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Foothill Fitness Challenge: Using what we’ve learned

August 29, 2013 | by   

Exercise and a healthy lifestyle reduce the risks of cancer and diabetes. City of Hope has seen the evidence in its laboratories and shared it in scientific publications.

Duarte Mayor ,,, followed by City of Hope's Kristen Pugh lead the way as leaders from nearby communities give the Foothill Fitness Challenge a trial run.

Duarte Mayor Margaret Finlay and City of Hope’s Kristen Pugh, associate vice president government and community relations, lead the way as leaders from nearby communities give the Foothill Fitness Challenge a trial run. Photo credit: Fred Lee

Now, City of Hope is working with neighboring cities to put that knowledge into action through the Foothill Fitness Challenge. Teams from cities throughout the San Gabriel Valley – one team per city, all competing against each other – will set fitness goals, track their progress for three months, monitor the results along the way, then reconvene to tally the final results and determine which  team has racked up the most healthy habits.

The program rests on three simple principles: eat more healthfully, move more, live fully.

In addition to sharing what researchers have learned about how these steps lead to a reduced risk of illness, the Foothill Fitness Challenge is bringing together resources to help participants learn how to adopt these practices in their daily lives. On Thursday, leaders of the neighboring cities took their literal first steps in adopting the Foothill Fitness Challenge, walking the mile-long Centennial Path through City of Hope’s campus and formalizing their commitment to leading their cities in making healthy changes.

The challenge will kick off at City of Hope on Saturday, Oct. 5. Participants will receive a pedometer, plus a tracker to record their goals and monitor their progress through January 2014. » Continue Reading

Leukemia: Combo treatment can kill disease stem cells, study says

August 28, 2013 | by   

Just as stem cells generate bone marrow and blood cells, while maintaining their constant production, leukemia has its own stem cells. These cancer-generating cells are tough to kill – and tend to be resistant to treatment.

A new City of Hope study found treatment with a kinase inhibitor combined with chemotherapy was more effective in eliminating acute myeloid leukemia stem cells.

A new City of Hope study found that treatment with a kinase inhibitor combined with chemotherapy was effective in eliminating acute myeloid leukemia stem cells.

A new City of Hope study, published in Blood, found that a combination treatment can effectively block the signaling molecules that protect the stem cells in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), while also making them more susceptible to chemotherapy. Researchers are now enrolling participants for a human clinical trial of the approach.

“Targeting one pathway is not enough,” said Ravi Bhatia, M.D., director of City of Hope’s Division of Hematopoietic Stem Cell and Leukemia Research. Although patients can go into remission despite the survival of some of their leukemia stem cells, they stand a heightened chance of relapse.

» Continue Reading

‘My cancer diagnosis: What I wish I’d known’ – Candida Orosco (w/PODCAST)

August 27, 2013 | by   

One in a series of stories asking former patients to reflect upon their experience …

Confronting and overcoming breast cancer inspired Candida Orosco to seek out more chances to make a difference in the lives of others.

Confronting and overcoming breast cancer inspired Candida Orosco to seek out more chances to help others.

Candida Orosco describes her breast cancer treatment as “a whirlwind.”

Only two weeks after finding out that she carried a BRCA2 mutation that greatly increased her risk, the then-44-year-old had a routine mammogram followed by a biopsy that revealed she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Her sisters had already confronted and beaten breast cancer. They pointed her to the place where they had found healing: City of Hope. Orosco went through a battery of therapies — surgery to remove both breasts, chemotherapy, radiation and reconstruction, as well as prophylactic removal of her ovaries and uterus.

Five years later and cancer free, Orosco still deals with some side effects of treatment, particularly the symptoms of sudden, early menopause. But the San Dimas, Calif., resident has learned to embrace her new life, and especially the new perspective that came with it.

“It’s not about, ‘Live every day like it’s your last.’ It’s about, ‘What do you do with this time that you’re given? And whose lives will you change?’” she says.

PODCAST: Candida Orosco talks about her story, her perspective and her advice in City of Hope’s Cancer Journeys podcast. Download and listen >>>

Determined to make a difference in the world in the wake of her treatment, Orosco has since volunteered with an animal rescue organization, a hospice and a nonprofit that benefits women with BRCA mutations. She also shares her story as part of City of Hope’s Speakers Bureau.

We asked Orosco to look back at the time of her diagnosis and to ask herself what she knows now that she wishes she’d known then. What wisdom, soothing words, practical tips or just old-fashioned advice would she give her newly diagnosed self?

» Continue Reading

Blood test/ultrasound could screen for ovarian cancer, study says

August 26, 2013 | by   

Early detection of ovarian cancer has the potential to save many women’s lives because, like most cancers, the disease is easier to treat when it’s caught early. But early symptoms of ovarian cancer mirror those of less serious conditions, and an accurate testing strategy has been elusive.

A new study shows promise that a combined approach for ovarian cancer screening using a blood test and ultrasound is able to identify tumors early without resulting in false positive tests. Experts agree the approach requires more study, and they're looking to a European trial that is expected to share results in 2015.

A new study suggests that a combined approach for ovarian cancer screening, using a blood test and ultrasound, could identify tumors early without excessive false-positive results. Experts say the approach is encouraging but requires more study. They’re looking to a European trial that is expected to report results in 2015.

A new study, published online Aug. 26 in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, shows promise for a detection strategy combining a blood test with an ultrasound exam. One City of Hope expert called the results encouraging, saying it has the potential  to detect early-stage ovarian cancer without high numbers of false-positives.

Because ovarian cancer is relatively rare – about one in 2,500 post-menopausal women in the  United States will be diagnosed in her lifetime – any screening that causes a large number of false-positive results would harm more women than it helps.

» Continue Reading

Cardiovascular disease is linked to mysterious genetic material

August 26, 2013 | by   

Cardiovascular disease — often stemming from common conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis and kidney failure — claims about 600,000 U.S. lives each year. It’s the nation’s leading cause of death. Now research led by City of Hope scientists links a little-understood piece of genetic material to the disease — a finding that may point to new therapies.

Close-up image of clinician measuring blood pressure

City of Hope scientists linked long noncoding RNA molecules and angiotensin II, a hormone affecting blood vessel cells. The finding could lead to new treatments for hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

City of Hope researchers studied cells that help form the walls of blood vessels. These cells, called VSMC — short for vascular smooth muscle cells — cause blood vessels to relax or constrict, affecting blood pressure. They’re controlled by the hormone angiotensin II.

Because abnormal production of angiotensin II has been linked to high blood pressure, inflammation and cardiovascular disease, the scientists examined the cells looking for molecules that may be linked to the hormone’s production and action. They found that levels of several different molecules called long noncoding RNAs, or lncRNAs, fluctuate in proportion to levels of angiotensin II.

By finding — for the first time ever — a link between levels of angiotensin II and levels of long noncoding RNA molecules, the scientists open the door to possible new ways of controlling the hormone and the damage it can create when it swings out of control in diabetes and other diseases. That damage ultimately leads to heart disease. » Continue Reading

Cancer: Veterinarians and physicians should learn from each other

August 25, 2013 | by   

Human and animal bodies are remarkably similar. No surprise. More of a surprise – except to veterinarians perhaps – is that their diseases, including cancer, are similar as well.

Breast cancer has been found in almost every mammal in which it's been searched, including beluga whales. There are lessons here, posits the book "Zoobiquity."

Breast cancer has been found in almost every mammal in which it’s been searched, including beluga whales. There are lessons here, posits the book “Zoobiquity.”

The current mission of author and cardiologist Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, M.D., is to highlight these similarities, for the greater good of all species. In the new book Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health, Natterson-Horowitz and co-author journalist Kathryn Bowers explore a “pan-species approach to medicine” in which animal and human similarities can be used not only to diagnose disease but to treat humans and animals alike.

In a recent presentation at City of Hope outlining the themes in her book, Natterson-Horowitz posed the questions:

Do animals get:

  • Breast cancer?
  • Prostate cancer?
  • Sudden cardiac death?
  • Atrial fibrillation?
  • Glioblastoma?
  • Melanoma?
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome?
  • Epilepsy?
  • Sexually transmitted diseases?

» Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Urogynecologist Christopher Chung on pelvic floor disorders

August 24, 2013 | by   

Bladder and pelvic floor problems — including urinary and fecal incontinence, as well as uterine and vaginal prolapse — affect nearly 13 million American women. The National Institutes of Health estimates that one-third of women in the United States will experience pelvic floor disorders in their lifetime, but most women consider their condition to be private and are reluctant to talk about it. Left untreated, however, such conditions can become a constant source of discomfort and pain, drastically affecting women’s health, vitality and self-esteem.

Christopher Chung

Pelvic floor disorders can destroy a woman’s health and well-being. But urogynecologist Christopher Chung, who specializes in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, says such conditions can not only be treated, they often can be cured.

Christopher Chung, M.D., a City of Hope urogynecologist specializing in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, wants to reassure women of all ages that these difficult medical issues can be successfully managed and, often, cured.

What is a urogynecologist and who should see one?

A urogynecologist is a specialist with background training in both obstetrics and gynecology who treats women with pelvic floor disorders. This condition includes bladder and bowel control issues, pelvic organ prolapse (the dropping or falling of the uterus, bladder, rectum and/or vagina), pelvic pain and sexual function disorders. These problems affect women of all ages, and in most cases, seeing a urogynecologist can significantly improve or completely eliminate these problems.

What are the major causes of pelvic floor disorders and who is at risk?

Age, race, obesity, childbirth, repeated heavy lifting, chronic diseases, history of pelvic surgery (including gynecological cancer surgery) are all risk factors and can weaken the pelvic floor. Inherited factors also can contribute to pelvic floor disorders.

Why did you choose this specialty? What inspires you to do the work you do?

Pelvic floor disorders can be detrimental to a woman’s daily life. I want to change that and, in a sense, give a woman her life back. It is very satisfying and rewarding to see my patients improve their quality of life. And many times, the change in their life can be seen immediately after treatment. » Continue Reading

Indoor tanning: For some women, it may be addictive

August 24, 2013 | by   

Some women never learn. Despite the overwhelming risks of developing skin cancer through indoor tanning beds, young white women continue to do it at an alarming rate, a new study shows. A City of Hope expert suggests that a form of addiction may be to blame.

A new study found that found that about 29 percent of white high school girls use tanning beds at least once a year, despite health risks.

A new study found that found that about 29 percent of white high school girls use tanning beds at least once a year, despite health risks.

A review of earlier studies, published in the journal BMJ, found that using indoor tanning beds before the age of 35 increases melanoma risk — the most serious type of skin cancer — by up to 75 percent. Using one before the age of 25 increases the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer by up to 102 percent.

The risks, if not the precise numbers, are widely known. And yet, researchers found that about 29 percent of white high school girls use tanning beds at least once a year and about 17 percent undergo indoor tanning frequently. Frequently was defined as at least 10 times a year.

The new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, used data extracted from the CDC’s 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which included responses from more than 15,000 high school students.

Even though Caucasians have the highest rates of melanoma among all ethnic groups and people with fair skin are more likely to develop skin cancer, 44 percent of teenagers admitted to have used a tanning bed by the time they were 18. By that age, 30 percent of the girls were indoor tanning frequently.

Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D, dermatologist and assistant professor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at City of Hope, has seen melanoma patients as young as 14. She believes that some patients rely on tanning to make them feel better about themselves and, in fact, become addicted to indoor tanning.

» Continue Reading

What they did on their summer vacation: Stem cell exploration

August 23, 2013 | by   

For some teens, their idea of summer fun isn’t heading to the beach or hanging out at the poolside, but studying stem cell differentiation in blood cancer, investigating how a tumor’s stem cells develop or even designing viral vectors that could be used to observe mutations in a stem cell line.

Those are some of the projects tackled by eight students enrolled in the California Regenerative Medicine Institute’s Creativity Awards program at City of Hope this summer. The projects differed, but all the students ended the program not only with a better understanding of laboratory research but also a better understanding of the potential of stem cells in treating many diseases.

Eight students worked in City of Hope laboratories this summer studying stem cells through the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Creativity Awards program.

Eight students worked in City of Hope laboratories this summer studying stem cells through the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Creativity Awards program.

“I have an addiction to science,” writes Ted Zhu, a 16-year-old Walnut High School junior who spent eight weeks in the laboratory of Ren-Jang Lin, Ph.D., a professor of molecular and cellular biology at City of Hope. Zhu was studying stem cell applications for a form of blood cancer. “It’s that feel-good, bubbly rush of euphoria that shoots across my body, giving me tingling sensations across my arm and a light-headed feeling that makes me feel like I’m floating among clouds … Man, I love science.”

The CIRM Creativity Awards program introduces high school students to stem cell science and developmental biology research, fostering creativity and promoting stem cell education. The program gave students a chance to work in laboratories at UC-Santa Barbara, Stanford University and other institutions as well.

The students recorded their own experiences, sharing them in blog posts, Instagram photos and videos on the CIRM website.

The eight students at City of Hope participated in the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy, taking in additional lectures and lessons focused on therapeutic applications of stem cells. They also took part in discussions about ethical concerns in stem cell research.

Margaret Shen, an 18-year-old from Fremont, Calif., also worked in Lin’s lab, studying myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder that is often a precursor to acute myeloid leukemia. She also worked on a project aiming to design a viral vector that could be use to observe specific mutations in a stem cell line.  (She discusses her work in this video.) » Continue Reading

Pancreatic cancer: An exploration of leading surgical techniques

August 22, 2013 | by   

Treatment of pancreatic cancer starts with surgery, when operable. And though the overall statistics are often grim, newer treatment algorithms continue to evolve with the ultimate aim of  beating this cancer.

Pancreactic cancer . surgery. Shown here: normal pancreas.

Pancreactic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. A recent webinar explored leading-edge surgical procedures used against the disease. Shown here: normal pancreas.

Said Gagandeep Singh, M.D., chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology, and the head of pancreatic and liver surgery at City of Hope: “Pancreatic cancer is a top 10 cancer in the United States. It is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in men and women. At City of Hope we have ongoing efforts to improve medical and surgical therapies – with added values of pancreatic cancer research to help find a cure and stop this disease.”

Singh discussed those ongoing efforts in a webinar on Wednesday, Aug. 28.  He elaborated not only on the anatomy and physiology of the pancreas but also what makes pancreatic cancer surgery a formidable undertaking. He even explained how experts “stage” pancreatic cancer – that is, determine whether it’s Stage 1, 2, 3 or 4 – and how they devise treatment plans for the disease.

The main emphasis of his session, however, was the current leading-edge surgical procedures that City of Hope provides for pancreatic cancer patients, as well as the complexities that revolve around these operations.

The free event, sponsored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, was meant for patients, caregivers and all level of health care workers. Singh discussed the various surgical procedures for this cancer, which include – but are not limited to – pancreatoduodenectomy (the Whipple Operation), total pancreatectomy, distal pancreatectomy (with and without splenectomy) and central pancreatectomy.

“The ultimate goal is to remove the cancer when possible,” Singh said before the webinar. “Surgery may not be appropriate for everyone, and chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy may be necessary to shrink locally advanced tumors to render them operable.”