Women’s cancers: Scientists study both risk and prevention

March 17, 2014 | by   
In this series – this part examines how researchers are identifying risks and possible ways to prevent cancer – we explore crucial strides made against women’s cancers by City of Hope researchers during the past year. The projects are many and varied, involving the basics of fighting cancer, analyses of who’s at greatest risk, the search for surprising new therapies, the testing of new treatments and the follow-up with survivors and their partners.
Breast cancer in Latin America

Research into breast cancer risk takes City of Hope researchers far from California. By better understanding the disease, they can better fight it and prevent it.

Each study plays a role. Each adds to what we know about cancer. Each brings us closer to cures.

In Part 1, we explained ways in which researchers are seeking to fight cancer through basic science.

Part 2: Studies of risk and prevention


Addressing risk among Latinas

Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., director of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics, has focused much of his research on understanding the role and prevalence of BRCA mutations in the Latin American population. Specific mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. » Continue Reading

Women’s cancers: Discoveries start with basic research

March 17, 2014 | by   
At City of Hope, we’re committed to caring for the whole person. This mission is especially important when it comes to treating women, who devote so much of their time and energy to caring for others — for their families, friends and communities. We believe cures are within reach for women battling breast and gynecological cancers, and we want to make these treatments available now.
Research to fight cancer

Gains against women’s cancers, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer, start with basic research.

In this series, we explore crucial strides made against women’s cancers by City of Hope researchers during the past year. The projects are many and varied, involving the basics of fighting cancer, analyses of who’s at greatest risk, the search for surprising new therapies, the testing of new treatments and the follow-up with survivors and their partners.

Each study plays a role. Each adds to what we know about cancer. Each brings us closer to cures.
Part 1: Basic research seeks new ways to attack cancer


Advances in immunotherapy

Peter P. Lee, M.D., chair of cancer immunotherapeutics and tumor immunology at City of Hope, is pursuing several projects that are part of a what he calls integrated immunotherapy. This concept advances the idea that effective cancer treatment must address each phase or action of the body’s complex immune system. » Continue Reading

HPV test instead of Pap test? Cervical cancer expert weighs in

March 15, 2014 | by   

If the new recommendations of a Food and Drug Administration  (FDA) advisory panel are widely adopted, HPV testing eventually may replace the Pap test as the primary way to detect cervical cancer. City of Hope cervical cancer expert says the recommendations have merit. 

Human papillomavirus

HPV’s links to cervical cancer have led an FDA panel to recommend that an HPV test be used as first-line screening for cervical cancer. Shown here: An illustration of human papillomavirus.

The Pap test – named for its inventor, pathologist George Papanicolaou – is designed to identify cancers and precancers in the cervix, and has been the standard screening for cervical cancer during the past 60 years. The screening is credited with dramatically lowering death rates.

The new test, developed by Roche Molecular Systems, detects HPV’s DNA. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is now known to cause nearly all cervical cancer cases.

The 13 academic gynecologists, pathologists and microbiologists on the FDA’s Medical Devices Advisory Committee Microbiology Panel unanimously concluded that the Roche test is safe and effective as a first-line screening for cervical cancer. It reviewed data from the ATHENA trial, which included more than 47,000 women. » Continue Reading

Secondary thyroid cancers are more deadly, study finds (w/VIDEO)

March 14, 2014 | by   

Although thyroid tumors are rarely life-threatening, scientists have found that patients with secondary thyroid cancer (in other words, thyroid cancer that develops after the person has survived another cancer) are more likely to die of the disease compared to those whose thyroid cancer was as their primary — or first — cancer.

The findings were published online in advance of print recently in the journal Cancer. In the study, the researchers analyzed more than 41,000 cases of thyroid cancer among teens and young adults (up to 39 years old). Approximately 3 percent of those cases were secondary thyroid cancers.

After controlling for other factors — including demographics, stage of cancer upon diagnosis and how it was treated — the authors found that people with secondary thyroid cancers are 6.6 times more likely to die of the disease compared to those with primary thyroid cancers.

That statistic may sound alarming, but John Yim, M.D., associate professor and surgeon in City of Hope’s Division of Surgical Oncology, said that, overall, thyroid cancer prognoses are very good. » Continue Reading

Bladder cancer patient fought symptoms for 15 years (VIDEO)

March 13, 2014 | by   

Christine Crews thought she had a bladder infection. Turns out, the Memphis, Tenn., resident had bladder cancer. For 15 years, she fought it with chemotherapy and occasional tumor removals.

When the cancer spread to 80% of her bladder, she was told she would need to have her entire bladder removed. She got a second opinion. And another. Crews wasn’t comfortable with any of the recommendations; she wanted other options. When a urologist friend recommended she call City of Hope, she did.

“They actually listened to what I wanted from the surgery,” Crews said. “They were able to give me options that other hospitals were not able to give me.”

In the video above, Crews shares her story to help other people with bladder cancer understand just how special City of Hope is, and what their options really are.


Support bladder cancer research at City of Hope and your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $100,000, by our friends at the Post-it® Brand from 3M. Donate now.

Learn more about City of Hope’s bladder cancer program.

Read the Breakthroughs post “8 questions and answers about bladder cancer.”



Lung cancer patient highlights need for survivor research (VIDEO)

March 12, 2014 | by   

“Susan survived breast cancer 20 years ago.” So begins a video of a former City of Hope patient sharing the story of her lung cancer diagnosis and her subsequent treatment at City of Hope.

In her narrative, the former patient expresses shock at her diagnosis, saying she was “totally floored.” After all, she’d never smoked, and the common perception of lung cancer has been that it’s a disease only of smokers. That perception is slowly changing.

As explained by Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S., co-director of City of Hope’s Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program: “The most common cause of lung cancer is tobacco smoke, and the risk increases with the quantity and duration of smoking. Yet nearly 15 percent of those who develop lung cancer have never smoked, so there are other factors clearly involved such as the environment and genetics. Although these causes are not well-outlined, research is ongoing to improve our understanding of nonsmoking-related lung cancers.” » Continue Reading

Yoga eases fatigue for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation

March 11, 2014 | by   

Women undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer should try yoga. That’s the take-home message of a new study linking yoga to a greater sense of well-being and better regulation of stress hormones among female breast cancer patients.

Yoga for cancer patients

Yoga improves well-being and reduces fatigue among female breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, a new study has found.

The study, published online March 3 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, was conducted by researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and adds to increasing evidence that exercise benefits cancer patients.

“This study supports that the more you do, the better off you are,” said City of Hope’s Joanne Mortimer, M.D., providing expert commentary on the study to HealthDay. Mortimer is director of Women’s Cancers Programs.

To measure the impact of yoga, researchers assigned women undergoing radiation therapy to one of three groups. One group practiced yoga for up to three times a week, one group did stretching exercises for up to three times a week and one group did neither. Participants in each group shared with researchers their feelings of fatigue and how that impacted their quality of life, as well as their levels of depression and sleep disturbances. They also gave saliva samples so researchers could measure their levels of cortisol, considered an indicator of stress.   » Continue Reading

In the world of nursing research, Betty Ferrell is a hall-of-famer

March 10, 2014 | by   

Every field has its stars, and nursing research is certainly no exception. One of those stars – City of Hope’s Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., R.N.,  – will soon be inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI).

City of Hope's Betty Ferrell

Betty Ferrell, City of Hope’s director of Nursing Research and Education, is being recognized for her research in the field of palliative care nursing.

A pioneer in the field of palliative care nursing, Ferrell is City of Hope’s director of Nursing Research and Education. She will join 24 other nurses being inducted this year. The award recognizes nurse researchers who have achieved national or international recognition and whose work has improved the nursing profession and the patients it serves. The honorees’ research projects will be shared through the Virginia Henderson International Nursing e-Repository, allowing nurses around the globe to benefit from their discoveries.

“The combined accomplishments of these 25 honorees are nothing short of world-changing,” said Hester C. Klopper, Ph.D., M.B.A., R.N., R.M., STTI president. “In keeping with the STTI mission to celebrate nursing excellence in scholarship, leadership and service, I congratulate the 2014 Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame honorees.” » Continue Reading

8 questions and answers about bladder cancer

March 7, 2014 | by   

Bladder cancer incidence rates have not increased over the past few years — which is a good thing. But unlike cancers of the colon, prostate and lung, they haven’t declined either.

Bladder, shown with kidneys

Bladder cancer rates remain stubbornly unchanged. City of Hope’s Sumanta Pal explores the reasons. Here, the bladder is shown with the kidneys; all part of the renal system.

With more than 74,690 new cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in the United States each year and approximately 15, 580 deaths from the disease, it’s imperative to find the underlying causes of bladder cancer and why the incidence rate remains stubbornly unchanged.

Here Sumanta Kumar Pal, M.D., co-director of the Kidney Cancer Program at City of Hope, explores both the factors behind the stagnant incidence rates and the disease’s current and future treatments.

What is the current trend for bladder cancer incidence rates?

When reviewing the most recent American Cancer Society statistics, it appears as though bladder cancer incidences have flat-lined to some extent. This is disappointing because there are several other cancers indicated in the same annual report that appear to be on the decline. For instance, the incidence rates on prostate cancer in broad terms seem to be falling.

Furthermore, incidence rates of lung cancer and colorectal cancer also appear to be falling. This may potentially reflect little change in terms of bladder cancer screening; whereas for colorectal cancer and prostate cancer, there’s been a great extent of literature on cancer screening. We just don’t have the same in the context of bladder cancer.

» Continue Reading

For low-risk prostate cancer, he chose ‘active surveillance’

March 6, 2014 | by   

When Ralph Richardson discovered that his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) reading was a 6, he told his primary care physician that he wanted to go to City of Hope. “I felt I was better off in a City of Hope environment, where it’s a cancer treatment specialty hospital. This is what they do,” Richardson said.

At City of Hope, Richardson met with Jonathan Yamzon, M.D., clinical professor in the Prostate Cancer Program. “After Ralph’s biopsy revealed prostate cancer, we discussed the parameters used to stratify his risk of disease progression, and he fell into the ‘low-risk’ category. With that, we discussed his options, including treatment with robotic-assisted surgery or radiation therapy, versus active surveillance. Since his cancer risk was low, I recommended active surveillance as the most appropriate treatment,” Yamzon said.

» Continue Reading