Beyond the pink ribbons, special product fundraisers, and the pastel sea of color that marks October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month offers a reason to celebrate and to reflect.
More than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors live in the U.S. They are survivors of the second most-common cancer in women, behind skin cancer, and survival rates continue to climb due to better treatments and increased screening that finds cancers when they are most treatable.
Another reason credited for the increased survival rates: Awareness. With women more knowledgeable about warning signs, the importance of self-exams, treatment options and second opinions, they are better prepared than ever before to confront a breast cancer diagnosis – something an estimated one in eight women will do in her lifetime.
But breast cancer remains a leading cause of cancer death in women, second only to lung cancer. So, in the spirit of heightening awareness – and screening, we offer one fact about breast cancer for every day in October: » Continue Reading
Gliomas, a type of tumor that grows in the brain, are very difficult to treat successfully due to their complex nature. That might not always be the case.
First some background: The most aggressive and common type of primary brain tumor in adults is glioblastoma. Although the brain tumor mass can often be removed surgically, complete resection (or removal) of all the tumor cells is virtually impossible due to the invasive nature of glioblastoma, and tumor recurrence is the norm.
Karen S. Aboody, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery at City of Hope, believes the key to recurrence prevention lies in special cells called neural stem cells. She has collaborated with Jana Portnow, M.D., associate professor of Medical Oncology and associate director of the Brain Tumor Program at City of Hope, on a Federal Drug Administration-approved clinical trial that aims to deliver drugs to brain tumor cells without damaging healthy tissue. » Continue Reading
Cutaneous T cell lymphomas are types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that arise when infection-fighting white blood cells in the lymphatic system – called lymphocytes – become malignant and affect the skin. The result is rashes and, sometimes, tumors, which can be mistaken for other dermatological conditions. In a small number of people, the disease may progress to the lymph nodes or internal organs, causing serious complications.
Here Jasmine Zain, M.D., associate clinical professor and director of City of Hope’s T Cell Lymphoma Program, discusses how in recent years, greater research efforts, advanced treatment options and more collaboration among physicians have contributed to better care and outcomes for patients, and helped many to return to a normal life.
What is cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) and what are the symptoms?
CTCL is a rare form of lymphoma that arises primarily in the skin. It is not to be confused with the more common forms of skin cancer that include melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphoid system and usually arise in lymph nodes. However, with skin being the largest lymphoid organ in the body and our first line of defense against the outside environment, occasionally it becomes the site of lymphoma formation. » Continue Reading
Weighing your breast cancer risk? One study suggests a measure to consider is skirt size.
A British study suggests that for each increase in skirt size every 10 years after age 25, the five-year risk of developing breast cancer postmenopause increases from one in 61 to one in 51 – a 77 percent increase in risk.
The new study, published online in BMJ Open, was based on information from 93,000 women in a British database for cancer screening between 2005 and 2010. All were 50 years old or older, and their average skirt size was a 10. Three out of four women reported gaining sizes. The average size for these women at age 25 was 8, and when they entered the study, the average size was 10.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Gynecological Cancer Research Center at University College London.
Even when considering other risk factors – such as hormone replacement and family history – increased skirt size emerged as the strongest predictor. The skirt size served as a measure of abdominal weight gain. While scientists haven’t pinned down the exact mechanism linking abdominal fat to breast cancer risk, it is known that obesity increases the amount of estrogen in the body. Many breast cancers rely on this hormone to grow. » Continue Reading
Runners prize medals for 5Ks and marathons. Becky Stokes has a medal she cherishes from a very different kind of race: the marathon of treatments necessary to beat her aggressive triple-negative breast cancer.
Just a week ago, she completed her last radiation treatment, and danced in the hospital with the staff. (You can see for yourself on this video taken by her son.) As is a City of Hope tradition, at the conclusion of her therapy she received a medal and a certificate, tokens she cherishes.
This week, People Magazine‘s cover page will feature former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden, recently diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, smiling proudly, her head shaved, as she vows to beat her cancer. Lunden opted to shave her head rather than waiting for it to fall out, describing that wait as “excruciating.”
Becky said she agrees with that advice, and shared her thoughts on the provocative cover. She wrote: » Continue Reading
Rob Darakjian was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at just 19 years old. He began chemotherapy and was in and out of the hospital for four months. After his fourth round of treatment, he received a bone marrow transplantation from an anonymous donor. Today, he’s cancer free.
Darakjian’s story has a happy ending, but getting there was a tremendous struggle. He suffered from severe depression and anxiety, which prevented him from enjoying any type of activity or experiencing any type of pleasure. Cancer made him feel hopeless, and he found it hard to get out of bed, often spending his days and nights in his room, crying.
His experience isn’t unusual. One in four people with cancer suffer from clinical depression, but for adolescents and young adults with cancer, the isolation can feel especially overwhelming.
With support from his family and medical professionals, Darakjian was able to overcome his battle with depression and anxiety. He’s now a college student at the University of San Francisco studying philosophy and political science. Here, in the first of a series, he shares his secrets on surviving anxiety and depression while fighting cancer.
What cancer patients should NOT to do when they’re depressed:
The environment plays a role in causing cancer – this much we know. But scientists are still trying to understand what that role is, what environmental factors are in play and how precisely those factors are linked to cancer.
Now City of Hope researchers have unlocked a clue as to how one carcinogen triggers cancer, and they hope this discovery will shed light on how other environmental factors may cause cancer. The study, published online recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on one carcinogen in particular, nickel.
In the United States, fossil fuel combustion is the leading culprit for spewing nickel into the air we breathe. In other countries, heavy metal factories are also a common cause. Breathing in nickel increases the risk of nasal cancer and of lung cancer, the leading cancer killer of men and women in the U.S.
“Nickel has been proven to be a carcinogen, but unlike most carcinogens, it doesn’t change the DNA at all,” said Dustin Schones, Ph.D., assistant professor of cancer biology at City of Hope and a lead author of the paper. » Continue Reading
Jonathan Yamzon, M.D., assistant clinical professor of surgery in the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology, explains his approach to what’s known as “active surveillance” of men with prostate cancer. Patients need to be educated about their treatment options, he writes.
Active surveillance is an option offered to patients with “low-risk” prostate cancer. It entails forgoing any immediate treatment, and instead monitoring a patient’s cancer to ensure it shows no signs of worsening. If there are any signs of disease progression, the option for curative treatment can still be offered. Active surveillance attempts to avoid unnecessary treatments for patients with prostate cancers that may not become clinically significant or impactful to a man’s life.
Such treatments have potential risks for side effects. Those considered low-risk have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) value of less than 10, a biopsy Gleason of six or less, and a rectal exam that reveals nothing beyond a small nodule confined to one side of the prostate. When one of my patients embarks on active surveillance, I repeat the PSA, rectal exam and biopsy to ensure that their tumor is in fact truly low-risk. The success of this strategy is predicated on recurring follow-ups and reassessment to detect worsening changes of the tumor grade, volume or stage. It is important to understand that if there are signs of cancer progression, we can still offer treatment with curative intent.
Currently, our ability to stratify who is low-risk is based on clinical parameters of the PSA, Gleason score and clinical stage, which is detected by a rectal exam. Newer biomarkers are being studied to improve risk stratification, including the use of novel markers in serum, urine, biopsy tissue and radiographic test like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
For most prostate cancer patients, surgery or radiation therapy is the initial and primary treatment against the disease. But some patients can benefit from chemotherapy and hormone therapy too, especially if there are signs of a relapse or if the cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland.
Here, Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., City of Hope’s Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in Medical Oncology, explains the role of drug therapy in treating prostate cancer, as well as recent and upcoming drug breakthroughs against the disease.
When is hormone therapy and/or chemotherapy an appropriate treatment for prostate cancer?
In many ways, when to start hormone and drug therapies for a prostate cancer patient is an art. That is because clinicians have to account for numerous factors, including the patient’s age and health, the cancer stage and biology and the disease response to other therapies. For example, hormone therapy may be considered if a patient relapses following surgery and radiation therapy. Meanwhile, chemotherapy may be prescribed for a cancer that has metastasized to other organs or one that does not respond to other treatments.
Additionally, hormone therapy and chemotherapy protocols for prostate cancer are constantly evolving with new research findings. For example, a recent major study showed that combining hormone therapy with chemotherapy early on is significantly more effective against prostate cancer than hormone therapy alone, thus changing clinical guidelines and standards of care.
In short, both hormone and drug therapies can become an integral part of prostate cancer treatment by preventing relapse, slowing its growth and even driving it back into remission. But these treatments also require meticulous planning by medical oncologists in collaboration with others in the patient’s care team and in alignment with the latest evidence.
What are some recent drug breakthroughs against prostate cancer? » Continue Reading
Cancer research has yielded scientific breakthroughs that offer patients more options, more hope for survival and a higher quality of life than ever before.
The 14.5 million cancer patients living in the United States are living proof that cancer research saves lives. Now, in addition to the clinic, hospital and laboratory, there is another front for the fight against cancer: The battle for funding to keep this research ongoing.
City of Hope joins the American Association for Cancer Research in support of the Rally for Medical Research on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Sept. 18. Hundreds of organizations and individuals – comprehensive cancer centers, research advocacy groups, clinicians, business leaders, survivors and others – are joining the call to members of Congress to make funding for the National Institutes of Health a priority and stop the chronic decline of public funding for science.
» Continue Reading