After adjusting to the rigors of a cancer patient’s schedule – a barrage of appointments with surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, chemotherapy treatments, surgeries, tests – cancer survivors have large adjustments to make.
“You get into this system where you’re seeing multiple doctors a week – you’re in a groove, and you’re comfortable with it,” said Kommah McDowell, a 37-year-old breast cancer survivor. “Then, it’s over. There’s this gap. In one word: Life.”
Through its African-American Breast Cancer Coalition, City of Hope is seeking ways to make sure black women don’t fall into a gap, but back into the groove of their lives while getting all the support they need along the way. McDowell serves as a peer navigator, helping women who have completed their treatment transition to the follow-up stage for a research study that aims to improve quality of life, survivorship care and the well-being of African-American women who have survived cancer.
“We’re finding out that African-American women need a little more support in terms of educating them in the follow-up phase of treatment,” said Kimlin Tam Ashing, Ph.D., director of the Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education, in a recent CBS Los Angeles interview. Ashing heads studies examining the effectiveness of peer navigators in improving outcomes for minority women both in active treatment as well as in the follow-up stages of care.
Black women have a five-year survival rate of 78 percent after a breast cancer diagnosis, compared to a 90 percent survival rate for white women. The coalition believes that early detection, appropriate treatment and follow-up care can save lives and close that gap. » Continue Reading
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A friend’s child has been hospitalized for cancer treatment. You want to visit, but don’t know what to say. You want to help, but don’t know what to do. City of Hope has some advice.
In this video series, Jeanelle Folbrecht, Ph.D., associate clinical professor of psychology in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine at City of Hope, explains what to say – and not say – to parents of young cancer patients; provides some do’s and don’ts when visiting a child in the hospital; and stresses the need to stay engaged with the family, even after treatment. » Continue Reading
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A side effect of cancer treatment many people don’t expect? Weight gain.
People with certain cancers – such as breast, prostate and colon cancer – are more likely to gain weight during treatment due to the therapies used to combat their disease. Hormone therapy, some chemotherapy regimens and medications such as steroids all can cause weight gain, as well as water retention.
Other treatments can increase appetite or cause fatigue – which can lead to eating more and moving less, a common formula for weight gain. In other cases, old-fashioned stress and “comfort” food could be triggers for weight gain.
Some studies of cancer patients have linked obesity to an increased risk of recurrence and death in several common cancers, including breast, colorectal and prostate cancer. The California Teachers Study, led by City of Hope’s Leslie Bernstein, showed that being obese was associated with a significant increase of dying from breast cancer for many women.
Patients currently in treatment, however, shouldn’t go on a diet – even if they find themselves gaining weight – without speaking to their physician. A doctor can help determine why weight is increasing and discuss the options.
The population of cancer survivors in the U.S. is on the rise at the same time as the obesity rate is increasing – to the point that two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight – so naturally, the number of cancer survivors struggling with their weight also has increased. » Continue Reading
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Humans are exposed to countless chemicals every day, so identifying the ones that can impact their health – specifically the ones that can increase cancer risk – is akin to looking for a sugar crystal in a salt shaker.
But that process has now been made much less arduous by researchers at City of Hope. They’ve developed a screening test that can analyze 16 times as many chemicals as conventional means. The test — called AroER tri-screen™ — can quickly analyze up to 1,536 compounds’ effect on estrogen and aromatase, an enzyme that converts androgen to estrogen.
The results verifying this novel screening method — and discovering that the antidepressant paroxetine (Paxil) acts as an estrogen promoter —are published ahead of print online in Toxicological Sciences.
“Approximately 70 percent of breast cancers are sensitive to estrogen, and exposure to estrogen-disrupting compounds — especially during the critical periods of pregnancy, childhood and adolescence — can have an irreversible impact on still-developing bodies,” said Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., professor and chair of City of Hope’s Department of Cancer Biology and lead author of the study. “Thus, it makes sense to develop this test, which can assess many chemicals at once, to help us quickly identify which environmental compounds are disrupting estrogen functions.”
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But Margarita Gutova, M.D., assistant research professor in the laboratory of Karen Aboody, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and the Division of Neurosurgery, in collaboration with Robert Wechsler-Reya, Ph.D., director of the tumor initiation and maintenance program at Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, may have found a way to bypass this barrier using neural stem cells — self-renewing cells that can later differentiate into neurons and other nervous system cells.
“Neural stem cells offer a novel way to overcome this obstacle because they can cross the blood-brain barrier and selectively target tumor cells throughout the brain,” Gutova said.
In the video above, Gutova explained how this ability can be harnessed to help treat brain tumors. Used as a delivery vehicle, neural stem cells can be engineered to target and deliver anti-cancer agents specifically to brain tumor sites. This method results in concentrated therapy at the tumor sites, while minimizing harm to surrounding normal tissue.
Additionally, Gutova is investigating whether the neural stem cells can be delivered intranasally, or through the nostrils and nasal cavity. This novel delivery method, if proven effective, is much less invasive, and could reduce the number of complicated procedures — and their associated risks — that these young patients must often endure. » Continue Reading
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As the nation commemorates Black History Month, a City of Hope researcher is calling attention to the fact that a shocking 15 percent of African-American breast cancer survivors do not receive annual follow-up mammograms after their treatment stops.
“We did a preliminary study that informed our current survivorship study – and so many African-American breast cancer survivors were not getting basic minimal follow-up surveillance,” said Kimlin Tam Ashing, Ph.D., founding director of the Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education. “Also, patients were not being educated about their treatments, possible side effects and how to improve their symptom management and self-care to enhance their survivorship.”
Among the health disparities faced by black women – and by Latina women – is a greater-than-average risk for more serious disease and death from breast cancer. In addition, black women face an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer, delays in diagnosis and treatment, and a lack of follow-up care.
Survivorship care plans are now the standard of care, according to the Commission on Cancer, and Ashing and her team are evaluating how to tailor these plans to various ethnic groups. » Continue Reading
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Cigarettes are obviously bad for your health. They’re blamed for one in five deaths in the United States and for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also contribute to the risk heart disease, aneurysms, bronchitis, emphysema and stroke.
In fact, cigarettes cause more deaths each year than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, car accidents and guns – combined.
Most people understand that cigarettes contain chemicals. What they might not understand is what happens when those chemicals are burned. Once lit, a cigarette releases – via smoke – thousands of chemicals, many of them both toxic and carcinogenic.
“We do not know all the chemicals that go into a cigarette,” said Brian Tiep, M.D., director of pulmonary rehabilitation and smoking cessation at City of Hope. “There are somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 chemicals. And a cigarette would not necessarily continue to burn if it weren’t for these additives that the tobacco industry puts in them.”
Some of the chemicals in cigarette smoke are also found in batteries, rocket fuel, toilet cleaners and rat poison.
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Yet another study is casting doubt about the value of mammograms, eroding the confidence of many women in the value of what has proven to be a lifesaving screening for breast cancer.
The study, published Feb. 11 in the British Medical Journal, found that death rates over 25 years were the same among women ages 40 to 59 regardless of whether or not they underwent regular mammograms.
The researchers wrote in their conclusion: “Our results support the views of some commentators that the rationale for screening by mammography should be urgently reassessed by policy makers.”
But many physicians who feel responsible for women’s health are unconvinced.
“This study does not change my view,” said Laura Kruper, M.D., head of breast surgery service at City of Hope and director of the Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center. » Continue Reading
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Learning that a friend or colleague’s child has been diagnosed with cancer can leave people wanting to help – then stopping short because they have no idea how to do so.
“So often, people don’t know what to do or say, so they back off, waiting for the family to reach out. Meanwhile, the family is in chaos and trauma, and doesn’t know how or when to reach out,” said Jeanelle Folbrecht, Ph.D., associate clinical professor of psychology in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine at City of Hope.Folbrecht’s overall advice: “Stay engaged with the family in a way that’s not intrusive … that shows that you care, are willing to help, and that you don’t feel helping is a burden,” she said.
In this interview, she offers some guidelines on how best to bring comfort. » Continue Reading
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TV journalist Tom Brokaw’s recent acknowledgement of his multiple myeloma diagnosis calls attention not only to the disease, but also to how much progress doctors have made against it.
City of Hope has been at the forefront of that progress. Our Multiple Myeloma Program is known internationally for its research breakthroughs and clinical treatments. Here, researchers have developed new combinations of chemotherapy medications and have improved procedures used for stem cell transplants and radiation treatments.
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