Triple-negative breast cancer is both aggressive and tough to fight with existing therapies, a combination that often results in the disease’s spread; in fact, most deaths related to this form of cancer occur due to metastases. New City of Hope research is targeting these metastases specifically.
Building on a platform developed at City of Hope by Karen Aboody, M.D., Rachael Mooney, Ph.D., a postdoctoral CIRM Scholar and a fellow in Aboody’s laboratory, hopes to use stem cells to deliver tiny packages of chemotherapy to breast cancer-related metastases.
Aboody’s platform involves neural stem cells that naturally home in on cancer sites in the body. These cells are modified to secrete an enzyme that activates a prodrug – a benign substance – to become a powerful cancer-killing agent locally at the tumor sites. Continue reading “Using neural stem cells to sneak up on breast cancer metastases” »
New DNA analyses of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) offer the best blueprint to date of the often fatal disease. Now, the challenge for physicians and scientists will be using those blueprints to build better treatments, said Ravi Bhatia, MD, director of Hematopoietic Stem Cell and Leukemia Research at City of Hope.
The project, which was started in 2005 to catalogue genetic mutations responsible for cancer, has published tumor genome information on breast, lung, colon, ovarian and brain cancers. An analysis of endometrial cancer DNA also was published the same day, in Nature.
Though uterine cancer, also known as endometrial cancer, is the most common gynecologic cancer, in many ways scientists know very little about it – and doctors have few options for fighting it. A new report released Wednesday analyzing tumor DNA from hundreds of patients significantly pushes the frontiers of knowledge of this type of cancer, and provides a solid framework for developing personalized treatments.
The paper stems from the National Institutes of Health’s Cancer Genome Atlas Project, started in 2005 to catalogue genetic mutations responsible for cancer. The project has already yielded tumor genome information on breast, lung, colon, ovarian and brain cancers.
Thanh Dellinger, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at City of Hope, said the study could open new doors for treatment, especially for patients whose endometrial cancer persists after surgery.
“For most uterine cancer patients, their cancer is treatable through a surgery – such as a hysterectomy – and that’s all the treatment they require,” said Dellinger, who was not involved in the study. “However, for those women whose cancer persists after surgery, we do not have any good options for them right now.” Continue reading “Uterine cancer: DNA study could lead to targeted treatments” »
Somewhere along the way, May – a harbinger of carefree summer fun – got serious. It’s now known as Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. But as fun-sapping as that name might seem, there does appear to be a way to combine an exuberant embrace of the sun with skin protection. The Aussies have already proved it.
The words Slip! Slop! Slap! are credited with awakening Australians to the need to protect their skin from the sun. That’s what anyone would call a breakthrough. Used as a slogan, the words were the focal point “one of the most successful health campaigns in Australia’s history.”
Of course, the Australian campaign featured Sid the seagull, an animated bird wearing board shirts.
“Slip, Slop, Slap!,” Sid sang, in a charming, and apparently persuasive, Aussie accent. “It sounds like a breeze when you say it like that … Slip, Slop, Slap! Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. Slip, Slop, Slap!”
There’s more, but reading the lyrics doesn’t do the bird justice. See? Fun. Continue reading “To reduce melanoma risk, learn from the Aussies (and a seagull)” »
Delaying breast cancer treatment after diagnosis, even for a matter of weeks, can shorten a woman’s life, particularly if she is young, poor, Hispanic or African-American, and lacks private health insurance, according to a new study.
“Five-year survival rates are lowest for adolescent and young adult women, and only a few studies have examined the impact of delay in treatment, race/ethnicity, and other socioeconomic factors on survival in AYA [adolescent and young adult] women,” wrote Hoda Anton-Culver, Ph.D., chair of epidemiology at the University of California, Irvine, and senior author of the study published online April 24 in JAMA Surgery.
Breast cancer in adolescents and young adults (between 15 and 39 years of age) accounts for only about 5 to 6 percent of breast cancer cases in the U.S., but their outcomes are worse because the disease is more aggressive than in older women.
Researchers found that treatment delay time of more than six weeks was significantly different between racial and ethnic groups, with Hispanic and African-America women almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic white women to experience a delay of more than six weeks (15.3 and 8.1 percent, respectively). Similarly, poor women and those with public insurance or no insurance were almost twice as likely to experience treatment delays as higher-income women or those with private insurance.
Ninety percent of women treated less than two weeks after diagnosis were alive five years later. However, of those whose treatment began more than six weeks after diagnosis, only 80 percent reached the five-year survival mark. Continue reading “Treatment delays after breast cancer diagnosis shorten survival” »
In a potentially significant advance against diabetes, researchers have found a new hormone in the liver and in fat that seems to cause insulin-generating cells in the pancreas to reproduce at unprecedented rates. The discovery could ultimately lead to new ways to fight the disease.
The Harvard University scientists behind the study call the new hormone “betatrophin.” In mice, the hormone stimulates insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas to reproduce at rates three to 12 times faster than beta cells in a control group. The researchers reported their results April 25 online in the journal Cell.
Although much more research is needed before this discovery can be translated into a therapy to be tested in humans, the finding is drawing considerable attention. Stimulating the production of, or otherwise targeting, this previously unknown hormone could become a weapon against diabetes, a growing health epidemic. The disease currently affects about 347 million people worldwide. Continue reading “Diabetes research: A new hormone to spur insulin production?” »
Yet another experimental HIV vaccine may have taken a fall, but researchers – including those at City of Hope – aren’t giving up.
The trial halted this week by the National Institutes of Health is but the latest failure in the realm of would-be HIV vaccines. The study, known as HVTN 505, was testing a two-vaccine “prime-boost” strategy; the first vaccine was designed to prime the immune system, the second was intended to boost the immune response, explained the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
In this case, the strategy didn’t appear to work. And on Thursday, the government called off the trial, effective immediately. Not only did the vaccine not prevent HIV infection, it didn’t even reduce viral load among those recipients who became infected with HIV. Continue reading “HIV vaccine failure fuels researchers’ determination” »
The HER2 protein is most well-known for its link to breast cancer, but it’s tied to a small portion of lung cancers as well. Now researchers have found that drugs that fight HER2-linked breast cancers may be effective against HER2-sensitive lung cancers as well.
The study, published ahead of print on April 22 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, involved 16 patients diagnosed with Stage IV HER2-mutated nonsmall cell lung cancer. After conventional chemotherapy, the patients were given HER2-targeted drugs — including Herceptin — and were monitored for disease progression. Drugs that target HER2 work by shutting down production of the cancer-promoting protein, which can hit overdrive due to a gene mutation.
The scientists reported that patients on either the HER2-targeted drug afatinib or on Herceptin-based combinations exhibited a disease control rate — either stabilization or partial remission of the disease — of 100 and 93 percent, respectively. Furthermore, those on the HER2-targeted drugs had a median progression-free survival of over five months.
Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S., co-chair of City of Hope’s Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program, told MedPageToday that, although only 2 percent of patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer are positive for HER2 mutations, the numbers add up. As she pointed out, more than 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. Continue reading “Drugs for HER2-linked breast cancer may work against lung cancer” »
Even as University of Minnesota physicians attempt the first cord blood transplant designed specifically to cure a pediatric patient of HIV and leukemia, City of Hope researchers have devised a program that could make such transplants more readily available.
The cord blood being used in the Minnesota transplant, which took place Tuesday, has a rare mutation shown to protect against HIV, and researchers at City of Hope have been working with cord blood banks and other institutions to identify blood with this mutation. Doing so could make the blood more readily available to those who could benefit.
The boy undergoing the treatment Tuesday was born with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and several months ago developed a rare form of leukemia, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
To date, only one patient in the world has been cured of HIV/AIDS by transplantation. Timothy Brown, known as the Berlin patient, was treated with bone marrow from a donor with a specific mutation in a cell surface protein. This mutation protects against HIV by preventing the virus from entering the T cells, ultimately preventing it from destroying the immune system. Continue reading “Cord blood transplants: Using a rare mutation to fight HIV” »
Since 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recommended routine mammograms only for women age 50 and older. But a study published in Cancer on April 19 found that despite those recommendations, screening rates among women age 40 to 49 have not fallen.
In fact, between 2008 and 2011, the screening rate for that age group has risen slightly, from 46.1 percent to 47.5 percent.
Looking at this data, the study’s authors speculated that the rate may have stayed stagnant due to conflicting screening guidelines from other professional organizations.
The American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network both recommend annual mammograms for women starting at age 40. But the USPSTF suggested that women between 40 and 49 talk with their doctors about the benefits and risks of mammograms, and personal risk factors — such as a genetic mutation or a family history of breast cancer — that may warrant earlier, more frequent screenings.
In making its recomendation, the USPSTF evaluated breast cancer screening, incidence and mortality data. The task force considered the lower incidence of breast cancer in young women and the negative impact of earlier, more frequent screenings, particularly “false positives” that can result in unnecessary costs, additional tests and emotional burden. Continue reading “Mammogram rates not falling for women 40 to 49, despite U.S. advice” »