Stopping cancer starts with research. To that end, STOP CANCER has awarded $525,000 in grants to City of Hope for 2015, supporting innovative research projects and recognizing the institution’s leadership in advancing cancer treatment and prevention.
Founded in 1988, STOP CANCER underwrites the work of leading-edge scientists. The organization’s grants provide initial support for new and established researchers, giving their work exposure that can lead to additional funding and major advancements in fighting cancers.
Three faculty members received Research Career Development awards that will provide $50,000 in funding for three years, totaling $150,000 each:
- Mark Boldin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, received an award for his research on lymphoma and microRNA biology. Boldin’s research group is investigating the role of microRNAs in the regulation of inflammation and cancer.
- Thomas Slavin, M.D., assistant clinical professor of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics, received an award to study the genetics of pancreatic and gastric cancers under the mentorship of cancer geneticists Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., director of the division, and Susan Neuhausen, Ph.D., The Morris & Horowitz Families Professor in Cancer Etiology & Outcomes Research and co-leader of City of Hope’s Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program. Slavin will examine the genotypes of individuals with pancreatic and gastric cancers to look for hereditary markers that could be used to determine hereditary cancer risk.
- Yuan Yuan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, received the Margie and Robert E. Peterson Foundation Research Career Development Award to study novel therapeutics to overcome therapy resistance in breast cancer. Yuan’s research project will focus on an arginine-depleting enzyme utilizing breast cancer cell lines.
Cancer may not be the disease many people think it is.
Normally, cancer is considered to be a disease in which cells multiply at an extremely high, and unusual, rate – increasing the likelihood of genetic mutations. But increasingly, leading researchers at City of Hope and elsewhere are contending that cancer is, in large part, a disease of cell movement and so-called seeding.
If you’re looking for a culprit, they say, look to cancer cells’ microenvironment. That environment – with its fostering of cell accumulation and growth – likely encourages tumors to form. By looking at cancer in this revolutionary way, they hope to develop new and better treatments for a disease that continues to take far too high a toll.
“Of all forms of inequality, injustice in the health care system is the most shocking and inhumane.”
By the time the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke those words in Chicago in 1966, the Civil Rights Act had been passed, the Voting Rights Act was the law of the land and the March on Washington was a 3-year-old memory. Yet King clearly recognized his work was far from complete. He knew he needed to advocate for what’s been called “America’s forgotten civil right.”
At about the same time, a group of psychologists gathered at the Swampscott Conference in Boston, where they began to shift their thinking from individual practice to the still-new realm of community psychology. It wasn’t enough, they realized, to treat a single patient when his or her community may be in crisis. A broader view was needed, one that examined social justice, diversity, empowerment, citizen participation … and yes, prevention and health promotion.
Eight years ago, Matthew Loscalzo surprised himself by accepting the offer to become City of Hope’s administrative director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and executive director of the Department of Supportive Care Medicine. At the time, he was administrative director of the Science of Caring Department he had founded at UC San Diego, and he loved it. He thought it would be his last professional gig.
But City of Hope made him the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse. “It took a lot of chutzpah for them to have this vision,” Loscalzo said in a New York accent as thick as cream cheese. Armed with best-in-show credentials, he directed the organization of a department in a way no other cancer center had dared to conjure.
Loscalzo’s success in establishing and sustaining the department is only the latest of his remarkable achievements, which have been recognized recently with two prestigious awards. In October, he received the Noemi Fisman Award for Lifetime Clinical Excellence from the International Psycho-Oncology Society. This year, he received the Holland Distinguished Leadership Award from the American Psychosocial Oncology Society.
“I get recognition because my team is smarter than I am,” Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., was quick to acknowledge. “I work with a bunch of people who are fantastic.” » Continue Reading
The mental fog that patients can experience after undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer has a name: “chemo brain.”
“Many patients report hearing or reading about chemotherapy-related cognitive deficits, but few are actually prepared to deal with these changes,” said Celina Lemon, M.A., an occupational therapy doctoral resident in the Department of Rehabilitation Services.
With Lemon’s guidance and the support of the Department of Rehabilitation Services, occupational therapists at City of Hope implemented a program over the past year to help patients cope with the cognitive dysfunction that can occur during or after cancer treatment.
Nearly 200 patients have benefited so far.
The “chemo brain” program initially targeted those who must undergo an “autologous” stem cell transplant, which uses a patient’s own bone marrow. Before such a transplant, a patient’s immune system is typically suppressed by high-intensity chemotherapy, which has been known to contribute to cognitive decline. Since then, the program has expanded to any patient who qualifies for cognitive therapy after being assessed.
Cancer treatments have improved over the years, but one potential source of treatments and cures remains largely untapped: nature.
Blueberries, cinnamon, xinfeng, grape seed (and skin) extract, mushrooms, barberry and pomegranates all contain compounds with the potential to treat or prevent cancer.
Scientists at City of Hope have found tantalizing evidence of this potential and are committed to exploring it to the fullest. They’re researching, testing and developing new therapies made from nature’s bounty — vegetables, fruits and herbs most people take for granted.
A $2.5 million gift from the Panda Charitable Foundation has helped launch City of Hope’s Natural Therapies Program. The funds will be used to encourage researchers to develop products to combat cancer using powerful compounds already present in foods and herbs considered part of a healthy diet. By exploring the power of nature, the Natural Therapies Program hopes to identify treatments that will help heal patients more effectively than current treatments, with fewer side effects.
The Panda Charitable Foundation gift will specifically expedite the testing of promising novel therapies from three researchers, who are investigating natural products’ abilities to treat cancer. » Continue Reading
In the U.S., there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate and lung, according to the American Cancer Society. Each year, 5 million people are treated for skin cancer. Here, Hans Schoellhammer, M.D., assistant clinical professor at City of Hope | Antelope Valley community practice site, shares his tips on skin cancer prevention, plus information on new skin cancer treatments.
What are the latest treatments, advancements and research involving skin cancer, specifically melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer?
This is a very exciting time in melanoma research and treatment. Surgery to remove the primary melanoma and to stage nearby lymph nodes with a sentinel lymph node biopsy is still the main treatment, but the Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a number of new medications. These drugs help treat melanoma that is too locally advanced to be removed by surgery or that has metastasized to other parts of the body.
Some of these new medications, such as ipilimumab or nivolumab, allow our own body’s immune system cells to be more active, helping them attack and destroy melanoma cells. Other medications, such as vemurafenib, are targeted therapies that affect melanoma cells that have specific mutations, again leading to melanoma regression and increased overall survival. » Continue Reading
As public health experts know, health improvement starts in the community. Now, City of Hope has been recognized for its efforts to improve the lives of residents of its own community.
The institution will receive funding from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to support promising community-based work on health improvement, as part of the SCALE (Spreading Community Accelerators through Learning and Evaluation) initiative. Made possible by a $4.8 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and led by IHI, Community Solutions, Communities Joined in Action and the Collaborative Health Network, SCALE will help communities further their ability to improve the health of targeted populations and develop ways to share and spread community-driven approaches across the country.
SCALE matches four “mentor communities” – those with a recent track record of achieving better health – with 20 “pacesetter communities” that are seeking to accelerate their pace of change.
City of Hope has been named a pacesetter community and will design and implement a multilevel plan to reduce chronic disease health inequities due to obesity and sedentary lifestyle, through community-based resources, supportive physical environments and businesses, policies for healthful eating and an emphasis on physical activity.