthony J. Portantino co-hosted the event, which included students from Duarte High School, Blair High School’s Health Careers Academy, CIS Academy in Pasadena, California, and the Applied Technology Center high school in Montebello.

Alexandra Levine, M.D., M.A.C.P., chief medical officer of City of Hope and deputy director for clinical programs of the cancer center, reflected on how far HIV/AIDS treatment has come even as she offered a stark reminder of today’s reality. Even though HIV is no longer a death sentence, she said, the disease is not to be taken lightly. » Continue Reading