Breast cancer expert puts new mammogram findings into proper context

February 13, 2014 | by   

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.

breast cancer

Mammograms don’t actually save lives, a controversial new study contends. City of Hope’s Laura Kruper, however, offers some need-to-know context to those findings.

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

From the expert: How to help families whose children have cancer

February 13, 2014 | by   

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.

Sick child

Friends and family often don’t know what to say to, or how to help, parents whose children have cancer. We offer some guidance.

“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

Tom Brokaw diagnosis calls attention to gains against multiple myeloma

February 12, 2014 | by   

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.

Vaccines against cancer

City of Hope is home to some of the most advanced work against multiple myeloma, with researchers discovering, and refining, treatments. Ultimately, vaccines could become a potent new tool against the disease.

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.

Amrita Krishnan, M.D., director of the Multiple Myeloma Program at City of Hope, summed up the prognosis for patients this way: It’s improving all the time. » Continue Reading

Lymphoma changed Emmet and Toni Stephenson; now they want to change it

February 12, 2014 | by   

During their 46-year marriage – an attraction begun as kindergarten sweethearts – entrepreneurs Emmet and Toni Stephenson have worked together to build diverse businesses ranging from portfolio management to Internet publishing. When Toni was diagnosed with T cell lymphoma last spring, the couple refocused their energies into restoring her health.


Emmet and Toni Stephenson with their daughter Tessa Stephenson Brand

“Cancer became the center of our life,” Emmet said. “Our priorities really got changed and turned upside down almost instantly.”

“It did change us,” Toni said. “It was quite a summer.”

Toni is currently in remission following treatment at City of Hope, and the couple and their only child, Tessa Stephenson Brand, recently gave City of Hope $10 million to create the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center. That center is the cornerstone of City of Hope’s new Hematologic Malignancies Institute. 

Here, the couple shares their life-changing experience – and how it led them to where they are today: trying to change the future for other people with lymphoma.  » Continue Reading

‘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