Helmsley Charitable Trust supports work of islet cell researchers

May 4, 2015 | by   

Henry Ford said it well: “Working together is success.” For biomedical researchers, this is especially true. The challenges they face often require expertise from multiple fields to find answers and solutions.

Joyce Niland

Joyce Niland has received City of Hope’s first-ever grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, supporting diabetes research.

Scientists seeking cures for type 1 diabetes in particular must overcome biological, medical and technological barriers that make the disease particularly difficult to address. A breakthrough grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will help.

Joyce Niland, Ph.D., the Edward and Estelle Alexander Chair in Information Sciences, is principal investigator on the three-year, $228,000 grant — the first obtained from the Helmsley Charitable Trust by a City of Hope investigator. It will support and encourage the attendance of diabetes researchers at annual Human Islet Cell Research Network (HIRN) conferences.

The HIRN was recently launched by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to understand how human beta cells — the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin — are lost in people with type 1 diabetes. Chief among the network’s objectives is to find innovative strategies to protect or replace functional beta cells in those living with the disease.

The network focuses on research that will lead to a greater understanding of the early stages of the type 1 diabetes disease process in humans. The grant from the trust will help make it easier for members to learn, collaborate and advance their work by providing opportunities for exchange of scientific ideas, fostering collaborations, generating additional joint projects and supporting junior investigators who may not otherwise be able to attend.

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9-year-old Amanda, a bone marrow transplant patient, meets her superhero

May 3, 2015 | by   

Superheroes are making plenty of headlines as the summer blockbuster season opens. At City of Hope, a 9-year-old girl wept as she hugged her own superhero: someone who had the superpower of healing her cancer.

bone marrow transplant

Bone marrow transplant patient Amanda Cooper, 9, meets her donor and hero, Lars Nijland.

He didn’t wear flashy armor or a cape, but rather a plaid shirt. He doesn’t have a secret hideout, a signal that blazes across the sky when he’s needed or a funny catch phrase. He did travel all the way from Germany, and over and over said he was just doing the right thing.

Bone marrow transplant patient Amanda Cooper, who was treated for acute myeloid leukemia at age 7, finally met Lars Nijland, the 24-year-old man who donated the bone marrow making her transplant and cure possible. They met at City of Hope’s 39th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion. Amanda, standing tall in red patent leather shoes – her companion Honey Buns the bear just out of sight – faced a crowd of her fellow cancer survivors and TV cameras to deliver the speech she wrote to welcome her donor. » Continue Reading

Physician researcher Larry Kwak’s passion? Moving discoveries to clinic

May 2, 2015 | by   
Dr. Larry Kwak

Renowned physician researcher Larry Kwak takes the helm of City of Hope’s new Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center.

Known for his ability to bring together, and lead, effective research teams, world-renowned translational research scientist and physician Larry W. Kwak, M.D., Ph.D., has joined City of Hope in a key leadership role within the institution’s new Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute.

As director of the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center, Kwak will shape the next generation of research and treatments for all types of lymphoma. Kwak also will serve as the inaugural associate director for developmental therapeutics and translational research for the comprehensive cancer center, and he is the first holder of the title of Dr. Michael Friedman Professor for Translational Medicine.

In other words, Kwak will integrate basic scientific discoveries into clinical use.

“What makes me excited to come to work every morning — my passion — is moving lab discoveries to clinic,” he said. “One of my key roles will be to help our faculty develop their ideas and bring them to first-in-human clinical trials.”

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Melanoma: The ABCDE guide to potentially cancerous moles

May 1, 2015 | by   

To detect melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, at its earliest, most treatable stage, conduct a head-to-toe skin self-examination once a month to check for suspicious moles.


ABCDE Guide for Skin Cancer Self-exam for cancerous moles

Unusual, or atypical, moles can ultimately develop into skin cancer. Here is the ABCDE guide to potentially cancerous moles:

A = Asymmetry
The two halves of the mole do not match when you draw a line through the middle.

B = Border
The mole has an uneven border.

C = Color
The mole has multiple shades of tan, brown or black or has unusual colors such as red, purple or blue.

D = Diameter
The mole is larger than 6mm in diameter (or the size of a pencil eraser).

E = Evolution
The mole has changed in size, shape or color over time.

If you have a suspicious mole, contact your primary care doctor or a dermatologist for further evaluation. For more information about melanoma and other types of skin cancer, visit

Sources: American Cancer Society and Skin Cancer Foundation


Feel free to reproduce our skin cancer infographic for health and education purposes. Download the PDF.


Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. 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.

Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion: What patients and donors have to say

May 1, 2015 | by   
BMT reunion 2014

On Friday, May 1, 2015, at the 39th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, two patients will meet the donors who saved them. The moments are deeply personal but also universal in their expressions of gratitude and humanity. Shown here: Group reunion shot from 2014.

“Superheroes,” “grateful” and “lifesavers”: All are words patients have used to describe their bone marrow donors. For donors, “a great feeling” and “the right thing to do” seems to sum up their view of donating the stem cells used to save someone’s life.

Bone marrow transplants offer a second chance at life for people with life-threatening blood cancers and other hematologic malignancies. City of Hope performed its first bone marrow transplant in 1976. Since then, thousands of patients from virtually every state and dozens of countries have undergone bone marrow, cord blood or stem cell transplants at City of Hope.

But many recipients, though overwhelmed with curiosity and the need to express their gratitude, can only dream of meeting the strangers who helped them defeat their disease. Each year, City of Hope makes that dream come true for two patients at the annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion.

On Friday, May 1, at the 39th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, two more patients and their families will meet the donors who saved them. Each experience will be unique and deeply personal, but the words of past donors and patients offer a glimpse into the power of the moment: » Continue Reading

Bone marrow donor Phil Ratcliff: Why wouldn’t you donate?

April 30, 2015 | by   

Updated: May 1, 2015

More than a decade after joining the bone marrow registry during a blood drive at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Phil Ratcliff received a call that he was a match for a leukemia patient. By then, he’d left his military career to start his own financial business, married and had three children. One thing hadn’t changed, however – his worldview.

bone marrow donor

Bone marrow donor Phil Ratcliff and his family will meet the patient who received his donation at the Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion.

“Why wouldn’t you sign up to help somebody or help some kid?” said Ratcliff, 34. “I think the world would be a better place if more people helped each other out.”

On Friday, May 1, at City of Hope’s 39th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, Ratcliff, who lives in Ohio, met the 16-year-old Los Angeles cancer survivor whose life he saved through his stem cell donation. Although she is a high school sophomore still contemplating her college options, and he’s the president of a finance company halfway across the country, they now have much in common. » Continue Reading

Bone marrow donor Lars Nijland: ‘No easier way to save somebody’s life’

April 29, 2015 | by   

Updated: May 1.

For Lars Nijland, the reason to become a member of a bone marrow registry was simple.

“I always thought there would be no easier way to save somebody’s life,” said the 24-year-old student at Germany’s University of Goettingen, who signed up for the registry during a drive on his campus.

Nijland met the patient, Amanda Cooper, now 9, whose life he saved at the 39th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion at City of Hope on May 1. Germany has one of the largest bone marrow donor registries in the world, and in recent years, many of the donors who have visited the BMT Reunion at City of Hope have hailed from Nijland’s home country.

In fact, he has two classmates who have also been bone marrow donors. » Continue Reading

BMT patient Amanda Cooper, 9, has a ‘fun’ message for bone marrow donor

April 28, 2015 | by   

Updated: May 1

No parent ever wants to see their child hurting or sick in any way. Joanne Cooper’s daughter Amanda wasn’t sick, though. She seemed healthy. Vibrant. A straight-A student whose only major health ailment had been bouts of stress-related nausea.

bone marrow transplant

Bone marrow transplant recipient Amanda Cooper and her teddy bear Honey Buns at City of Hope in 2013.

Then a blood test revealed that Amanda – now 9 years old – had myelodysplastic syndrome – her blood stem cells were not maturing into red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets. She needed a bone marrow transplant, and none of her family members were a match.

“I remember Dr. (Stephen J.) Forman saying to me, ‘What do you want?’ I looked at him and said I wanted a miracle,” Cooper said. “I just wanted the thing to be gone.”

Forman told her that a matching donor for her daughter could be found. Amanda had her transplant in February 2013. As Cooper recalled: “‘This is the miracle,’ he said. “And it really was.”

That miracle came from a young man in Germany named Lars Nijland. Amanda and her parents Greg and Joanne Cooper thanked him in person at City of Hope’s 39th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion. The Coopers were among the 4,500 patients and family members who celebrated survival and second chances. The festivities kicked off with Amanda and another patient, Yesenia Portillo, meeting their unrelated donors for the first time.

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Minority health awareness: Change starts with listening

April 28, 2015 | by   

Noe Chavez became animated when he recalled the story:

minority health

Minority populations face a higher risk of cancer and other diseases than nonminority populations. Ending those disparities starts with listening.

“We were running a health event, screening folks for diabetes,” said the enthusiastic City of Hope population health researcher, “and this man comes over and starts talking to us about the trouble he’s having with his eyes. I spoke with him, listened for a while, then I made some calls and found him a doctor. The point is, this guy felt comfortable opening up to us. If we hadn’t been there, who knows if he would ever have received the care he needed.”

Although it happened far from California and long before Noe Chavez, Ph.D., arrived at City of Hope to investigate cancer statistics among minority communities, the episode stayed with him, informing much of what he does, not just during April’s Minority Health Awareness Month, but 365 days a year.

“Being right there in the community teaches you humility. You learn so much, listening to people’s stories, hearing about their needs,” he said.

Chavez and his colleagues at City 0f Hope’s Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education (CCARE) are the frontline troops in a broad initiative to understand why minority populations frequently endure higher rates of cancer and other diseases, and to develop programs capable of changing things on the ground. » Continue Reading

Fear, laughter … One couple’s advice on facing a terminal diagnosis

April 27, 2015 | by   

When Keith McKinny, 29, was first diagnosed with lymphoma and leukemia in 2010, the first person he thought of was former boyfriend Jason Mullins.

couple facing cancer

Lymphoma patient Keith McKinny and his husband share some advice on how to cope when one partner is diagnosed with cancer.

The two hadn’t been in contact with each other for some time, but McKinny couldn’t think of anyone else with whom he wanted to be during that difficult period. He knew he had to find Mullins.

That proved more challenging than McKinny had imagined. Even with the help of the Internet and social media networking sites, McKinny wasn’t able to locate and communicate with his former boyfriend.

There was little left for McKinny to do but continue with his treatment on his own, as best he could. After his doctors in Hemet, California, told him there was nothing else they could do for him, he was transferred to City of Hope. At that time, his prognosis suggested he had but two months to live. Fortunately, because of City of Hope, that prognosis proved to be too grim.

In March 2011, McKinny had a stem cell transplant at City of Hope, which gave him more time with his family and friends, not to mention additional time to find Mullins. Finally, in 2013, three years after his diagnosis, McKinny located Mullins. They connected. The two have been inseparable ever since. » Continue Reading