Research


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 barbeque sauce on meats and chicken.
  • Avoid foods and drinks with smells that bother you.
Help combat metallic and cardboard tastes by using marinades, spices, herbs and citrus juices like lemon and lime.

Help combat metallic and cardboard tastes by using marinades, spices, herbs and citrus juices like lemon and lime.

Here’s how to reduce smells:

  • Serve foods at room temperature.
  • Keep foods covered.
  • Use cups with lids.
  • Drink through a straw.
  • Use a kitchen fan when cooking.
  • Cook outdoors.
  • When cooking, lift lids away from you.

Former City of Hope patient, Alexandria Cervantes, shared what she learned while undergoing cancer treatment.

Do not eat your favorite foods when you are on chemo or have just come off of chemo – you may ruin them forever,” says Cervantes. “When my mouth tasted like nothing but metal and blandness, I ate hot Cheetos and Lucas. It’s the only thing that tasted good. You can buy Lucas at Mexican markets or at the Sweet Factory at the mall.”

Resource:  “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” is a book by chef Rebecca Katz that helps cancer patients learn how to eat and enjoy food during treatment. Her recipes help patients retain their interest in foods.

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Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting us online or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

 


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


With cancer, expertise matters – as these cancer patients know (w/VIDEO)

August 12, 2014 | by

A patient diagnosed with cancer – especially a rare, advanced or hard-to-treat cancer – needs specialized care from exceptionally skilled and highly trained experts. That kind of care saves lives, improves quality of life and keeps families whole.

That kind of care is best found at comprehensive cancer centers like City of Hope.

One of the top cancer hospitals for cancer in the United States, according to U.S.News & World Report’s annual rankings, City of Hope has also been awarded the highest level of accreditation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and is listed on Becker’s Hospital Review’s 2014 list of “100 Hospitals and Health Systems With Great Oncology Programs.”

Further, recent research found that receiving cancer care at a comprehensive cancer center improves survival of patients with cancers of the breast, lung, liver, stomach, pancreas and oral tissues, among others.

The cancer patients in the video above don’t need to be convinced by such commendations or research, however. They were convinced by City of Hope itself.

Read more about them:

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Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting us online or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.


Diet during cancer treatment: Tips on managing appetite and weight loss

August 11, 2014 | by

Appetite loss may be common during cancer treatment, lasting throughout your therapy or only occasionally, but it can be managed.

snacks and cancer treatment

Keep snacks close at hand during cancer treatment in order to take advantage of  the moments when you feel like eating.

Below are tips from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that can help you keep your weight up and, in doing so, keep your body well-nourished. (See the end of this article for a delicious chocolate-avocado smoothie recipe that’s perfectly in line with these recommendations.) » Continue Reading


Meet our doctors: Hematologist Margaret O’Donnell on myelodysplasia

August 9, 2014 | by

Myelodysplasia, sometimes referred to as myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS, is a rare group of blood disorders caused by disrupted development of blood cells within the bone marrow, resulting in a decreased number of healthy blood cells. People diagnosed with the condition, considered a precancer, may be at greater risk for leukemia.

Margaret O'Donnell on myelodysplasia

Margaret O’Donnell says a collaborative team of experts customize individual myelodysplasia treatment plans.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 13,000 new cases of myelodysplastia are diagnosed each year. As the average age of the population in the U.S. goes up, the number of new cases seems to be increasing.

Here, Margaret O’Donnell, M.D., clinical professor and associate clinical director for City of Hope’s Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Program, sorts out the facts about myelodysplasia. She also describes how our world-class experts excel in treating these complicated diseased and how the team works continuously to better understand and more effectively treat myelodysplasia. » Continue Reading


New gene mutation, in PALB2, is linked to heightened breast cancer risk

August 8, 2014 | by

Twenty years ago, scientists discovered that a mutation in a gene now widely known as BRCA1 was linked to a sharply increased risk of breast cancer, paving the way for a new chapter in identifying women at risk of the disease and giving them options to potentially avoid an aggressive cancer. But experts have also long known that other genes probably play a role as well. Now, one of those genes has been identified: PALB2.

A new study links a mutation in the PALB2 gene to a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are not alone in increasing breast cancer risk. A new study also links a mutation in the PALB2 gene to a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Mutations in this gene, rarer than the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, can make breast cancer nine times more likely to develop in women and eight times more likely for men, according to a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine from an international team of researchers, including two City of Hope scientists.

“This one is serious,” Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., director of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics at City of Hope and one of the leaders of the study, told the Associated Press. Susan Neuhausen, Ph.D., The Morris & Horowitz Families Professor in Cancer Etiology and Outcomes Research, is also one of the study’s authors.

Weitzel said the gene is probably the most dangerous in terms of breast cancer risk after the BRCA genes.  » Continue Reading


Summer academy names scholarship for neuroscientist Paul Salvaterra

August 8, 2014 | by

The Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy at City of Hope turned 54 this year. Marking the occasion, the academy announced a new scholarship in honor of longtime director Paul Salvaterra, Ph.D.

Paul Salvaterra

“I love seeing these kids doing science,” says Paul Salvaterra of the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy.

Salvaterra, a professor in City of Hope’s Department of Neurosciences, has led the summer student academy for nearly four decades, helping thousands of students participate in laboratory research projects at City of Hope.

“I stay involved with the academy because I love seeing these kids doing science,” Salvaterra said. “To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed by the attention, but it’s a real honor to receive this recognition.”

His own work has included studies designed to determine the neuronal cellular fate and specific neurotransmitter phenotypes of cells in the nervous system. Another project is meant to help define genetic pathways involved in Alzheimer’s disease. » Continue Reading


Summer academy student’s work on neural stem cells is tribute to father

August 7, 2014 | by

Stevee Rowe has a very personal connection to the research she’s conducting on neural stem cells: Her late father participated in a City of Hope clinical trial involving neural stem cells.

Student Stevee Rowe

Stevee Rowe is researching neural stem cells through the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy. (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)

Rowe — her full name is Alissa Stevee Rowe, but she prefers to use her middle name — will enter her senior year at the University of California, Riverside, this fall. She currently is enrolled in the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy. Her project examines neural stem cells used to target brain cancer.

Her father, Steven Keith Rowe, was a patient at City of Hope who enrolled in a clinical trial to treat his brain tumor with neural stem cells. “My father wanted to help further research and was always willing to try anything he could,” she said. Now she hopes to do the same. » Continue Reading