Esophageal cancer patient Jim Murphy: What I learned from cancer

January 12, 2015 | by   
patinet riding mountain bike

Esophageal cancer patient Jim Murphy never let cancer take over his life during his treatment at City of Hope. He continued to bike ride and ski during chemotherapy and radiation.

Sales and marketing executive Jim Murphy first came to City of Hope in 2002 to donate blood for a friend who was being treated for esophageal cancer.

The disease is serious. Although esophageal cancer accounts for only about 1 percent of cancer diagnoses in the U.S., only about 20 percent of patients survive at least five years after diagnosis. Murphy wanted to do whatever he could to help.

His friend successfully beat the cancer and is still doing well today ­— 12 years after diagnosis. Then, in 2012, Murphy began to have trouble swallowing. An avid mountain biker and skier who knew how “healthy” was supposed to feel, Murphy knew something wasn’t right. He made an appointment with his physician for an endoscopy.


» Continue Reading

#LastChemo: Lymphoma patient begins 2015 cancer-free

January 9, 2015 | by   

Aaron Bomar and his family were celebrating his daughter’s 33rd birthday in September 2014 when he received alarming news: According to an X-ray taken earlier that day at an urgent care facility, he had a node on his aorta and was in danger of an aneurysm.


Lymphoma patient Aaron Bomar will celebrate his last round of chemotherapy — and being lymphoma-free — on Jan. 5. He is pictured here with wife Julie Bomar and daughter Jessica Bomar Karylyle.

Bomar held hands with his wife and daughter and said a prayer. His daughter, Jessica Bomar Karylyle,  blew out her candles, wishing for her 58-year-old father’s good health, and the family headed to the emergency room.

Earlier in 2014, Bomar, of Antelope Valley, had been treated for skin cancer. Lumps had developed on his face, ears and neck, making his doctors suspect another illness was also in play, but Bomar had been reluctant to have the lumps checked out. He couldn’t afford health insurance and, as the sole provider for his family, he feared he simply couldn’t pay the medical bills.

But Bomar had grown sicker by the day, quickly losing weight, and the lumps grew to golf-ball and soft-ball size. A concrete masonry inspector, Bomar is described by his daughter as strong, unflappable – and not terribly eager to go to the doctor. Finally, his wife, Julie, had convinced him to go to urgent care on that September day; there he had received the X-ray that prompted the family to go to an emergency room in Sylmar. » Continue Reading

The profit: $17.35 from handmade bracelets. The donation: Priceless

January 8, 2015 | by   

Patient Gerald Rustad’s granddaughter Aurora helped raise funds for prostate cancer research by selling homemade bracelets.

Explaining a prostate cancer diagnosis to a young child can be difficult — especially when the cancer is incurable. But conveying the need for prostate cancer research, as it turns out, is easily done. And that leads to action.

Earlier this year, Gerald Rustad, 71, who is living with a very aggressive form of metastatic prostate cancer, found himself trying to explain his heath condition to 10-year-old granddaughter Aurora.

He told her that his cancer couldn’t be cured, but that scientists at City of Hope were busily conducting research so they could help patients like himself. His doctor, for example, Sumanta Pal, M.D., co-director of City of Hope’s Kidney Cancer Program, was working with other City of Hope researchers to develop a drug that could treat metastatic prostate cancer without targeting testosterone.

The targeting of testosterone is too arcane for most 10-year-olds, but the need for scientific answers isn’t. Aurora asked if there were any way she could help. » Continue Reading

For getting patients back to daily life, City of Hope gets a STAR

January 7, 2015 | by   

Cancer and its treatment can create unexpected daily challenges for patients. Side effects from chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy as well as the disease itself can cause difficulty in everything from speech to movement to eating. When this happens, rehabilitation is vital; it helps patients restore their lost skills or function and become as self-sufficient as possible.

Too many hospitals and cancer centers underestimate the importance of rehabilitation; that can’t be said of City of Hope.

Rehabilitation Services

For many patients, cancer rehabilitation is vital, helping them resume normal life. City of Hope has received institutional STAR certification recognizing its rehabilitation services expertise.

Through the efforts of a team of clinicians led by the Department of Rehabilitation Services, City of Hope recently gained institutional Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation (STAR) certification, a nationally recognized cancer survivorship designation. The institution is one of only two National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers to do so.

Although several faculty and staff members received STAR certification as individuals last year, the current certification applies to the institution as a whole.

“It’s quite rare for a cancer center to attempt STAR certification,” said Jennifer Hayter, M.A., O.T.R./L., director of rehabilitation services at City of Hope. “We’re proud to be one of the few to successfully attain it.” » Continue Reading

Breast cancer genetic testing: How one family took control

January 6, 2015 | by   

Betsy Sauer and her four daughters share plenty in common. They’re smart and successful.  They’re funny, ranging from wryly witty to wickedly hilarious. Their hobbies tend toward the active and adventurous: hiking, rock climbing, skiing, swimming, fishing, kayaking, yoga and horseback riding. Also, they take health seriously.

Breast cancer genetic testing allowed Lauren Sauer, Kristen Sullivan, Betsy Sauer, Jenny Sauer Shepard and Megan Friday to make decisions to protect their health.

Breast cancer genetic testing allowed Lauren Sauer, Kristen Sullivan, Betsy Sauer, Jenny Sauer Shepard and Megan Friday to make decisions to protect their health.

They’ve had to.

Betsy Sauer is a two-time breast cancer survivor who learned that she was positive for a mutation in the BRCA genes, tumor-suppressing genes that, when mutated, are linked to an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancers.  Women with these mutations can have up to an 80 percent risk of developing breast cancer. Knowing their mother’s history, all four of her daughters underwent breast cancer genetic testing. Three of the four tested positive for the BRCA mutation.

Knowing their increased cancer risk gave them options for taking control of their health.
“As hard as it was as a mom to know that I passed this on to my daughters, it was at least tempered by them having this information so they can be aggressive about their own health,” Sauer said in an interview with CBS News. » Continue Reading

Cancer and the flu: What patients and caregivers should know

January 5, 2015 | by   

Flu season is upon us, and few people should take the risk of infection more seriously than cancer patients and their loved ones and caregivers.

Cancer and the flu: What you need to know

The flu can seriously sicken healthy people. It’s even more of a risk to cancer patients. Here, Sanjeet Dadwal explains the double risk posed by cancer and the flu.

With the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning of widespread influenza outbreaks, it’s clear that flu season – and the associated risks – won’t end anytime soon.

Here, Sanjeet Dadwal, M.D., an associate clinical professor at City of Hope and a specialist in infectious disease, answers three main questions about cancer and the flu. » Continue Reading

HIV/AIDS 2015: Changing treatment while pushing for a cure

January 2, 2015 | by   

HIV/AIDS researchers are determined not only to cure the disease, but to develop ever-more-effective treatments until that ultimate goal is reached. In 2015, they will gain ground in both endeavors.


City of Hope researchers are developing potential cures for HIV/AIDS while improving treatments for those currently living with the disease.

In search of a cure: Stem cell and gene therapy

One of the most promising prospects for curing HIV is to recreate the success of the so-called Berlin patient, a patient with HIV who received a stem cell transplant to treat his acute myeloid leukemia. The transplant cured the man’s HIV because the donor had a previously unknown mutation that prevents the body from creating a key white blood cell receptor needed to establish an HIV infection.

The challenge for scientists has been to overcome the need to find a donor with the mutation who would also be a stem cell match for the patient with HIV/AIDS  – a rare combination. Now City of Hope scientists have two promising approaches – both using stem cells. The approaches will be studied in City of Hope’s new Alpha Clinic for Cell Therapy and Innovation, funded by an $8 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. » Continue Reading

Cancer research 2015: T cell immunotherapy, targeted drugs and more

January 1, 2015 | by   

Every year, researchers make gains in the understanding of cancer, and physicians make gains in the treatment of cancer. As a result, every year, more cancer patients survive their disease.

2015 in cancer research

In 2015, cancer research will move forward in ways both high-profile and little-heralded.

In those ways, 2015 will be no different. What will be different are the specific research discoveries and the specific advances in screening and treatment. We asked City of Hope experts to weigh in on the research and treatment advances they predict for the year to come.

Some of those advances will make headlines around the world – expect to hear much more about T cell therapy and targeted drug therapy – while some will garner attention largely among those affected by, or treating, the disease.

But all will have an impact. » Continue Reading

Cancer statistics show decline in deaths, but new threats loom

December 31, 2014 | by   

The American Cancer Society’s annual statistics show the death rate from cancer in the U.S. is down significantly from its peak more than a decade ago – certainly a reason to celebrate. But before the kudos give way to complacency, be forewarned: A number of increasingly serious public health issues could send cancer deaths and cancer incidence climbing again.

Cancer statistics don't tell whole picture

Breakthroughs in cancer treatment, early detection and reduction in smoking have resulted in a 22 percent decline in cancer deaths since 1991. But obesity could help send those numbers climbing again.

That’s the sobering perspective provided by City of Hope’s provost and chief scientific officer, Steven T. Rosen, M.D.

He added some context to the annual statistical analysis from the American Cancer Society. That analysis found that the death rate from cancer has dropped 22 percent from its peak in 1991; amounting to about 1.5 million deaths from cancer avoided. Between 2007 and 2011 – the most recent five years with data available – new cancer cases dropped by 1.8 percent per year in men and stayed the same in women. Cancer deaths decreased 1.8 percent per year in men and 1.4 percent in women for that same period of time.

Rosen attributed the overall decline in deaths to a number of factors, namely prevention, early detection and better therapies. » Continue Reading

Esophageal cancer 2015: Targeted therapy becomes an option

December 31, 2014 | by   
Jae Kim, M.D.

City of Hope’s Jae Kim offers his perspective on expected esophageal cancer advances for 2015.

Think “precision.” Doctors can now prescribe specific drugs that focus specifically on cancer cells, avoiding the healthy cells that need to be preserved. This kind of therapy, known as targeted therapy, has been increasingly available for lung cancer and some other diseases; now it can be used for esophageal cancer as well.

“Esophageal cancer has lagged behind other cancers in terms of having targeted drugs, rather than conventional chemotherapy, to fight the cancer,” said Jae Kim, M.D., chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at City of Hope. That’s now changing, with Herceptin, better known as a breast cancer drug, now a promising option.

“Trastuzumab (Herceptin) was approved in 2010 for treatment of patients with metastatic esophageal cancer whose tumors overexpress HER2,” Kim said. “City of Hope is currently participating in a multicenter trial using a combination of trastuzumab, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery for earlier stage patients with esophageal adenocarcinoma.” » Continue Reading