Musician George Winston has new goal: Say ‘thank you’ in German

April 11, 2014 | by   

George Winston, known worldwide for his impressionistic, genre-defying music, considers music to be his first language, and admits he often stumbles over words – especially when he attempts languages other than English.

George Winston, shown here with Los Angeles Dodger ___ at the 2013 Celebration of Life bone marrow transplant reunion, will meet his donor at this year's event on May 9.

George Winston, shown here with Los Angeles Dodger Tim Leary at the 2013 Celebration of Life bone marrow transplant reunion, will meet his donor at this year’s event on May 9.

There’s one German phrase he’s determined to perfect, however: danke schön.

Winston thinks he’ll have it mastered by his first face-to-face meeting with the 20-year-old German woman who donated the bone marrow that saved his life. The two will meet at City of Hope’s Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, officially called a Celebration of Life, on May 9.

The annual event celebrates the recipients of bone marrow, stem cell and cord blood transplants, and the donors who made the lifesaving procedures possible. It draws thousands of transplant recipients back to City of Hope. As a world leader in hematopoietic cell transplants, City of Hope has conducted almost 12,000 of the procedures.

Wilson’s excitement is almost palpable. So far, he knows only a few things about his donor – she’s a young woman, she’s from Germany, and she saved his life. » Continue Reading

Healthcare Decisions Day: ‘Advance directive’ is how you say ‘my way’

April 11, 2014 | by   

Few decisions are more important than those involving health care, and few decisions can have such lasting impact, not only on oneself but on relatives and loved ones.

advance directives for health care

Advance directives for health care let you make your wishes known, while you’re able to do so. If you haven’t done so already, National Healthcare Decisions Day is the perfect time to do it.

Those choices, especially, should be made in advance – carefully, deliberately, free of pain and stress, and with much weighing of values and priorities. That’s the purpose of National Healthcare Decisions Day, to help people make those decisions while they’re still able to do so and then to make their wishes, or directives, known.

The alternative is, ultimately, to force distraught loved ones and well-meaning health care workers to guess at what the incapacitated you would have wanted. They don’t always get it right.

So on Wednesday, April 16, observe National Healthcare Decisions Day by assessing your values, deciding on the kind of care that you want and choosing your own way. That means creating your own advance care directives. » Continue Reading

Talking about advance directives needn’t be hard. Make it a game

April 10, 2014 | by   

Using a card game to make decisions about health care, especially as those decisions relate to the end of life, would seem to be a poor idea. It isn’t.

advance directives

The GoWish Game can help family members talk about what’s important to them at the end of life.

The GoWish Game makes those overwhelming, but all-important decisions not just easy, but natural. On each card of the 36-card deck is listed what seriously ill, even dying, people often say are most important to them.

Some samples:

  • To have my family prepared for my death
  • To remember personal accomplishments
  • To say goodbye to important people in my life
  • To maintain my dignity
  • To have my family with me
  • To know how my body will change
  • To prevent arguments by making sure my family knows what I want
  • To pray
  • To die at home
  • To not be connected to machines
  • To be mentally aware

Dawn Gross, M.D., Ph.D., the Arthur M. Coppola Family Chair in Supportive Care Medicine at City of Hope, is a fan of the game and, more specifically, the conversations it creates among family members. » Continue Reading

College student with lymphoma advises: Don’t let cancer define you

April 9, 2014 | by   

Young adults and adolescents with cancer face unique challenges both during their treatment and afterward. Not only are therapies for children and older adults not always appropriate for them, they also must come to terms with the disease and treatment’s impact on their relationships, finances, school or career, and fertility.

All of these challenges point to the need for more research to improve care and follow-up for this age group. Here, one of those patients –  20-year-old Monica Curiel – shares her experience with lymphoma and also her advice for others in her position.


By Monica Curiel

Monica Curiel strikes a pose with actress Anna Kendrick at a recent Lipstick Angels beauty event for patients at City of Hope. Activities like this that are dedicated to boosting confidence and feeling beautiful again are important for young female cancer survivors.

Lymphoma patient Monica Curiel,  20, right, strikes a pose with actress Anna Kendrick at a recent Lipstick Angels beauty event for patients at City of Hope. Photo credit: City of Hope

My story began April 10, 2013. I was diagnosed with lymphoma (stage 2) cancer on that day. The cancer was found after I blacked out in a car accident while driving on the highway.

At first, the doctors could not figure out if I had an infection or if it was cancer. I spent weeks in and out of hospital visits, trying to figure out a diagnosis. After many pokes from needles, biopsies and consultations from teams of oncologists, physicians and various types of specialists, it was concluded I had cancer.

At first, I really did not believe it. I was a 19-year-old freshman at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles.  Having grown up in a rural town on the outskirts of Dallas, I was far from home. I was trying to pursue a career and establish friendships, essentially beginning a new chapter in my life, like millions of other 19-year-olds do at this point in their lives.

As the doctors began to explain my type of cancer and the stages, the next steps and treatments, my first thought was: “This is a mistake, other people get cancer, not me…. I am not strong enough for this; strong people can take on the disease. I am too young, I have so much to learn before I can fight cancer, so much to do.”  » Continue Reading

Mammograms: Screening should be based on individual risk, study says

April 8, 2014 | by   

Breast cancer is the most common cancer, other than skin cancer, among women in the United States. It’s also the second-leading cause of cancer death, behind lung cancer. In the past several years, various task force recommendations and studies have questioned the benefits of broad screening guidelines for mammograms, disagreeing over how often to screen, when women should start screening and when they should stop.

Review of eight studies on mammograms concludes breast cancer screening should be based on a woman's individual risk.

Review of eight studies on mammograms concludes breast cancer screening should be based on a woman’s individual risk.

The waters become especially muddy when experts discuss the potential harm caused by “overdiagnosing” cancer – that is, the number of false-positive results or abnormalities that are treated unnecessarily.

A new review of 50 years worth of studies published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association is unlikely to clear up those waters: The study concluded that the benefits of mammograms are often overstated and the harms minimized. But the study also confirmed, again, what many experts, including those at City of Hope – have been saying: Screening decisions must be tailored to the specific risks and medical histories of each woman.

“Risk assessment is really very critical,” Joanne Mortimer, M.D., director of the Women’s Cancers Program at City of Hope, has said. “We harp on individualized health care, and that means understanding each woman’s risk. At low risk, don’t expose them to radiation unnecessarily. Women at very high risk, by all means, they may need mammograms and they may also need an MRI.” » Continue Reading

AACR 2014: Father’s age at birth may affect daughter’s cancer risk

April 7, 2014 | by   

Paternal age and the health effects it has on potential offspring have been the focus of many studies, but few have examined the effect parental age has on the risk of adult-onset hormone-related cancers (breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer).

father's age and cancer risk of daughters

A father’s age at the birth of his daughter may affect her later cancer risk, City of Hope researchers have found.

A team of City of Hope researchers, lead by Yani Lu, Ph.D., explored this relationship and found that a parent’s age at birth, particularly a father’s age, may affect the adult-onset cancer risk for daughters — especially for breast cancer.

“Our findings indicate that parental age, especially paternal age, at conception appears to be associated with a wide range of effects on the health and development of the offspring,” Lu said.

To help determine the effects of parental age on the risk of adult-onset hormone-related cancers, Lu and her colleagues examined a cohort of 133,479 female teachers and administrators from the California Teachers Study. Between 1995 and 2010, 5,359 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, 515 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 1,110 women were diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

While the team of researchers did not find an association for maternal age at birth for any type of cancer, they found that paternal age is linked to an increased adult-onset cancer risk for daughters – and the link was not only to advanced paternal age.

» Continue Reading

AACR 2014: Hormone therapy linked to lower non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk

April 7, 2014 | by   

Hormone therapy, which is prescribed to women for relief of menopausal symptoms such hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness, has recently seen a decline in popularity (and use) due to its link to an increased risk of breast and endometrial cancer. But City of Hope researchers have found that menopausal hormone therapy may actually lower the risk of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

pills in blister pack

City of Hope researchers found that menopausal hormone therapy use appears linked to a lower risk of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Sophia Wang, Ph.D., associate professor at City of Hope’s Division of Cancer Etiology and first author of this study, will present the findings at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting on Monday, April 7.

“The connection between lymphomas and menopausal hormone therapy use hinges on understanding the disease’s biology and the window of susceptibility,” Wang said. “Hormone therapy is of interest because the loss of estrogen coupled with aging in women result in decreased immune function, which can elevate risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”

For this study, Wang and her colleagues examined data from the Los Angeles Cancer Surveillance Program, comparing 685 postmenopausal women diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma to 685 postmenopausal women who did not have the disease and assessing their use of menopausal hormone therapy (either estrogen alone or estrogen with progestin, in either pill, patch, topical cream or injected forms). » Continue Reading

Coping with myeloproliferative neoplasms isn’t easy; this event may help

April 6, 2014 | by   

Myeloproliferative neoplasms can’t be narrowed down to a single cancer, but they can be described by a defining characteristic: too many blood cells. The diseases bring with them a host of frustrating, potentially life-altering symptoms, and management of the diseases and their symptoms is crucial.

coping with myeloproliferative neoplasms

Myeloproliferative neoplasms can cause an array of life-altering symptoms. An upcoming event at City of Hope could help patients hope.

An upcoming City of Hope event – offered by a group founded by, and for, cancer patients – could help. But first, more about myeloproliferative neoplasms, or MPNs.

The diseases, which include polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia and myelofibrosis, begin in the bone marrow and lead to an unhealthy abundance of white cells, red cells, platelets or even a combination of cell types. » Continue Reading

AACR 2014: Where ‘meaningful advances’ against cancer begin

April 5, 2014 | by   

More than 18,000 researchers, clinicians, advocates and other professionals will convene at the 105th American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting taking place in San Diego from April 5 to 9. With more than 6,000 findings being presented over this five-day period, the amount of information can seem overwhelming.

Enlisting the immune system to fight cancer

Conferences such as the AACR annual meeting can lead to — even expedite — tomorrow’s cancer treatments by facilitating dialogue, exchange of information and collaboration among researchers.

But all those posters, presentations and seminars serve a purpose, which is best summed up by the theme of this year’s meeting: “Harnessing Breakthroughs –Targeting Cures.”

“We are in the generation of personalized, precision medicine where we can learn a great deal about cancers,” said Steven T. Rosen, M.D., City of Hope’s Irell & Manella Cancer Center Director’s Distinguished Chair. “Conferences such as AACR’s annual meeting lead to true dialogue, exchange of information and collaboration. This not only benefits the scientists’ own research projects, but also leads to meaningful advances for treating, detecting and preventing cancers.”

Added Rosen, who is also City of Hope’s provost and chief scientific officer: “City of Hope investigators are well-represented at this year’s annual meeting. They have made significant contributions to our understanding of cancers. This includes furthering our knowledge of individual cancers’ epidemiology and etiology, developing novel therapies and enhancing survivorship.”

The findings and knowledge that City of Hope researchers are sharing at this year’s conference include: » Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Philip Pearson and David Rhodes on active surveillance

April 5, 2014 | by   

Cancer of the prostate is the No. 2 cancer killer of men, behind lung cancer, accounting for more than 29,000 deaths annually in this country. But because prostate cancer advances slowly, good prostate health and early detection can make all the difference.

Many prostate cancer tumors don’t require immediate treatment because they’re small, confined and slow-growing. For patients with these type of tumors, so-called “watchful waiting,” increasingly known as “active surveillance” may be the best course of action. In “active surveillance,” physicians closely monitor patients so they can identify early signs of disease progression and treat the cancer before it spreads outside the prostate.

David Rhodes, M.D.

David Rhodes

Philip Pearson, M.D.

Philip Pearson

Here, Philip G. Pearson, M.D., and David W. Rhodes, M.D., of City of Hope | Pasadena, provide simple strategies that can help men better understand this important gland. They also explain why active surveillance is becoming a more common prostate cancer management option. » Continue Reading