When tuberculosis was a killer and confinement was the cure

January 14, 2014 | by   

Chartered in 1913 by the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association, City of Hope opened its doors in January of the following year. It was known officially as the Los Angeles Sanatorium, a place where tuberculosis patients from across the nation could recuperate from a disease that then had no cure.  

At the time, tuberculosis was one of the nation’s leading killers. That changed with the introduction of antibiotics. City of Hope changed too, refocusing on fighting cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. One thing has not changed, however: City of Hope’s commitment to its patients and to improving improve the health of people everywhere.

As City of Hope marks its 100th anniversary of caring for patients, we share the story of one of those tuberculosis patients, Betty Steinman. Her experiences remind us of how far health care has come, how far it must go and just how much difference one special place can make.


In 1954, not long after her son, Jay, turned 4 years old, Betty Steinman became a tuberculosis patient at City of Hope. She could not return home until nearly two years later — when he was 6.

Steinman, 91, vividly remembers the disease’s sudden, terrifying onset when she was only 32. » Continue Reading

Pediatric cancer researchers explore new ways to help kids

January 12, 2014 | by   

Every child fighting cancer is unique — and deserves treatment that recognizes differences in age, developmental stage, background and the cancer he or she is battling. City of Hope conducts groundbreaking research and practices compassionate care that addresses the needs of each child, tailoring treatment to overcome disease.

Our commitment to help children fight cancer

City of Hope is committed to helping children fight cancer. Our scientists' ground-breaking research and our physicians' life-saving treatments are all part of that commitment.

City of Hope is committed to helping children fight cancer. Our scientists’ groundbreaking research and our physicians’ lifesaving treatments are all part of that commitment.

City of Hope is committed to helping children fight cancer, even when prior treatments have failed. In 2013, our physicians saw 143 new pediatric patients, with a total of 11,847 clinic visits by children battling cancer.

Thanks to community outreach efforts at our new clinics around Los Angeles County, we saw an increase in primary patients, for whom City of Hope was a first destination for care. Clarke Anderson, M.D., assistant clinical professor of pediatrics, leads these efforts and travels around Los Angeles and Antelope Valley to care for children in underserved communities. He is able to provide City of Hope’s lifesaving care while sparing families the trip to our campus in Duarte, Calif.

Identifying new ways to treat a deadly cancer

Neuroblastoma, a type of nervous system tumor, is the most common cancer in infants and children, with nearly half of all cases occurring in children younger than two. Many children are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, liver, bone and bone marrow — and only half of those children survive.

Linda Malkas, Ph.D., deputy director of basic research and co-leader of the Molecular Oncology Program, is applying her research in DNA repair mechanisms to find ways to fight neuroblastoma. Her lab has identified a novel protein that is not expressed in healthy cells but is expressed in high levels in cancer cells including neuroblastoma. » Continue Reading

Veliparib shows promise for BRCA-related breast cancer patients

January 10, 2014 | by   

Of the estimated 230,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed annually in the U.S., approximately 12,000 patients carry harmful mutations on either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

breast cancer

Researchers are investigating the effectiveness of various drugs against breast cancer, including the PARP inhibitor veliparib.

Cancer cells carrying these mutations are unable to properly repair double-strand DNA. Because specific enzymes – poly ADP-ribose polymerase 1 and 2 (known as PARP1 and PARP2) – are needed for DNA repair in malignant (as well as normal) cells, drugs known as PARP inhibitors often are used to help kill the cells.

As George Somlo, M.D.,  professor in City of Hope’s Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, puts it: In BRCA1- or BRCA2-related  breast cancer, exposing the cancer cells to PARP inhibitors greatly enhances the potential for  irreversible single- or double-strand DNA damage.

In the fight against cancer, that kind of DNA damage is ideal.

Now Somlo and his colleagues are learning even more about how a specific PARP inhibitor, called veliparib (or ABT-888), could improve cancer treatment. » Continue Reading

Breast cancer spreads to brain by masquerading as neurons, study finds

January 9, 2014 | by   

Often, several years can pass between the time a breast cancer patient successfully goes into remission and a related brain tumor develops. During that time, the breast cancer cells somehow hide, escaping detection as they grow and develop. Now City of Hope researchers have found out how.

New City of Hope research uncovers how breast cancer cells evade the immune system and become brain tumors: By masquerading as neurons.

New City of Hope research has uncovered how breast cancer cells evade the immune system and become brain tumors: by masquerading as neurons.

Breast cancer cells disguise themselves as neurons,  becoming “cellular chameleons,” the scientists found. This allows them to slip undetected into the brain and, from there, develop into tumors.

The discovery is being heralded as “a tremendous advance in breast cancer research.”

Although breast cancer is a very curable disease – with more than 95 percent of women with early-stage disease surviving after five years – breast cancer that metastasizes to the brain is difficult to fight. In fact, only about 20 percent of patients survive a year after diagnosis.

“There remains a paucity of public awareness about cancer’s relentless endgame,” said Rahul Jandial, M.D., Ph.D., a City of Hope neurosurgeon who headed the breast-cancer-and-brain-tumor study, published online ahead of print this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Cancer kills by spreading. In fact, 90 percent of all cancer mortality is from metastasis,” Jandial said. “The most dreaded location for cancer to spread is the brain. As we have become better at keeping cancer at bay with drugs such as Herceptin, women are fortunately living longer. In this hard-fought life extension, brain metastases are being unmasked as the next battleground for extending the lives of women with breast cancer.” » Continue Reading

Wellness Wednesday: Get motivated to move more. Here’s how

January 8, 2014 | by   

As the calendar flipped to a new year, many of us made well-meaning promises to exercise more – and to really mean it this year. Chances are those promises will be forgotten before we’re used to writing 2014 on our checks.

Wellness Wednesday: Get moving

Exercise more. It’s easier than you think.

Moving more is all about motivation. Looking better, feeling better, fitting into smaller jeans, running a race faster, keeping up with kids, increasing energy – all are common motivations, and good ones. An even better one: Regular exercise can reduce your risk of cancer and diabetes.

Making the commitment to enough exercise to reduce the risk of these diseases will barely cut into your schedule. Past studies suggest that even three 10-minute sessions of cycling with 10 to 20 second bursts of high-intensity sprints can reduce diabetes risk. The American Diabetes Association recommends moderate-intensity exercise – such as a brisk walk – 30 minutes a day, five days a week to minimize risk.

Researchers are still assessing the type and intensity of exercise most beneficial for cancer risk reduction, but it’s likely to be fairly modest based on the studies that are available. For example, for best reduction in breast cancer risk, women should exercise three to four hours per week – about 25 to 35 minutes per day, according to Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., director of the Division of Etiology at City of Hope. The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity weekly, preferably spread throughout the week.

Tips for getting started: » 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

Resolve to pursue fitness beyond January by following these tips

January 3, 2014 | by   

Don’t panic. Start small. Increase gradually. Have fun. Eat real food. Listen to your body. Love your body.

Jeanette DePatie, aka The Fat Chick, a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer, offers tips and advice for making fitness resolutions stick.

Jeanette DePatie, aka The Fat Chick, a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer, offers tips and advice for making fitness resolutions stick.

Jeanette DePatie, a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer who goes by The Fat Chick, recently offered that advice via TweetChat to people considering their fitness goals for 2014.

Every year, many people vow to lose weight or start exercising more. These are worthy goals – as both have been linked with reduced risk of cancer and diabetes. However, many people give up these resolutions by mid-January, returning to the couch and the drive-thru.

It doesn’t have to be that way, DePatie says. Here’s some of the changes-for-the-long-term advice she and other participants shared in our recent TweetChat.

  • It can be scary at first, but the key is to start GENTLY. You can always ramp up. Start with a few minutes and see. @fatchicksings
  • Find an activity (or better yet, a few!) you enjoy & do them. (personally, I’m into urbanhikes, rollerblading & yoga) @foodie_fitness
  • Good idea to make sure you have charged cell phone for walk. And walk short loops until you’re comfortable with your fitness level. @fatchicksings
  • Set some goals and write them down. Then talk to loved ones about them & ask for support. It’s much easier to accomplish w/help. @rxwiki
  • Getting fit does not have to be hard or expensive. You can also use a pedometer (like the one I got from COH) to count steps. @fatchicksings
  • According to the National Weight Control Registry (the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance), 94 percent of participants increased their physical activity. The most common activity reported is walking. @cityofhope
  • Opt for healthier food choices rather than substitutions (i.e. instead of sugar/fat substitutes, try using less of regular stuff). @foodie_fitness
  • Change is more effective and works better when you start by liking yourself. @fatchicksings
  • Spot reducing is a myth. You can use spot exercises to strength, but won’t make that spot smaller. @fatchicksings
  • Key term here is LONG TERM. That’s what we want. These life changes are not just two weeks in January. @fatchicksings

For more tips, questions and answers, view the full chat here.



New Year’s resolutions: Tips on eating better, exercising more

January 1, 2014 | by   

Along with the midnight toast and the Times Square ball drop, New Year’s resolutions are an annual tradition at the changing of the year. But for many who’ve resolved to lead a healthier life in 2014 through mindful eating and regular exercising, sticking with these promises for the rest of year — and beyond — is another matter.

When making New Year's resolutions, stick with steady, incremental improvements in your diet and physical activity rather than one drastic change, experts say.

When making New Year’s resolutions, stick with steady, incremental improvements in your diet and physical activity rather than one drastic change, experts say.

Drastic changes, like going on a diet that eliminates entire food categories or suddenly engaging in rigorous exercise routines, can backfire, according to Peggy Mancini, M.S., R.D., a clinical dietitian at City of Hope, and Jeanette DePatie, a certified fitness instructor who calls herself “The Fat Chick.” Not only are these changes difficult to stick with, they can be downright harmful, these experts say.

“Really long and intense workouts after being sedentary for a while … are a recipe for pain and injury. That is why the sports medicine guys are so busy in February,” DePatie says.

“Any diet that restricts a food group results in a loss of nutrients unique to that group. The lost weight is unlikely to be kept off if it’s not an eating plan you can stick with,” she says.

Instead, Mancini and DePatie offer these tips to resolution-makers so they can keep their promises for better health this year: » Continue Reading

A simple act in Rhode Island, a lifesaving transplant in Duarte

January 1, 2014 | by   

Stem cell donations are usually an anonymous gift, with people who want to help others donating their lifesaving cells simply from the rightness and joy of being able to save another human being. The donor and the recipient almost never meet – except in special circumstances. On the morning of Jan. 1, 2014, at the 125th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., those special circumstances were in place. Former City of Hope patient Ben Teller met the woman who saved him from Hodgkin lymphoma: Nancy Haag.

Teller had previously spoken of his journey through the disease and transplant process, but Haag’s experience has not been shared publicly. This is her story.


Nancy Haag was attending a community fair with her family near their Newport, R.I., home in 1995, when she saw a booth for the national bone marrow donor registry.

Nancy Haag

Stem cell donor Nancy Haag, right, signed up for a bone marrow registry almost two decades ago. Finally, she got the call – and saved a young man’s life. Haag is shown here with her children, from left, Lindsay, Devon, Kelsey, Jill, Tre and Julie, and her husband, Gene.

On an impulse, she signed up.

Unlike today’s method of swabbing the inside cheek of a prospective enrollee, organizers collected a sample of her blood that day. “I remember having that big wad of gauze on me, and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s cool. Who knows, maybe they’ll call me.’”

Seventeen years later, in August 2012, they did.

By that time, Haag was a 47-year-old preschool teacher and mother of six who was living in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The call came during the “crazy-busy” week before her eldest daughter was getting married.

The Connecticut Be the Match office that had organized the Rhode Island donation drive nearly two decades before was calling to let her know she was a potential match, and to ask if she would undergo more thorough testing to confirm her compatibility. Haag learned only that the patient was a male in his early 20s, and had Hodgkin lymphoma.

“I just started thinking about the fact that my daughter and my son were about that age, and certainly, I would do whatever I needed to do for this young man to have a chance.”

Haag already knew about the ravages of Hodgkin lymphoma. When a dear friend and mother of a little boy in her preschool class was diagnosed with the disease years before, “I went through the journey with her,” Haag said. The friend survived chemotherapy and an autologous transplant, in which her stem cells were purified and infused back into her.

In the frenzied days before the wedding, Haag took time to have her doctor draw vials of her blood, then, meticulously following “really explicit directions,” she FedEx-ed her specimens back in a specially designed box packed with blocks of ice.

“I was still thinking they’re probably looking at 10 different people and there’s no way it will be me,” Haag recalled.

» Continue Reading

Cervical cancer: Much progress, still too many diagnoses

January 1, 2014 | by   

Cervical cancer was once one of the most-common causes of cancer death for women in the United States. Now, with better screening techniques, targeted treatments and vaccinations, the death rate has declined dramatically.

HPV vaccine

January has been deemed National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a time to reflect on how much progress has been made against the disease, and how much more needs to be done.

“The diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancers have changed markedly in the past 10 years,” said Robert J. Morgan, M.D., co-director of the gynecological cancers program at City of Hope. “The addition of chemotherapy to radiation in locally advanced cervical cancer in the early part of this century added significantly to the long-term, disease-free survivals in this illness.”

Discovering the connection between the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer was also groundbreaking, allowing for vaccination to lower the risk of cancer. “This discovery has increased our understanding of the pathogenesis of this illness and has allowed the development of very effective vaccines that can prevent the illness from occurring,” Morgan said.

This milestone is especially notable during January, which Congress has deemed Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Most people will acquire the HPV infection at some point in their lives, but their immune systems will usually eliminate the virus, Morgan said. The risk of developing cervical cancer, however, rises with exposure to the HPV strains that can cause the disease.

» Continue Reading