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As brain tumor patient learned, sometimes a second opinion isn’t enough

July 11, 2014 | by   

At age 44, Bridget Hanchette, a mother of three from La Crosse, Wisconsin, was diagnosed with grade IV glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of malignant brain tumor.

Bridget's doctors told her she only had a year to live. Then she met neurosurgeon Dr. Badie. That was 5 years ago.

Former brain tumor patient Bridget Hanchette is thankful she found neurosurgeon Behnam Badie, M.D. Other doctors told she had only a year to live; he saved her life. This past June, she celebrated being cancer-free for five-years.

The cancer grows and spreads quickly, making it difficult to treat. Most patients with this diagnosis are not given much hope, but Hanchette’s initial consult and even her second opinion came with more grim news: Surgery was off the table. Because of the location of the tumor, an operation would likely leave her paralyzed.

With surgery no longer an option, she was told that she only had about a year to live. That answer did not sit well with Hanchette and her family.

“After hearing that no one could touch my tumor, that it was inoperable, incurable and I’d only have a year to live supposedly, we decided to continue our quest to find a more hopeful path,” Hanchette said.

That path led her to City of Hope and neurosurgeon Behnam Badie, M.D., director of the Brain Tumor Program at City of Hope.

» Continue Reading

Parents can boost academic performance of childhood cancer survivors

July 10, 2014 | by   

Survival rates for childhood cancer have improved tremendously over the past few decades, but postcancer care hasn’t always kept up. More children than ever are now coping with long-term complications and side effects caused by their disease and treatment — one of those being learning difficulties.

City of Hope research shows parent intervention may help childhood cancer survivors improve their performance in school.

City of Hope research shows parent intervention may help childhood cancer survivors improve their performance in school.

A new study, published last month in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology and led by City of Hope researchers, suggests that parents can reduce the impact of cancer and cancer treatment on their children’s academic performance.

“It is possible to improve the child’s adaptive functioning in his or her daily life,” said lead author and neuropsychologist Sunita Patel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Population Sciences and Department of Supportive Care Medicine at City of Hope. “For the educational realm, parents can facilitate this by helping the child establish good study strategies and to teach the child that learning requires active engagement and effort.”

For the study, researchers analyzed the academic performance of childhood cancer survivors who had cancer treatment affecting their central nervous system. This group of survivors tends to experience long-term cognitive side effects, making it harder for them to retain information in school.

» Continue Reading

Bladder cancer patient finds he has an alternative to external device

July 9, 2014 | by   

When Sheldon Querido, a retired manufacturer’s representative, was diagnosed with bladder cancer, his doctor told him that he’d need to have his bladder removed – and that he’d have to wear an external urine-collection bag for the rest of his life.

Neobladder

An artificial bladder, called a neobladder, enables patients to urinate normally, eliminating the need for an external bag and allowing patients to transition back to their normal life after surgery.

“My first response was ‘I don’t want to live like that,” Querido told ABC 7 in a recent interview. “That’s gonna be a terrible way to live.”

Querido simply couldn’t accept that collecting his urine externally was his only option. The Thousand Oaks resident and his wife decided to get a second opinion at City of Hope. There, they learned there was indeed another choice: an artificial bladder, called a neobladder, built by specialists at City of Hope. » Continue Reading

To stop smoking, consider a drug – and a patch

July 8, 2014 | by   

To stop smoking, two approaches might be better than one. A new study has found that using the medication varenicline, or Chantix – along with nicotine patches – was more effective than the medicine alone in helping people quit.

A new study in JAMA finds using nicotine patches in combination with medication is more effective for helping smokers quit than the drug alone.

A new study finds that using nicotine patches in combination with medication is more effective for helping smokers quit than a drug alone.

The study, conducted by Stellanbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa, and published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, included 446 generally healthy smokers. One half used a nicotine patch, and the other half used a placebo patch; both groups began using the patches two weeks before their target quit date, and continued for an additional 12 weeks. One week before the target quite date, participants in both groups began using the drug varenicline and continued to take it for 12 weeks, tapering off in week 13.

Researchers found that patients who received the nicotine patch and varenicline were more likely to quit smoking and to have continued that abstinence at 12 weeks, 24 weeks and six months than the placebo group. In fact, at 6 months, 65.1 percent of the combination therapy group was still abstaining from smoking – confirmed by exhaled carbon monoxide measurements – versus 46.7 percent in the placebo group.

Brian Tiep, M.D.,  director of pulmonary rehabilitation at City of Hope, said the study not only points to a promising treatment option for smokers, but also underscores the importance of working with professionals who can create a tailored treatment plan for smokers wanting to quit the habit. Smoking is an addiction, and requires serious medical assistance, he says. » Continue Reading

Children with cancer, Part 3: Transitioning from patient to survivor

July 7, 2014 | by   

John Cloer was three months shy of his third birthday in 2004 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. For the next three and a half years, he received chemotherapy at City of Hope, finally obtaining long-term remission.

childhood cancer survivor John Cloer

The challenges of a cancer diagnosis don’t stop with treatment. Survivorship brings its own challenges, as John Cloer, a former leukemia patient at City of Hope, knows well.

His parents Bill and Gina, along with John and his younger brother Steve, recently sat down to reflect on that experience, sharing tips for family members and friends of children with cancer, as well as advice for parents of children with cancer. Here, they and City of Hope pediatric nurse Karla Wilson, R.N., M.S.N., discuss the sometimes difficult transition from treatment to survivorship.

In this third of a three-part series, they describe the transition from patient to survivor.

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Some of the cancer treatments that save children’s lives also may produce life-altering side effects that don’t materialize for years.

During the Cloers’ annual visit to City of Hope’s Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program, Wilson reviews John’s medical progress, and reminds his parents about conditions they’ll need to monitor.

When alerting patients that they may be prone to future therapy-related conditions, Wilson said she always tries to drive home one message above all: Just because survivors are at risk for a condition doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily develop it. » Continue Reading

As cancer screening evolves, consumers should follow the science

July 4, 2014 | by   

News about the risks or benefits of widespread cancer screening seem to arrive daily – 3D mammography for breast cancer, CT scans for lung cancer, PSA tests for prostate cancer and now pelvic exams for some women’s cancers. Missing in the headlines is a reflection of how cancer detection is evolving.

Rapidly shifting views on cancer screening can leave the average person confused. The key is to know your personal risks and talk with your doctor.

Rapidly shifting views on cancer screening can leave the average person confused. The key is to know your personal risks and talk with your doctor.

Today’s cancer experts say screening advice shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. For most cancers, they advocate individual assessments based on each person’s history. This assessment may lead to more specialized screening – or to no screening at all.

An annual consultation with a primary physician, now standard in the wake of health care reform, should make patients aware of their individual risk. From there come more refined choices. » Continue Reading

Transplants show promise for adults with sickle cell disease

July 3, 2014 | by   

Adults with sickle cell disease soon may have a new treatment option: bone marrow transplants.

Sickle cell disease, in which the body produces hemoglobin that is crescent-shaped, could be treated in adults with a bone marrow transplant, a new study finds.

Sickle cell disease, in which the body produces hemoglobin that is crescent-shaped, could be treated in adults with a bone marrow transplant, a new study finds.

Children with sickle cell disease have been treated successfully with transplantation of bone marrow, more officially known as hematopoietic stem cells, from other people. But the procedure has been less successful in adults, because the high-dose chemotherapy or radiation necessary to kill their own cells and allow the new cells to engraft has often been too toxic for adults to tolerate. A lower-density transplantation, however, might be the breakthrough that such patients have needed.

A new study has shown promising results for patients with severe sickle cell disease – including adults – who received a mix of a sibling’s cells and their own cells. The study, published July 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that adults receiving the lower-density transplant were able to avoid long-term mega-doses of chemotherapy or radiation. » Continue Reading

New guidelines recommend against pelvic exams for women. But wait …

July 2, 2014 | by   

New pelvic exam recommendations or not, women shouldn’t give up those routine gynecological appointments. The revised guidelines from the American College of Physicians exempt most women from pelvic examinations, but a cancer specialist at City of Hope says women should still plan on regular visits with their gynecologist for cancer screening.

gynecologist exam

New guidelines say that most women do not need a regular pelvic exam. However, physicians say, they should still plan on their regular Pap test to screen for cervical cancer. Some experts fear the impact of this change.

The guidelines were published July 1 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and call for routine pelvic exams to be skipped for women who are asymptomatic, of average risk for problems and not pregnant. No one is disputing the need, however, for regular Pap tests and cervical exams.

The study on which the recommendations are based found that routine pelvic exams were not beneficial to asymptomatic, average risk women who are not pregnant, as the exams rarely detect important disease and don’t reduce mortality, said Linda Humphrey, M.D., co-author of the guideline, in a news release.

The key to communicating this new guideline is making sure women understand that they should still receive Pap smear screening to detect cervical cancer. The incidence and death rates for cervical cancer have plummeted in the last 60 years, and continued to drop in the last decade, largely due to good screening, said Robert Morgan, M.D., co-director of the Gynecological Oncology/Peritoneal Malignancy Program at City of Hope. » Continue Reading

Meditopes: Hitching cancer drugs to antibodies (w/VIDEO)

July 1, 2014 | by   


Scientists have long searched for ways to bolster the immune system to fight diseases that seem to evade it, including cancer.

City of Hope scientists discovered what they call a meditope, an opening in the center of an antibody and a peptide that fits neatly into it, creating the perfect "hitch" that allows medicines to be attached to the antibodies for delivery to tumor sites.

City of Hope scientists discovered what they call a meditope, an opening in the center of an antibody and a peptide that fits neatly into it, creating the perfect “hitch” that allows medicines to be attached to the antibodies for delivery to tumor sites.

Many have focused on monoclonal antibodies, trying to use them as trucks to drop off payloads of drugs right at the site of an infection or tumor. The problem, however, has been welding the payload to the truck. While analyzing the structure of these antibodies, City of Hope scientists discovered a “hitch” – a hole in the center of the antibody’s structure, and a peptide that fits cleanly and easily into it.

This universal “hitch” – named a meditope by John C. Williams, Ph.D., and his research team that discovered it – has the potential to arm the immune system against cancer as well as other diseases.

Williams says his team is still exploring the applications but that the discovery has the potential to dramatically change oncology, radiology and other disciplines. Because the peptide can easily link to therapeutic molecules and hitch them to antibodies, the use for meditopes goes beyond cancer. Some of the diseases Williams and his team have considered so far include rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and macular degeneration.

This video explains how Williams and his team discovered the meditope.

Children with cancer, Part 2: How parents can help their kids

June 30, 2014 | by   

John Cloer was three months shy of his third birthday in 2004 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. For the next three and a half years, he received chemotherapy at City of Hope, finally obtaining long-term remission.

John Cloer

Now 13, John Cloer, right with younger brother Steve, was only 3 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His parents learned the hard way how to cope with a new array of parenting challenges. Shown here: John (right) with his brother, Steve.

His parents Bill and Gina, along with John and his younger brother Steve, recently sat down to reflect on that experience, sharing tips for family members and friends of children with cancer and now, their advice for parents facing a similar challenge.

In this second of a three-part series, they answer the question:

How can parents help their children with cancer? 

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1. Numb the pain. Perhaps because he still remembers caregivers frantically trying to start an IV in him the day he was diagnosed, John still dreads IVs and injections. The Cloers now ask nurses to use lidocaine to numb a site before the needle goes in. (They pay for this off-protocol request, but find it worth the costs.)

In the early days of John’s illness, the tense toddler used to “rub the rubber right off his pacifier,” said Bill. “I wish we had had a better tool set to manage his anxiety,” he added. Gina regrets they didn’t get John into the habit of meditating before procedures, “a coping skill I wish he’d have now.” » Continue Reading