Research


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


Cancer researcher’s work on STAT3 protein gets international recognition

October 4, 2014 | by

Cancer cells are masters of survival. Despite excessive damage to their most basic workings and the constant vigilance of the body’s immune system, they manage to persevere.

Hua Yu, Ph.D.

Hua Yu was recently awarded with the prestigious Humboldt Research Award for her numerous breakthrough discoveries involving STAT3.

Much of this extraordinary ability to survive falls under the control of proteins bearing the name STAT, short for signal transducer and activator of transcription. Prominent among these is STAT3. This protein helps shield tumor cells from the immune system. It also shuts down apoptosis, the process that normally forces sick cells to die, and it can help cancers spread through the body.

Hua Yu, Ph.D., the Billy and Audrey L Wilder Professor in Tumor Immmunotherapy and chair of the Department of Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology at City of Hope, has made STAT3 the focus of much of her research. The first scientist to show for certain that STAT3 could be a molecular target for cancer therapy in animal models of the disease, she is widely regarded as a leader in the field, with numerous breakthrough discoveries surrounding the protein. That global leadership position recently received further affirmation when the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation elected her to receive the Humboldt Research Award. » Continue Reading


1 in 8 women? Understanding breast cancer statistics

October 2, 2014 | by

Here’s a statistic you’ll hear and read frequently over the next month: One in eight women born in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point in her lifetime.

Breast cancer statistics, explained

Breast cancer statistics say that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. What those statistics mean.

Although this statement is accurate, based on breast cancer incidence rates in 2013, it’s often misunderstood.

Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., director of cancer etiology at City of Hope, has spent much of her career researching cancer risk, including the factors linked to breast cancer and how risk can be reduced. What that statistic doesn’t mean, she says, is that if you’re gathered at dinner in a group of eight adult women, that one of you is going to develop breast cancer.

Bernstein sheds some light on the oft-repeated statistic: » Continue Reading