Supporting Hope


For low-risk prostate cancer, he chose ‘active surveillance’

March 6, 2014 | by

When Ralph Richardson discovered that his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) reading was a 6, he told his primary care physician that he wanted to go to City of Hope. “I felt I was better off in a City of Hope environment, where it’s a cancer treatment specialty hospital. This is what they do,” Richardson said.

At City of Hope, Richardson met with Jonathan Yamzon, M.D., clinical professor in the Prostate Cancer Program. “After Ralph’s biopsy revealed prostate cancer, we discussed the parameters used to stratify his risk of disease progression, and he fell into the ‘low-risk’ category. With that, we discussed his options, including treatment with robotic-assisted surgery or radiation therapy, versus active surveillance. Since his cancer risk was low, I recommended active surveillance as the most appropriate treatment,” Yamzon said.

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Brain tumor research: 3 foundations back neural stem cell work

February 18, 2014 | by




Despite gradual improvements over the years, brain tumors remain particularly tricky to treat. Treatment can affect normal brain tissue, which can cause physical and cognitive impairment. One particularly challenging obstacle is the blood-brain barrier, which prevents cancer drugs from passing into the brain and attacking the tumor. Gutova is an assistant research professor of neurosciences . She may have found a way to get through that barrier — using neural stem cells.

But Margarita Gutova, M.D., assistant research professor in the laboratory of Karen Aboody, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and the Division of Neurosurgery, in collaboration with Robert Wechsler-Reya, Ph.D., director of the tumor initiation and maintenance program at Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, may have found a way to bypass this barrier using neural stem cells — self-renewing cells that can later differentiate into neurons and other nervous system cells.

“Neural stem cells offer a novel way to overcome this obstacle because they can cross the blood-brain barrier and selectively target tumor cells throughout the brain,” Gutova said.

In this visualization, neural stem cells (red) are gathering around the brain tumor cells (green), showing its potential to selectively deliver treatment at the tumor site.

In this visualization, neural stem cells (red) gather around the brain tumor cells (green), showing the potential to selectively deliver treatment at the tumor site.

In the video above, Gutova explained how this ability can be harnessed to help treat brain tumors. Used as a delivery vehicle, neural stem cells can be engineered to target and deliver anti-cancer agents specifically to brain tumor sites. This method results in concentrated therapy at the tumor sites, while minimizing harm to surrounding normal tissue.

Additionally, Gutova is investigating whether the neural stem cells can be delivered intranasally, or through the nostrils and nasal cavity. This novel delivery method, if proven effective, is much less invasive, and could reduce the number of complicated procedures — and their associated risks — that these young patients must often endure. » Continue Reading


Lymphoma changed Emmet and Toni Stephenson; now they want to change it

February 12, 2014 | by

During their 46-year marriage – an attraction begun as kindergarten sweethearts – entrepreneurs Emmet and Toni Stephenson have worked together to build diverse businesses ranging from portfolio management to Internet publishing. When Toni was diagnosed with T cell lymphoma last spring, the couple refocused their energies into restoring her health.

Stephensons

Emmet and Toni Stephenson with their daughter Tessa Stephenson Brand

“Cancer became the center of our life,” Emmet said. “Our priorities really got changed and turned upside down almost instantly.”

“It did change us,” Toni said. “It was quite a summer.”

Toni is currently in remission following treatment at City of Hope, and the couple and their only child, Tessa Stephenson Brand, recently gave City of Hope $10 million to create the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center. That center is the cornerstone of City of Hope’s new Hematologic Malignancies Institute. 

Here, the couple shares their life-changing experience – and how it led them to where they are today: trying to change the future for other people with lymphoma.  » Continue Reading


‘Ask the Experts: HPV and Links to Cancer': What you need to know

February 11, 2014 | by

What is HPV? How is it linked to cancer? How can I prevent it? Those are some of the questions many women have about human papillomavirus, or HPV. City of Hope physicians will provide the answers at our Feb. 20 “Ask the Experts” presentation.

Mark Wakabayahsi of City of Hope

Mark Wakabayashi, chief of gynecologic oncology at City of Hope, will discuss the HPV vaccine and links to cervical cancer.

The session, titled “HPV and Links to Cancer,” will feature three City of Hope experts. 

Mark Wakabayashi, M.D., M.P.H., associate clinical professor and chief of gynecologic oncology, will focus on the virus’ connection to cervical cancer and on the HPV vaccine, which can help prevent the disease.

Ellie Maghami, M.D., associate clinical professor and chief of head and neck surgery, will discuss oropharyngeal cancer (throat cancer), the changing patient profile of the disease and HPV awareness.

And Lily Lai, M.D., associate clinical professor, will talk about HPV and its connection to anal cancer. 

Here, our experts offer a preview of the session. » Continue Reading


T cell research for prostate cancer gets boost from $1 million gift

February 4, 2014 | by

Although prostate cancer is often highly treatable, the prognosis for men with metastatic disease remains grim. According to the American Cancer Society, men with distant prostate cancer metastases have a five-year survival rate of 28 percent, and almost 30,000 men die from the disease each year in the United States.

A $1 million challenge award from Movember and Prostate Cancer Foundation will fuel City of Hope's T-cell research to treat prostate cancer.

A $1 million challenge award from Movember and Prostate Cancer Foundation will fuel City of Hope’s T cell research to treat prostate cancer.

Researchers hope to turn that tide by using two novel agents developed at City of Hope that will attack cancerous cells with the patient’s own immune system. And thanks to a $1 million Movember-Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Award, this immunotherapy project can continue its preclinical progress for the next two years, with in-human trials beginning in early 2016.

Prior research at City of Hope and other institutions found that numerous cancer cells — including those of prostate cancer — activate a protein called STAT3 to evade the immune system and to promote their own growth and spread. In one arm of the new project, Marcin Kortylewski, Ph.D., assistant professor at City of Hope’s Department of Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology, will be designing a unique agent — a nucleotide-based drug that delivers a small, interfering RNA called CpG-STAT3 — to inhibit STAT3 activity, thus stripping the cancer’s ability to grow and dodge the immune system, while simultaneously bolstering the patient’s own anti-tumor immunity. » Continue Reading


Cancer and cuisine: Tips for leading a healthier life

January 31, 2014 | by

City of Hope recently hosted two free Ask the Experts events, titled “Cancer and Cuisine,” focusing on the benefits of healthy eating, physical activity and weight management, as well as easy-to-make healthy recipes.

Here are some quick tips from both programs:

  • Select a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for nutrient diversity.
  • Do not focus on single nutrients, because the nutrients in food work together to create health and fight off disease.
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables are the most nutrient-rich food on the planet.
  • Exercise regularly, and try to exercise three to four hours a week.
  • Watch your weight.

The first Ask the Experts event was held at the newly opened City of Hope | Antelope Valley practice. The video above features Vijay Trisal, M.D., medical director of community practices for the City of Hope Medical Foundation, and guest speaker, Katja Wargin, certified holistic health counselor.

Wargin prepared a healthy and easy-to-make green smoothie: » Continue Reading


Diabetes research: From epigenetics to islet cell transplants

January 5, 2014 | by

Nearly 350 million people worldwide are coping with diabetes, and the disease is expected to be the seventh-leading cause of death by 2030. Aware of these grim statistics, researchers at City of Hope are committed to halting the global epidemic.

Islet cells produce insulin

Researchers at City of Hope are working on multiple fronts to make islet transplantation a viable option for patients.

On the frontiers of epigenetic engineering

Art Riggs, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research, is focused on the possibilities within the field of epigenetics. A concept pioneered by Riggs, epigenetics refers to stable changes in gene expression, some of which can be passed on to future generations — but are not written into our genetic code.

Riggs is currently studying epigenetic engineering, the process of making epigenetic changes in stem or progenitor cells to impact how those cells differentiate, grow and mature. Riggs is collaborating with researchers throughout City of Hope’s Diabetes Research Center to find ways to use epigenetic engineering to increase the supply of beta cells for islet transplantation, and to improve regulatory T cells to reverse autoimmunity. » Continue Reading


Rose Parade float: Ben Teller’s dreams can now become reality

December 30, 2013 | by
Lymphoma survivor Ben Teller learned that as an inpatient, you should never hesitate to seek your nurses' help. (Photo credit: Courtesy of Ben Teller)

Ben Teller’s dreams were made possible through a lifesaving stem cell transplant. His dream to meet the stem cell donor who saved him will come true at the Rose Parade. (Photo credit: Courtesy of Ben Teller)

For those who have battled cancer, each tomorrow is, in reality, a dream come true. On Jan. 1,  former City of Hope patients will see another dream come true: They’ll be riding atop City of Hope’s float in the 2014 Tournament of Roses Parade.

The theme of this year’s float is “Turning Hope and Dreams into Reality”; the theme of the parade is “Dreams Come True.” Here is the story of one rider: Ben Teller, who will meet the person who saved his life on New Year’s Day.

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Dreams – when one is a child – often get taken for granted. They are often bedtime stories parents tell their children in a land where anything is possible. That’s who I was pre-cancer, young, naive and full of dreams of college, friends, exciting careers and independence. That all changed in 2007, when I wasn’t able to attend college with my peers; then again in 2010, when we were first introduced to City of Hope.

They saved my life through three reoccurrences until I was proclaimed cancer free on April 29 of this 2014 year.

When I relapsed in 2010 from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I needed a stem cell transplant, which required me to find a new doctor and a new hospital. I happen to live in the vicinity of many fine hospitals, so I had plenty of choices. My family and I visited and explored many of these hospitals and nothing compared to our experience upon entering City of Hope. By the time we walked through the doors of City of Hope, we were exhausted, drowning in an emotional vacuum of doubt. But from the moment I entered the doors of City of Hope, I felt like a person again.

Certainly, as I sat with my doctor (Stephen Forman) and we discussed my diagnosis, cancer treatments and lots of other scary stuff, I felt overwhelmed. But, somehow he made cancer feel like the smallest part of the conversation and our relationship. Somehow, after one meeting with my City of Hope treatment team, I felt like they knew more about me–- the person and what I cared about and hoped for – than I would have thought possible.

They not only looked after the difficult task of healing my cancer, they looked after the parts of me that needed to be tended to – in the here and now – to allow the real healing to begin. Parts of me like my spirit, my sense of humor, my interests, my hopes and my desires. All these necessary components that make me who I am, which DID need to be known to help me get through the actual treatment of cancer so I could feel like a life after cancer was possible.

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How to give back: What student volunteers have learned (w/VIDEO)

December 24, 2013 | by


The fifth in a series about how to give, and give back, during the holiday season …

Giving back doesn’t have to mean giving money. At City of Hope, a special program makes giving (and giving back) easier for young men and women attending college.

In collaboration with Claremont McKenna, Pitzer and Scripps colleges, City of Hope’s Volunteer Services Department created the Student Resource Advocate Program. Through that program, students help reduce stress and anxiety among both patients and caregivers.

As a volunteer, the students greet and interact with patients and caregivers in the outpatient clinics, inform them about community resources, help them become more acquainted with City of Hope and assist them with special projects as needed.

“It’s a really unique opportunity to actually talk to people who need help,” said Chase Pribble, a current volunteer and a junior at Claremont McKenna. “You get to see patients and really understand what it means to help someone who needs it.”

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How to give back: Couple who lost son now help others (w/VIDEO)

December 17, 2013 | by


The fourth in a series about how to give, and give back, during the holiday season ...

Giving back during the holidays (or year-round) doesn’t have to come in the form of cash, toys or tangible gifts. In fact, it can be done at no cost: One way is by volunteering.

Local hospitals, animal shelters and other nonprofit organizations nationwide rely on volunteers to help run daily operations. At City of Hope, volunteers play a special role, bringing compassion, empathy and hope to patients and their families.

Gloria and Sal Gill know just how powerful this form of giving can be. The couple started volunteering at City of Hope after lymphoma claimed the life of their son in 1999. They wanted to give back to the institution that tried to save his life. They’ve now been working with City of Hope patients for almost 15 years.

Every Friday, the couple make their way to the cancer center where they help patients find their way around the hospital, file paperwork, answer phones and assist the staff in whatever they may need.

“Being amongst the patients is very inspiring,” Gloria said. “We get to learn new things every day and it feels good to help people.”

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