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

AACR 2014: Thwarting drug-resistant lung cancer with a novel compound

April 4, 2014 | by   

Despite advances made in detecting and treating nonsmall cell lung cancer, its prognosis remains grim. Even patients whose cancers are caught at their earliest stage have only a 50 percent chance of five-year survival. This poor prognosis is due in part to the cancer’s ability to resist treatment, rendering the chemotherapy ineffective.

lung cancer

A novel compound synthesized at City of Hope can target and treat drug-resistant lung cancers, researchers find.

However, a group of City of Hope researchers have identified and synthesized a novel compound — called COH-SR4 — that is effective against drug-resistant lung cancer. If its safety and efficacy pan out in future studies, COH-SR4 could play a vital role in treating lung cancers that no longer respond to first-line chemotherapy.

The COH-SR4 findings will be presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting in San Diego on Monday, April 7. » Continue Reading founder shares her story of HPV; physician tells facts

April 2, 2014 | by   

As the founder of the nonprofit hpvandme.ORG, Pamela Tom is committed to increasing awareness about the dangers of infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Here, as a guest blogger on Breakthroughs, she shares her experience with HPV – and also her interview with City of Hope’s Ellie Maghami, M.D., chief of head and neck surgery. 

By Pamela Tom

It’s been nearly a year since actor Michael Douglas announced that he believed that his oral cancer was HPV-related. Headlines fade, but the epidemic continues to grow.

Photo courtesy of Pamela Tom

Pamela Tom, founder of, shares her experience with HPV. Her website,, is dedicated to building awareness about HPV. Tom is shown here with her husband, Jeff. (Photo courtesy of Pamela Tom)

Did you know that the HPV head and neck cancers in the U.S. will surpass the number of cervical cancer cases by 2020? That’s what the American Society of Clinical Oncologists predicted in its 2011 study, yet the public is largely unaware of this growing epidemic.

You might think that’s unfortunate but that it’s unlikely that HPV oropharyngeal cancer would affect you or someone you know. Think again.

A growing number of middle-aged, nonsmoking men (as well as women) are being diagnosed with HPV cancer of the mouth, tonsils or throat. I know because they write to me at, a nonprofit organization that’s building awareness about HPV infection and HPV throat cancer. I also know because my husband was one of them.

A year and a half ago, my husband, Jeff, said he was having difficulty swallowing and it felt like there was a lump in his throat. When our family doctor had no answers after three visits, I insisted that Jeff go to a head and neck specialist who immediately spotted a large tumor at the base of his tongue – a place that’s undetectable by an ordinary oral examination. » Continue Reading

New prostate cancer treatment uses MRI to guide ultrasound ablation

April 1, 2014 | by   

Men with prostate cancer face tough choices: when, or even if, to treat their cancer; what procedure to use; and how to balance their chosen treatment with their quality of life. Now, a new multicenter clinical trial seeks to offer men another option – one that physicians hope will treat prostate cancers with fewer side effects.

City of Hope recently treated the first prostate cancer in the U.S. with an investigational procedure that uses MRI-guided ultrasound to "ablate" prostate cancer.

City of Hope recently became the first center in the U.S. to treat a prostate cancer patient with an investigational procedure that uses MRI-guided ultrasound to “ablate” prostate cancer.

As part of that trial, City of Hope has become the first center in the nation to perform a new procedure using a focused beam of ultrasound energy to “ablate” the prostate cancer. Traditional treatment approaches, such as surgery and radiation, are potentially very effective in treating prostate cancer – but some men are left facing incontinence or impotence. (Men with very slow-growing cancers may choose a “watch and wait” approach, monitoring the cancer and determining appropriate interventions if they become necessary.) » Continue Reading

New options needed, and likely, for ALK-positive lung cancer

March 30, 2014 | by   

People with what’s known as ALK-positive lung cancer usually develop resistance to crizotinib, the primary drug used to treat their disease. The drug’s limitations are all the more significant because its approval in 2011 was considered a crucial advance against this type of nonsmall cell lung cancer.

drugs for cancer

People with ALK-positive nonsmall cell lung cancer may have new drug options in the not-too-distant future. Those options are desperately needed.

“This makes new therapies for ALK-positive lung cancer essential to improving and prolonging life for these patients,” said Karen L. Reckamp, M.D. , M.S., co-director of City of Hope’s Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program., in an interview with MedPage Today.

Those new therapies are on the way. A new study suggests that one drug in particular shows promise in the fight against this type of cancer. The study, published online this week in the New England Journal of Medicine(NEJM), included 122 patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer linked to a genetic mutation in the ALK gene. Of those, 83 had relapsed on crizotinib (Xalkori).

In the NEJM study, the new drug ceritinib was found effective among 56 percent of patients who had relapsed on crizotinib. It was found effective among 62 percent of those who hadn’t taken crizotinib. » Continue Reading

Urologic cancers: Dispatches from research’s front lines

March 28, 2014 | by   

Urologic cancers, including prostate cancer, kidney cancer and bladder cancer, are diagnosed in more than 381,000 Americans each year, and almost 60,000 people die from the diseases. City of Hope’s physicians and scientists are determined to reduce those numbers.

Our groundbreaking research holds the promise of better treatments and cures for the millions of people worldwide battling these difficult cancers. The Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology, led by Timothy Wilson, M.D., Pauline & Martin Collins Family Chair in Urology and director of the Prostate Cancer Program, report the following developments in the treatment of urologic cancers.


Overcoming drug resistance in metastatic prostate cancer

African American men are 60 percent more likely than white men to get prostate cancer and 2.4 times more likely to die of the disease.

The drug pyrvinium shows promise in the treatment of prostate cancer. Even better, it doesn’t target testosterone.

When prostate cancer metastasizes, it is signaled to grow by a protein called the androgen receptor, which is activated by testosterone. Many men initially respond to hormone treatments that inhibit testosterone, but prostate cancer cells adapt and develop resistance to these therapies, and the cancer almost always returns.

Jeremy Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor of Molecular Pharmacology, found that pyrvinium, a drug used for decades to treat pinworm infections, could treat metastatic prostate cancer without targeting testosterone. Pyrvinium works by inhibiting the DNA binding domain – a different part of the androgen receptor that’s activated when testosterone is blocked –  and could be effective when all other therapies have failed. Jones is testing pyrvinium derivatives in cell cultures and mice, and his goal is to reach phase I clinical trial in the next two years.

Jones is also working with Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair of Medical Oncology, to combine the action of two drugs, enzalutamide and abiraterone, to treat prostate cancer that is resistant to hormone therapy. They have designed a compound called COH11023 that inhibits the production of testosterone, prevents testosterone from binding to the androgen receptor and breaks down the androgen receptor to rid the cancer cells of the protein. » Continue Reading

John Rossi awarded 5-year, $3.3 million grant to help patients beat HIV

March 27, 2014 | by   

John Rossi has been studying HIV — and how to help patients beat it — almost as long as scientists have known about the virus. His expertise is globally recognized, and it recently  helped net him a five-year, $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

John Rossi, Ph.D

John Rossi

The grant extends the NIH’s funding of Rossi’s work to more than two decades; it will support his efforts to develop a practical way to deliver a gene therapy to HIV patients.

The gene therapy uses a form of RNA, a close genetic cousin to DNA, to stop the virus from hijacking and destroying the immune system’s infection-fighting T cells. In fact, Rossi, who holds the Lidow Family Research Chair and is chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and his City of Hope colleagues have already conducted the only clinical trial to test this therapeutic RNA in patients.

Up until now, this treatment approach, called RNAi-based therapy, has only been available to HIV-positive patients with lymphoma who were undergoing stem cell transplantation. The transplant regimen is a necessary part of the process.

“For the vast majority of HIV patients to benefit from RNAi-based therapies, we need to find another way to deliver it to them that doesn’t require transplantation,” Rossi said. » Continue Reading

Colon cancer: Physicians explain the facts (w/VIDEO)

March 25, 2014 | by   

The exact causes of colorectal cancer are not completely understood, but many facts about the disease are well-known – as are ways to reduce one’s risk. In our “Ask the Experts: Colon Health” presentation (above), City of Hope physicians provide those facts.

The video, recorded live, features colorectal cancer experts Donald David, M.D., chief of gastroenterology; Stephen M. Sentovich, M.D., M.B.A., clinical professor of surgery; and Marwan Fakih, M.D., co-director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program. They share their knowledge about colon cancer, including the importance of screenings, the risk factors for colon cancer, and details on colon cancer treatments.

Some highlights from the presentation:

  • —Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.
  • Colorectal cancer usually starts as a polyp and progresses over a period of years to cancer.
  • Having a colonoscopy is the single most important factor in reducing the risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Colonoscopy and removal of the polyp can be done in the same day; removal of a tumor with a “hemorrhoid type” operation can be done the same day or it might require an overnight stay. » Continue Reading