Prostate Cancer Awareness: Survival rate has soared

September 1, 2013 | by   

Have questions about prostate cancer? Check out our TweetChat.

Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., and Mark Kawachi, M.D., associate clinical professor in City of Hope’s Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology, participated in a TweetChat on Thursday, Sept. 5, from 11 a.m. to noon Pacific. They discussed prostate cancer research, screening, treatment and management of possible side effects such as incontinence and impotence. To read a log of that TweetChat, click here.


Real medical breakthroughs are few and far between, but advances in treating prostate cancer come close.

Photomicrograph of invasive prostate adenocarcinoma

Photomicrograph of invasive prostate adenocarcinoma. (Photo courtesy of National Institutes of Health)

Over the last 40 years, the overall five-year relative survival rate for prostate cancer patients has jumped from 64 percent in 1973 to over 99 percent now. Further, men diagnosed with local or regional prostate cancer today have what’s considered a 100 percent chance of five-year survival, due to improvements in fighting the disease with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Despite this overwhelming success, obstacles remain in diagnosing and treating the disease. The month of September, designated Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, offers an opportunity to reflect on the successes and the challenges.

“The PSA [prostate specific antigen] test is not all it’s cracked up to be,” said Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., City of Hope’s Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in Medical Oncology. “But it’s one of the very few tools we have available now to screen for and monitor the disease.”

And for men whose cancers are not detected until they’ve metastasized to distant areas of the body, the survival odds plummets to less than 28 percent. And prostate cancer will claim the lives of almost 30,000 men this year, according to the American Cancer Society. » Continue Reading

Ovarian cancer: Scientists join hunt to identify ‘silent killer’

September 1, 2013 | by   

Ovarian cancer, known as “the silent killer,” can perform its lethal work undetected thanks to its neighborhood.

Cancer in the ovaries, highlighted here, can grow undetected in large part because there's so much room in which it can develop.

Cancer in the ovaries, highlighted here, can grow undetected in large part because there’s so much room in which it can develop.

“The abdomen and pelvis have so much potential space where tumors from the ovary can potentially grow,”  said Ernest Han, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor and surgeon in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at City of Hope.

This year in the U.S. alone, ovarian cancer will kill 14,030 women, be diagnosed in 22,240 women, and will begin growing in many others.

Women may fail to recognize or simply dismiss symptoms caused by the intruder: bloating, swelling, pelvic or abdominal pain; feeling full quickly, constipation and urinary frequency. Yet, sometimes the symptoms are too general and gradual to cause alarm. “Every woman at some point in her life has experienced these symptoms,” said Han.

“These symptoms are primarily concerning if they are of recent onset [within a few months rather than having occurred for a long time], and if they occur more than 12 times per month,” said Robert Morgan, M.D., co-director, Gynecological Oncology/Peritoneal Malignancy Program at City of Hope.

We asked City of Hope experts about the future of ovarian cancer screening and treatment, as well as what women should know about the disease: » Continue Reading

Childhood cancers are more curable, but also rising

August 31, 2013 | by   

Pediatric cancers are more curable than ever, with the five-year survival rate for children diagnosed with cancer estimated at more than 80 percent. That’s a huge increase from the 1970s, when the five-year survival rate was less than 60 percent.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“There has been a continuous improvement in outcome of treatment for childhood cancer over the last few decades,” said Joseph Rosenthal, M.D., the Barron Hilton Chair in Pediatrics at City of Hope. “At this time, a cure is a feasible goal for the majority of children diagnosed with cancer.”

But, inexplicably, diagnosis rates are rising.

Over the past 20 years, the incidence of children being diagnosed with all forms of invasive cancer has been rising at a consistent rate, according to the National Cancer Institute. In 1975, the rate of cancer in children was 11.5 cases per 100,000 children. In 2004, the rate increased to 14.8 cases per 100,000 children.

Further, the increase also means that more children than ever are coping with long-term complications caused by their disease and its treatment.

» Continue Reading

Exercise to reduce breast cancer risk (yes, even if you’re slim)

August 30, 2013 | by   

Exercise – everyone knows they should do it, but not nearly enough people make it a priority. Not only does exercise reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, it also reduces the risk of several cancers, including breast cancer — one of the most common cancers in women.

Exercise reduces the risk of several cancers, including breast cancer—one of the most common cancers diagnosed in women.

Exercise reduces the risk of several cancers, including breast cancer — one of the most common cancers diagnosed in women.

Laura Kruper, M.D., director of the Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center at City of Hope, says exercise has been shown to have a protective effect for all women, not just women who are at high risk.

“We don’t know exactly why exercise might help prevent breast cancer. It may have to do with improving your immune system to knock out cancer cells,” said Kruper in an interview with Redbook magazine. “Eighty percent of all breast cancers are spontaneous, meaning there’s no obvious reason for getting the disease, like family history, so any step you take to lower your odds is a great choice.” » Continue Reading

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