Specific protein may be powerful indicator of liver cancer, study finds

March 9, 2015 | by   

Liver cancer is terribly difficult to cure. Despite significant treatment advances, five-year survival rates remain at about 15 percent overall — and they rapidly approach zero when the disease is found too late. Findings by City of Hope’s Peiguo Chu, M.D., Ph.D., and a team of scientists may help better those odds.

protein glypican 3

Those at risk of liver cancer may find hope of early detection in a protein called glypican 3.

Scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis, is a major risk factor for liver cancer. It’s caused most often by infection with the hepatitis B or C viruses, alone or together, as well as alcohol abuse and a build-up of fat in the liver known as fatty liver disease.

Determining if cancer has developed in a cirrhotic liver is difficult, and early detection is particularly challenging. Unlike breast and colon cancers, liver cancer appears to have no precancerous lesions that might indicate cancer is imminent, according to Chu, a professor in the Department of Pathology. Various abnormal cells in the scarred liver can hint at the presence of disease, but they are unreliable.

Chu believes a protein called glypican 3 may offer a better answer. In a study recently published in the journal Carcinogenesis, his research team found that glypican 3 was present at much higher levels in liver cancer than in normal liver tissue and in cirrhotic liver tissue that was not cancerous.

» Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Christiane Querfeld on cutaneous lymphoma

March 7, 2015 | by   
Christiane Querfeld

Christiane Querfeld discusses how new cutaneous lymphoma therapies and physician collaboration lead to better patient outcomes

Cutaneous lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, is a rare type of cancer that begins in the white blood cells and attacks the skin. It can cause rash-like skin redness and, sometimes, skin tumors. Although cutaneous lymphomas are rare, accounting for about 5 percent of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas, approximately 20,000 people in the United States are estimated to have cutaneous lymphoma.

Here, dermatologist/dermatopathologist and cutaneous lymphoma expert Christiane Querfeld, M.D., Ph.D., director of City of Hope’s Cutaneous Lymphoma Program, discusses how new therapy options and continued collaboration among physicians have contributed to better care and outcomes for cutaneous lymphoma patients, and helped many to return to a normal life.

What is cutaneous lymphoma and what causes it?

Cutaneous lymphomas, also known as lymphomas of the skin, are rare forms of cancer of the lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell that fights infection in the body) that primarily manifest in the skin, but may spread to the lymph nodes, blood and other organs. All cutaneous lymphomas are non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Most cases of cutaneous lymphoma have no known cause, and therefore, they are difficult to prevent. Understanding why the lymphocytes on the skin become cancerous in the skin is a current research focus here at City of Hope. » Continue Reading

Curing HIV is the goal. New stem cell clinical trial could get us there

March 6, 2015 | by   

Curing HIV, not simply controlling its replication, is the ultimate goal of HIV researchers. A new clinical trial at City of Hope could put that goal within reach.

The trial will test an innovative new therapy that modifies the stem cells of patients with HIV to make them resistant to infection with the virus. Here’s how it works:


A novel treatment for HIV will be offered via clinical trial at City of Hope. The therapy edits a patient’s stem cells to prevent production of a protein the virus needs to infect healthy cells.

The AIDS virus relies on a protein called CCR5 to penetrate and infect cells. For the trial, researchers will use a zinc finger nuclease, or ZFN, to modify blood stem cells from patients infected with HIV. The ZFN acts as a pair of molecular scissors that cuts the CCR5 gene out of the cells. Without the gene, there is no CCR protein – and researchers hope that when these cells are infused back into the patient, their immune system will be resistant to HIV.

“It’s erasing the gene, and once it’s erased, it never can reappear,” said John Zaia, M.D., in an interview with BuzzFeed News. Zaia is the Aaron D. Miller and Edith Miller Chair in Gene Therapy at City of Hope, chair of the Department of Virology and principal investigator of the trial. » Continue Reading

Elder care skills (and training) are vital at cancer hospitals

March 5, 2015 | by   

Bustling from room to room, bed to bed, patient care assistants are among those health care workers most intimately involved in the daily care of patients. They work closely with nurses by preparing rooms, bathing patients, assisting with skin care and providing other essential living needs. They also perform medically oriented work, such as obtaining specimens and checking vital signs.

geriatric training course

Gloria Vazquez-Amadeo proudly displays the button she earned after graduating from a geriatric training course for patient care assistants.

With patient care assistants so closely involved with patients’ day-to-day lives during treatment, it’s vital that they have the right skills to meet patients’ needs, especially as it relates to elder care. Because cancer is primarily a disease of the elderly, cancer patients are likely to be older adults.

The need for elder care skills will only grow. The overall U.S. population is aging, and projections show a 67 percent increase in cancer incidence by 2030 for people over 65. Further, many younger cancer patients develop symptoms and treatment side effects that can mimic conditions that older patients experience.

To help ensure that City of Hope is ready to meet cancer patients’ specialized needs, a group of personal care assistants recently undertook a special geriatric training program offered by the Department of Professional Practice and Education. The course included 16 hours of online work followed by two hours of classroom work per month for five months, providing participants with in-depth, interactive training in important skills needed to ensure the highest quality care. » Continue Reading

The future of colorectal cancer screening? It might be in your DNA

March 4, 2015 | by   

We’ve all heard the mantra: Cancer screening saves lives. And it does, especially with colorectal cancer.

DNA tests for colorectal cancer

A new colorectal screening that tests stool for DNA may persuade some colonoscopy-phobic people to be screened. It doesn’t detect all polyps, but as Dr. James Lin points out: “The best colon cancer screening test is the one the patient is using.”

Regular colonoscopies have been proven to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer death by up to 70 percent. Screening for colorectal cancer using the even simpler fecal occult blood tests has been found to reduce the risk of death by up to 33 percent.

Yet, despite the proven benefits of colorectal cancer screening, many people still put it off – or skip it altogether. To raise awareness of the very real need for colorectal cancer screening, March has been deemed Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 132,700 new cases of colorectal cancer in the United States this year and that approximately 49,700 patients will die from this disease.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends that adults begin colorectal cancer screening at age 50 and continue until they are 75 years old. Depending on which test is used, screening only need happen as little as once every 10 years.

New screening and prevention tools for colorectal cancer continue to evolve. In August of 2014, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new DNA stool test that can be used to screen for colorectal cancer.

» Continue Reading

Cancer Insights: The potential of CAR-T cells to fight prostate cancer

March 3, 2015 | by   

Pick up any biotech industry report and you’re guaranteed to come across one term repeatedly – CAR-T therapy. A fierce competition is now underway to bring CAR-T treatments to market – several companies (Juno, Novartis, Kite and Cellectis, to name a few) have major stakes in the race. I’ve found the CAR-T buzz has also penetrated the clinic — not a day goes by that I don’t have a conversation with a patient regarding this emerging technology.

Sumanta Pal, M.D.

Sumanta Kumar Pal explains the potential of CAR-T cell therapies for prostate cancer.

So what is CAR-T? Essentially, it’s an engineered immune cell (called a T cell) that has on its surface a highly specific protein called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). These “souped up” immune cells can mount a potent and highly specific attack against tumors.

Last year, a group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania published results in the New England Journal of Medicine pertaining to 30 patients who had received CAR-T therapies. These patients were suffering from a relapse of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and had failed standard treatments. The results were nothing short of remarkable – at six months following treatment, roughly two-thirds of patients remained free of disease.

These findings were a phenomenal leap forward for patients with this relatively rare disorder. A couple of roadblocks stand in the way of further development of CAR-T cells, however. » Continue Reading

Evening of Remembrance: Coping tips for families who have lost loved ones to cancer

March 2, 2015 | by   
Evening of Remembrance

City of Hope will host its inaugural Evening of Remembrance on March 12, 2015.

Patients undergoing treatment at City of Hope know they will be receiving the best medical care available, that their treatment will be delivered with compassion and that their care will extend to their families.

“When we treat a patient here, we treat a family,” says Jo Ann S. Namm, child life manager and specialist in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine. Sometimes, however, a patient dies. When this happens, City of Hope’s care for the family does not stop.

City of Hope’s commitment to the continuum of care ensures that the family is viewed as an extension of the patient. As a part of this commitment, City of Hope will hold an inaugural Evening of Remembrance on March 12 at 7 p.m. in the Duarte campus’ Cooper Auditorium.

» Continue Reading

Get the facts about colorectal cancer. Here are 31 (one a day) for March

March 1, 2015 | by   

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Thanks to better treatments and increased screening, more people are surviving the disease today.

Did you know that colorectal cancer equally affects men and women? Or that it’s the third-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.? Most important, did you know that colorectal cancer is very treatable and highly curable if detected early? If you didn’t know these facts, it’s time to learn.

More and more people are surviving colorectal cancer through better treatments and increased screening, so getting the screening – a very simple procedure – is crucial.

Help raise awareness of colorectal cancer – and the need for screening – by sharing the following 31 facts, one for each day of March, also known as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, with family and friends to continue the fight against colorectal cancer.

1. Genetics, family history, age or environmental/lifestyle factors can each increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

2. Colorectal screening is crucial. It allows doctors to find and remove polyps (small areas of tissue that can become cancerous), as well as discover colorectal tumors at an early stage, rather than waiting for symptoms to occur. » Continue Reading

Celebrating the Lunar New Year: City of Hope charges forward

February 26, 2015 | by   
City of Hope Patients and physicians welcomed the New Year of the Ram in L.A.'s annual Chinese New Year parade

City of Hope patients and physicians welcome the New Year of the Ram in L.A.’s annual Lunar New Year parade

To celebrate the beginning of Lunar New  Year 2015, City of Hope honored not just a new lunar calendar, but also the diversity of the community it serves.

On Feb. 21, as tens of thousands of people celebrated Lunar New Year (and the arrival of the Year of the Ram) in the streets of L.A.’s Chinatown, City of Hope did so as well – with its own ram’s head-bedecked float. Riding atop the float were two City of Hope patients and their families, as well as three City of Hope physicians.

Jerry Wang, a gastric cancer survivor was joined by his wife, Sharon, who works at City of Hope, and their twins Ellie and Marcus. Yan Hou, who says her journey with breast cancer inspires her continuing volunteer work at City of Hope, rode with her husband, John Wang.

Celebrating with them were City of Hope physicians Michael Lew, M.D., clinical professor and chair, Department of Anesthesiology; Helen Chen, M.D., a radiation oncologist; and Yuman Fong, M.D.,  professor and chair of the Department of Surgery and associate director for international relations.

City of Hope has a long history of research that benefits diverse populations, especially those in its neighboring communities. Through its services – including in-language materials, translators and a dedicated Chinese website – City of Hope supports patients and their families as they battle cancer. In 2014, City of Hope launched its International Medicine Program, focusing its efforts initially on patients seeking care from China.

Through its float in the annual Golden Dragon Parade, sponsored by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, as well as celebrations on the Duarte campus and at its community practice locations across Southern California, City of Hope celebrated not just Lunar New Year 2015, but the very community to which it is so committed.


Visit our Chinese-language website.


Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope 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.


Charlie Rose: Experts talk of cancer breakthroughs and ‘tyranny of time’

February 26, 2015 | by   
Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose interviews, from left, City of Hope’s Stephen J. Forman, Steven T. Rosen and City of Hope President and CEO Robert W. Stone.

The breakthroughs that have revolutionized cancer treatment, transforming cancer in many cases to a very manageable and even curable disease, started out as just ideas.

“I will often tell patients there’s no therapy we’re using to help them that wasn’t derived from somebody’s idea in some laboratory, working late into the night,” said Stephen J. Forman, M.D., Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope. “There’s a challenge, I think, maintaining a certain level of funding so that all good ideas get a chance to see if they’re going to help someone.”

The commitment to that ingenuity, along with the ability to seamlessly and safely bring those ideas from the laboratory to the patient, are what set City of Hope apart. The challenges in translating medicine into practical benefit, the future of precision medicine, how the field of cancer treatment has evolved and the role of 101-year-old City of Hope were the topics recently on “Charlie Rose,” a nationally syndicated show on PBS and Bloomberg television.

City of Hope President and Chief Executive Officer Robert W. Stone, Provost and Chief Scientific Officer Steven T. Rosen, M.D., and Forman sat down with Rose in an interview that aired Feb. 25. » Continue Reading