Cancer risk posed by nail salons’ UV lights: Putting it in perspective

May 1, 2014 | by   

An increased risk of skin cancer seems a high price to pay for quickly dried fingernails – and yet a recent study suggests that’s what you get with repeated use of ultraviolet, or UV, lamps used at nail salons.

UV risk and nail salons

The UV lights used at nail salons may pose a slightly increased risk of cancer, but the operative word is “slightly.”

The lamps-and-fingernails study, published April 30 in JAMA Dermatology, was a natural headline-grabber:

24 Visits to the Nail Salon Could Trigger Skin CancerTime

Could drying your nails at the salon give you cancer?Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Nail salon UV lamps: Are they safe? – CBS News

But the study – and the reaction to it – may shed as much light on the perception of risk as it does on the risk of skin cancer.

City of Hope experts discussed both at our recent “Cancer Urban Legends: Fact or Fiction?” Ask the Experts presentation. The topics reflected the cancer myths, rumors and worries experienced by the average consumer and, perhaps unsurprisingly here in well-manicured Southern California, the risk posed by nail salon lights was one of those concerns. » Continue Reading

Medicare advised not to cover lung cancer screening; experts dismayed

May 1, 2014 | by   

In a move that surprised and disappointed lung cancer doctors and other experts on Wednesday, a Medicare panel advised against covering low-dose CT scans to detect the disease early.

A government panel has recommended against Medicare coverage for lung cancer screening that could, according to studies, save more than 12,000 lives a year.

The panel, a nine-member body that issues nonbinding recommendations to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, determined that there isn’t enough evidence to justify annual CT scans to detect early lung cancer in smokers, as recently recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The task force’s move to embrace low-dose CT scans for lung cancer screening had been lauded by doctors and patient advocates as a major victory against the disease, a leading killer of men and women in the United States. The National Lung Screening Trial and  studies based on it had found that the scans are effective in detecting lung cancer at an early stage, and that the screening could save more than 12,000 lives each year if every screening-eligible American received an annual scan.

Dan Raz, M.D., co-director of City of Hope’s Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program, was among the experts participating in the panel’s meeting in Baltimore on Wednesday. » Continue Reading

Radiation linked to lower lymphedema risk in breast cancer patients

April 30, 2014 | by   

For some breast cancer patients whose cancer has also spread to their axillary lymph nodes, radiation might be a better option than surgically removing the nodes, a new study suggests.

A new study finds radiation poses a lower risk of lymphedema for women treated for breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes than removing the nodes.

A new study finds radiation poses a lower risk of lymphedema for women treated for breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes than removing the nodes.

Previous studies have shown that, when looking strictly at survival, both approaches are about equal. The new study finds that radiation therapy, which is emerging as a treatment protocol for breast cancer affecting the lymph nodes, is associated with significantly fewer complications than removal of the nodes.

The results from the international multicenter trial are being presented in Las Vegas at Breast Cancer Update 2014, the 15th annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons. The study included nearly 5,000 randomized patients. It found those patients with positive sentinel nodes treated with radiation suffered less lymphedema – swelling, usually in the arms or legs associated with blockage in the lymphatic system – as well as less arm parasthesia and other postsurgery complications.

But breast cancer specialists aren’t advising women to automatically choose radiation over lymph node removal. » Continue Reading

Cancer is different for adolescents, young adults; so are their needs

April 30, 2014 | by   

Cancer is undeniably difficult both for adults and for children. Even if they don’t fully understand the ramifications, adults usually enter treatment knowing who they are and where they stand in life. Children usually enter treatment by following their parents’ lead. Adolescents and young adults, at times, don’t have such a firm footing.

cancer in young adults

Young adults and teenagers with cancer face unique challenges, questions and concerns. Each of them need to undergo a comprehensive psychosocial assessment, says City of Hope’s Jonathan Espenschied.

Further, improvements in survival rates for adolescents and young adults – called AYAs – haven’t improved at the same rate as those for children and adults. With cancer as the leading cause of disease-related death among adolescents and young adults, many more advances in care and treatment are needed.

Here, Jonathan Espenschied, M.D., director of Graduate Medical Education and Clinical Training at City of Hope and a researcher on cancer among adolescents and young adults, explains how cancer affects young people differently and what steps need to be taken to serve them better. To begin with, he says, hospitals, doctors and other health care workers need to streamline assessment and treatment, improve their use of technology, provide comprehensive AYA specific support and, of course, conduct more research.

How is cancer for young adults different?

Forget about the cancer part for a second, and think about the physical and emotional development in this age group. This an important time in a young adult’s life where they’re figuring themselves out; their body and minds are developing, their personalities evolving. This age group is on the cusp of figuring out who they want to be and where they want to go in life. » Continue Reading

Promoting workplace wellness makes sense … and cents

April 29, 2014 | by   

Although workplace wellness programs — an employer-endorsed set of activities or policies promoting healthy behaviors — have numerous benefits for employees, the idea of creating, implementing and maintaining them may seem daunting to many businesses and organizations. Further, employers may see these programs as an unnecessary expense with no tangible, positive results.

Workplace wellness programs have numerous benefits for employees and employers, and they don't have to be costly in money or time.

Workplace wellness programs have numerous benefits for employees and employers; also, they don’t have to be costly in money or time.

To help dispel that notion and to encourage Antelope Valley employers to build a culture of wellness, City of Hope — in conjunction with Antelope Valley Board of Trade and the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce — will hold a panel discussion, “Community Dialogue: Wellness and the Workplace,” on workplace wellness programs, their benefits and how they can be adapted to fit an organization’s needs and available resources.

The workplace wellness event will take place at City of Hope | Antelope Valley on Friday, May 2, from 8:30 to 11 a.m.

“Our hope is that attendees will be excited and inspired to change their lives — and the organizations they lead — based on what they hear that day,” said Stephanie Neuvirth, City of Hope’s chief human resources and diversity officer. “Wellness does not have to be a dramatic shift in strategy and mission, it is about making adjustments to create healthy living environments and habits for employees in and out of their workplaces.”

Neuvirth, who will be part of the panel discussion, noted that the average full-time employee spends more waking time at his or her workplace than at home most days of the week, so employers have a great influence over their staff’s well-being. And enhancing that well-being can, in turn, bolster employee satisfaction and engagement.

» Continue Reading

Join a bone marrow donor registry; you just might save a life

April 28, 2014 | by   

For many patients with hematological cancers, transplantation is their best – and sometimes only – chance at a cure.

Thousands of patients each year rely on unrelated donors to provide stem cells or bone marrow for transplant.

Thousands of patients each year rely on unrelated donors to provide stem cells or bone marrow for transplant.

These lifesaving hematopoietic transplants use bone marrow, stem cells or cord blood cells to replace a patient’s faulty cells, which are critical to a healthy and functioning immune system.

Each year, thousands of patients rely on the generosity of anonymous donors to provide the cells they need for transplantation, as family members are not always a match. At City of Hope, between 500 and 600 bone marrow transplants are performed each year, and in almost half the cases, an unrelated donor is needed.

“Thousands of patients each year would benefit from a transplant from an unrelated donor, but unfortunately, many of these patients still do not have a match,” said Jill Kendall, program director for Be the Match at City of Hope. “It’s important to increase the number of people on the bone marrow registry and add diversity. There’s an increased need for people of mixed ethnic background and minorities to join the registry as they are underrepresented.”

More than 6,500 bone marrow, stem cell or cord blood recipients, their families, caregivers and donors are poised to convene at the Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion on May 9, City of Hope’s 38th celebration of these patients and the people who gave them a lifesaving gift.

Be the Match offers the following guidelines and information for people interested in potentially becoming hematopoietic cell donors.

What’s the first step?

The first step to becoming a bone marrow donor is to join the Be the Match Registry, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis that operates the largest and most diverse registry of volunteer hematopoietic cell donors and umbilical cord blood units in the U.S. Potential donors provide a swab of cheek cells using a kit either at an in-person drive or through the mail if you join online at

What’s the commitment?

Donating is always voluntary. As a member of the registry, you are asked to keep your contact information updated, inform the registry if you have significant health changes or if you change your mind. In addition, please respond quickly if you are contacted as a potential match. Agree to donate to any searching patient who matches you, and stay on the registry until your 61st birthday – or until you ask to be removed. Respond immediately if you do not wish to donate, so the search for another donor can continue without dangerous delays for the patient. » Continue Reading

New study connects mutant enzyme to cancer’s ‘Warburg effect’

April 22, 2014 | by   

Cancer cells may be known for their uncontrollable growth and spread, but they also differ from normal tissue in another manner: how they produce energy.

New City of Hope study finds that a cancer-prone mutation of the enzyme RECQ4 accumulates in the mitochondria (the green & orange structure in above model) and can cause it to dysfunction, possibly explaining cancer's "Warburg effect."

New City of Hope study finds that a cancer-prone mutation of the gene RECQ4 causes its corresponding enzyme, RECQ4, to accumulate in the mitochondria (the green and orange structures in above illustration of a cell’s components.) This can cause mitochondrial dysfunction, possibly explaining cancer’s “Warburg effect.”

In healthy cells, energy is derived primarily from aerobic respiration, an oxygen-requiring process that extracts the maximum possible energy from glucose, or blood sugar. The amount of energy is measured by the number of units produced of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Energy may also be derived from lactic acid fermentation, which does not require oxygen but is also much less efficient, producing only two ATPs per glucose molecule versus 30 or more ATPs per glucose molecule in aerobic respiration. However, most cancer cells use lactic acid fermentation as their main method of generating energy — even in oxygen-rich environments. This method of generating energy, coupled with a high glucose-processing rate to compensate for the low ATP-per-glucose output, is called the Warburg effect.

new study by City of Hope researchers, published in Cell Reports on April 14, may explain why malignant cells prefer this less productive process.

» Continue Reading

Researcher lands $4.2 million NCI grant for clinical trials consortium

April 21, 2014 | by   

Clinical trials are expensive and complex, but they’re essential for bringing new therapies to patients. Edward Newman, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular pharmacology, just boosted City of Hope’s ability to conduct those studies with a five-year, $4.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).


City of Hope’s Edward Newman was awarded a $4.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to help support early therapeutics clinical trials.

The grant is the largest awarded to a City of Hope investigator by the National Institutes of Health this fiscal year.

The funds support the collaboration of three National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers — City of Hope, the University of Southern California/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and University of California, Davis Cancer Center. The trio will participate as a consortium in the NCI Early Therapeutics-Clinical Trials Network.

The consortium of cancer centers has been conducting clinical trials together for two decades, evaluating new drugs in phase I studies.

Phase I clinical trials are the first step in testing new treatments in patients. Clinical researchers use them to look for a drug’s side effects, determine if a drug works in patients and find the maximum safe dose for a drug.

» Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Yuman Fong on the future of cancer surgery

April 19, 2014 | by   

Meet City of Hope’s new chair of the Department of Surgery – esteemed pancreatic and hepatobiliary surgeon, researcher and author Yuman Fong, M.D. As one of today’s most respected and recognizable physicians in the treatment of cancers of the liver, bile duct, gallbladder and pancreas, Fong has pioneered and enhanced many surgical therapies now widely used around the world to treat these difficult diseases. He also coordinates and participates in many studies aimed at better understanding them and at their prevention and treatment.

Yuman Fong

Yuman Fong, the new chair of City of Hope’s Department of Surgery, says research plays a key role in developing new and improved cancer therapies.

Here he discusses how research plays a key role in developing new and improved cancer therapies and how the future of cancer surgery is “less invasive, more cures.”

What are your primary areas of research?

There are three primary areas of research I focus on – the designing of viral vectors for gene therapy (to destroy cancer cells), surgical technology and biological imaging.

When developing viral vectors for gene therapy, one must first understand how viruses work. All viruses attack their hosts and introduce their genetic material into the host cell as part of their replication cycle. The host cell then produces additional copies of the virus, leading to more and more cells becoming infected. With viral vectors, we take certain viruses and genetically modify and design them to attack and destroy cancer cells only while sparing normal tissues. By exploiting some of the characteristics of cancer cells, these viruses only replicate in cancer cells, ultimately destroying them.

Another area of immense research is surgical technology. “Less invasive, more cures” is my motto. Here I focus on developing new tools for use in the operating room. Using robotics and many other minimally invasive surgical devices, including needles and catheters, can make the therapies much simpler for patients. » Continue Reading

17-year-old wonders about bone marrow donor; soon, she’ll get answers

April 18, 2014 | by   

For most of her life, Southern California teenager Kayla Saikaly described herself as healthy, even very healthy. She played basketball. She never missed school with as much as a fever. Her worst childhood illness was nothing more than a cold.

Kayla Saikaly, 17, and her mother Samar fought her aplastic anemia together. They will meet the match who donated bone marrow for her lifesaving transplant at City of Hope May 9.

Kayla Saikaly, 17, and her mother, Samar, fought her aplastic anemia together. They will meet the donor of her lifesaving bone marrow at City of Hope on May 9.

Then, when she was 13, her nose started bleeding after a basketball game. That incident, coupled with unexplained bruising on her arms and legs, worried her mother. She took Kayla to a physician. A series of tests ruled out leukemia, but the Cerritos teenager was found to have aplastic anemia.

“It basically means your bone marrow is not producing the blood cells it needs to be producing – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets,” explained Kayla, now 17. “Once those get thrown off, everything gets thrown off in your whole body. One day I was healthy, and the next, it was like everything was not right in my body.”

Her doctors at Kaiser Permanente considered a bone marrow transplant, but neither Kayla’s mother Samar, father Riad or older brother Alex were a suitable match. So instead Kayla took medications to boost her cell counts. The drugs worked for a year and a half, but then they began to impact her kidneys, ultimately forcing Kayla to stop taking the medications. Eight months later, her blood cell counts began to drop again. Kayla needed a bone marrow transplant. » Continue Reading