‘Ask the Experts: HPV and Links to Cancer': What you need to know

February 11, 2014 | by   

What is HPV? How is it linked to cancer? How can I prevent it? Those are some of the questions many women have about human papillomavirus, or HPV. City of Hope physicians will provide the answers at our Feb. 20 “Ask the Experts” presentation.

Mark Wakabayahsi of City of Hope

Mark Wakabayashi, chief of gynecologic oncology at City of Hope, will discuss the HPV vaccine and links to cervical cancer.

The session, titled “HPV and Links to Cancer,” will feature three City of Hope experts. 

Mark Wakabayashi, M.D., M.P.H., associate clinical professor and chief of gynecologic oncology, will focus on the virus’ connection to cervical cancer and on the HPV vaccine, which can help prevent the disease.

Ellie Maghami, M.D., associate clinical professor and chief of head and neck surgery, will discuss oropharyngeal cancer (throat cancer), the changing patient profile of the disease and HPV awareness.

And Lily Lai, M.D., associate clinical professor, will talk about HPV and its connection to anal cancer. 

Here, our experts offer a preview of the session. » Continue Reading

Black men need prostate cancer consultation at age 40, expert says

February 10, 2014 | by   

Prostate cancer screening – which test is best, how often to test – is a complex issue for all men and the medical community as a whole.

prostate gland

African-American men are 60 percent more likely than white men to develop prostate cancer and 2.4 times more likely to die of the disease.

In fact, black men are 60 percent more likely than white men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Furthermore, they are twice as likely to die of the disease, and more prone to having tumors that grow rapidly and spread to other parts of the body.

With Black History Month calling attention to lingering health disparities faced by African-American men in the United States, prostate cancer diagnoses and deaths stand out. For African-American men, the issue can be especially difficult as the disease disproportionately affects them.

“This is an aspect of health African-American men have to be alert to because it’s a big, big problem,” said Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in Medical Oncology. “African-American men tend to get diagnosed late, and they tend to have more aggressive cancers than those found in other racial and ethnic groups.” » Continue Reading

Better to run than walk for breast cancer survivors? Expert doubts it

February 9, 2014 | by   

Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle – especially for breast cancer survivors. Not only has research shown that exercise helps lower the risk of breast cancer, it also increases the survival chances for women diagnosed with the cancer.

A new study suggests breast cancer survivors can get even greater reductions in breast cancer mortality by running, rather than walking.

A new study suggests breast cancer survivors who run have greater health benefits than those who walk.

Now a study in the International Journal of Cancer suggests that breast cancer survivors can get even greater reductions in breast cancer mortality by choosing a more robust exercise such as running, rather than walking.

Lead author Paul William of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said his research shows that exceeding the current exercise recommendations is probably better than simply meeting them, and that running may be better than walking.

“If I were a breast cancer survivor, I would certainly consider running or some other vigorous exercise over walking, and I wouldn’t just be doing the minimum, with the consequences and potential benefit being so great,” said William in a press release.

To come to this conclusion, William and his team followed 986 breast cancer survivors from the National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Study for nine years. Nearly 300 were considered runners; more than 700 were considered walkers. During the study period, 33 of the walkers and 13 of the runners died from breast cancer.

» Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Hematologist Amrita Krishnan on multiple myeloma

February 8, 2014 | by   

Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma cells, is the second most common hematological malignancy in the U.S. (after non-Hodgkin lymphoma), and accounts for 1 percent of all cancers. It is generally thought to be incurable but highly treatable.

Photo of Amrita Krishnan

Amrita Krishnan says new myeloma treatments can help patients lead active, productive lives.

Amrita Krishnan, M.D., director of City of Hope’s Multiple Myeloma Program, says City of Hope is at the forefront of transforming the way myeloma is treated and that, as a result, more myeloma patients are able to live active, productive lives.

What is multiple myeloma and are there any symptoms?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that normally produce antibodies to fight infection.

In myeloma, abnormal plasma cells build up in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. The abnormal plasma cells also can overproduce defective antibodies, which can deposit in the kidneys and damage them.

Kidney damage often can be the first sign of myeloma. Other symptoms include bone thinning and fractures. The abnormal plasma cells also can send signals to the bones and boost the activity of osteoclasts, the cells that absorb or eat bone. » Continue Reading

Vitamin C may help fight ovarian cancer, expert says, but who will pay?

February 7, 2014 | by   

Despite vitamin C’s well-known antioxidant properties, multiple clinical trials since the 1970s have found it ineffective as a cancer treatment. Thus, vitamin C has been largely ignored by conventional oncology and is usually offered only in alternative/complementary practices.

A glass of OJ a day may not help against cancer, but researchers found that high-doses of intravenous vitamin C can enhance chemotherapy's effectiveness against ovarian cancer.

A glass of OJ a day may not help against cancer, but researchers found that high-doses of intravenous vitamin C can enhance chemotherapy’s effectiveness against ovarian cancer.

However, an article published in the Feb. 5 issue of Science Translational Medicine may reinvigorate research for this nutrient. The study found that vitamin C, when administered intravenously, induces cancer cell death without harming normal tissues. And in animal models, vitamin C made ovarian cancer cells more sensitive to the chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel.

Additionally, in an early-phase clinical trial involving 27 patients, those receiving vitamin C in addition to standard chemotherapy were less likely to experience toxic side effects. The finding suggests that vitamin C may have potential in helping patients tolerate higher and more powerful doses of chemotherapy.

“With enhanced understanding of [vitamin C's] anticancer action presented here, plus a clear safety profile, biological and clinical plausibility have a firm foundation,” the study’s authors wrote, adding that these findings justify larger clinical trials to investigate vitamin C’s effectiveness in enhancing conventional chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.

However, actual further study of this nutrient is another matter, according to Robert Morgan, M.D., co-director of City of Hope’s gynecological oncology program. » Continue Reading

When a child has cancer: What friends and visitors should know

February 6, 2014 | by   

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, friends and relatives of the family often don’t know what to say, what to do, how to react. Some visitors linger for hours in the child’s hospital room, further exhausting already weary parents. Others pose grotesquely rhetorical questions: “Don’t you wish this wasn’t happening?”

Children with cancer

Ken and Diana Wolfrank share their advice on what to say, and what not to say, to parents whose child has cancer. Here, they pose for a photo at City of Hope with daughter Emma and son Gavin.

Ken and Diana Wolfrank have seen and heard it all. Their son, Gavin, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia before his first birthday. The Wolfranks recently shared their family’s story, as well as their advice for other parents in similar situations, via Breakthroughs.

Now, the couple has some advice for friends, loved ones and visitors wondering what to do for, or say to, the family of a child with cancer. » Continue Reading

More breast abnormalities may require surgery, new study suggests

February 5, 2014 | by   

Two breast tissue abnormalities — known as atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH) and atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH) — have long been a source of concern to physicians, specifically as the conditions relate to breast cancer risk.

A new study suggest the abnormal breast cell, atypical lobular hyperplasia, is a precursor to breast cancer.

A new study suggests that an abnormal breast condition known as atypical lobular hyperplasia is just as much a precursor to breast cancer as the generally more worrisome atypical ductal hyperplasia.

ADH, marked by abnormal cells in a breast duct, has been considered a precursor to breast cancer in the breast where it occurs, and doctors usually recommend surgical excision.

ALH, marked by abnormal cells in a breast lobule, has been considered a less alarming condition, even though it suggests a heightened risk of breast cancer in both breasts. For this condition, many doctors have simply recommended monitoring.

A new study suggests both breast abnormalities are equally worrisome. The research, conducted at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and published in Cancer Prevention Research, suggests that both conditions are just as likely to lead to breast cancer.

“ADH and ALH behave similarly in terms of later breast cancer endpoints,” the authors wrote.

Women who have either condition should consult a surgeon, Steven Chen, M.D., associate professor of surgery at City of Hope, told HealthDay“This is a diagnosis you should pay attention to,” he said.

» Continue Reading

T cell research for prostate cancer gets boost from $1 million gift

February 4, 2014 | by   

Although prostate cancer is often highly treatable, the prognosis for men with metastatic disease remains grim. According to the American Cancer Society, men with distant prostate cancer metastases have a five-year survival rate of 28 percent, and almost 30,000 men die from the disease each year in the United States.

A $1 million challenge award from Movember and Prostate Cancer Foundation will fuel City of Hope's T-cell research to treat prostate cancer.

A $1 million challenge award from Movember and Prostate Cancer Foundation will fuel City of Hope’s T cell research to treat prostate cancer.

Researchers hope to turn that tide by using two novel agents developed at City of Hope that will attack cancerous cells with the patient’s own immune system. And thanks to a $1 million Movember-Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Award, this immunotherapy project can continue its preclinical progress for the next two years, with in-human trials beginning in early 2016.

Prior research at City of Hope and other institutions found that numerous cancer cells — including those of prostate cancer — activate a protein called STAT3 to evade the immune system and to promote their own growth and spread. In one arm of the new project, Marcin Kortylewski, Ph.D., assistant professor at City of Hope’s Department of Cancer Immunotherapeutics and Tumor Immunology, will be designing a unique agent — a nucleotide-based drug that delivers a small, interfering RNA called CpG-STAT3 — to inhibit STAT3 activity, thus stripping the cancer’s ability to grow and dodge the immune system, while simultaneously bolstering the patient’s own anti-tumor immunity. » Continue Reading

New CMV vaccine targets virus affecting third of transplant patients

February 3, 2014 | by   

In most healthy adults, the immune system wages a winning battle against a virus that infects up to 80 percent of the population by age 40. Most never even know they have cytomegalovirus, or CMV.

Vaccine expert John Zaia

John Zaia, chair of the Department of Virology, checks on Jasson Duran, the first volunteer enrolled in a study of a new CMV vaccine developed and manufactured at City of Hope.

However, the virus is a leading cause of complications and serious illness in patients who have compromised immune systems, including those receiving hematopoietic cell transplants to treat leukemia or lymphoma.

CMV is life-threatening to these patients, and treatments can be expensive. For decades, City of Hope has been studying the best way to prevent the virus from becoming a complication for transplant patients.

A new CMV vaccine developed and manufactured at City of Hope could ultimately do that. The vaccine has just started its first safety trial, funded by the National Cancer Institute. » Continue Reading

Black History Month calls attention to disparity in cancer rates

February 1, 2014 | by   

This year, Black History Month converges with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, and the nation’s notable gains in equality give us much to celebrate. But equality in health and access to care continue to be areas of serious concern.

Half of African American men and a third of African American women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Access to diagnostic screening and high quality care are among the measures necessary to address the high cancer burden on the black community, experts say.

Half of African-American men and a third of African-American women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Access to diagnostic screening and high-quality care are among the measures needed to address the high cancer burden on the black community, experts say.

“Across most illnesses including cancer, African-Americans have the worst outcomes,” said Kimlin Tam Ashing, Ph.D., director of City of Hope’s Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education. “African-Americans get cancer at younger ages, have more aggressive cancers, have more treatment-resistant cancers and lower five-year survival than the general population.”

Half of African-American men and a third of African-American women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. The causes of cancer health disparities are complex, stemming from such factors as genetic susceptibility, stress and immune function, and family history.

In her research, Ashing has pinpointed several health care system factors that feed into the disparity, including limited access and use of preventive care, limited access to high-quality care, and delays in diagnosing and treating disease. Other studies point to a higher incidence of chronic conditions and illnesses among African-Americans with cancer. Lifestyle factors including smoking, diet and sedentary routines also play a role. » Continue Reading