Diet during cancer treatment: Tips on managing appetite and weight loss

August 11, 2014 | by   

Appetite loss may be common during cancer treatment, lasting throughout your therapy or only occasionally, but it can be managed.

snacks and cancer treatment

Keep snacks close at hand during cancer treatment in order to take advantage of  the moments when you feel like eating.

Below are tips from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that can help you keep your weight up and, in doing so, keep your body well-nourished. (See the end of this article for a delicious chocolate-avocado smoothie recipe that’s perfectly in line with these recommendations.) » Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Hematologist Margaret O’Donnell on myelodysplasia

August 9, 2014 | by   

Myelodysplasia, sometimes referred to as myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS, is a rare group of blood disorders caused by disrupted development of blood cells within the bone marrow, resulting in a decreased number of healthy blood cells. People diagnosed with the condition, considered a precancer, may be at greater risk for leukemia.

Margaret O'Donnell on myelodysplasia

Margaret O’Donnell says a collaborative team of experts customize individual myelodysplasia treatment plans.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 13,000 new cases of myelodysplastia are diagnosed each year. As the average age of the population in the U.S. goes up, the number of new cases seems to be increasing.

Here, Margaret O’Donnell, M.D., clinical professor and associate clinical director for City of Hope’s Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Program, sorts out the facts about myelodysplasia. She also describes how our world-class experts excel in treating these complicated diseased and how the team works continuously to better understand and more effectively treat myelodysplasia. » Continue Reading

New gene mutation, in PALB2, is linked to heightened breast cancer risk

August 8, 2014 | by   

Twenty years ago, scientists discovered that a mutation in a gene now widely known as BRCA1 was linked to a sharply increased risk of breast cancer, paving the way for a new chapter in identifying women at risk of the disease and giving them options to potentially avoid an aggressive cancer. But experts have also long known that other genes probably play a role as well. Now, one of those genes has been identified: PALB2.

A new study links a mutation in the PALB2 gene to a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are not alone in increasing breast cancer risk. A new study also links a mutation in the PALB2 gene to a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Mutations in this gene, rarer than the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, can make breast cancer nine times more likely to develop in women and eight times more likely for men, according to a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine from an international team of researchers, including two City of Hope scientists.

“This one is serious,” Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., director of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics at City of Hope and one of the leaders of the study, told the Associated Press. Susan Neuhausen, Ph.D., The Morris & Horowitz Families Professor in Cancer Etiology and Outcomes Research, is also one of the study’s authors.

Weitzel said the gene is probably the most dangerous in terms of breast cancer risk after the BRCA genes.  » Continue Reading

Summer academy names scholarship for neuroscientist Paul Salvaterra

August 8, 2014 | by   

The Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy at City of Hope turned 54 this year. Marking the occasion, the academy announced a new scholarship in honor of longtime director Paul Salvaterra, Ph.D.

Paul Salvaterra

“I love seeing these kids doing science,” says Paul Salvaterra of the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy.

Salvaterra, a professor in City of Hope’s Department of Neurosciences, has led the summer student academy for nearly four decades, helping thousands of students participate in laboratory research projects at City of Hope.

“I stay involved with the academy because I love seeing these kids doing science,” Salvaterra said. “To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed by the attention, but it’s a real honor to receive this recognition.”

His own work has included studies designed to determine the neuronal cellular fate and specific neurotransmitter phenotypes of cells in the nervous system. Another project is meant to help define genetic pathways involved in Alzheimer’s disease. » Continue Reading

Summer academy student’s work on neural stem cells is tribute to father

August 7, 2014 | by   

Stevee Rowe has a very personal connection to the research she’s conducting on neural stem cells: Her late father participated in a City of Hope clinical trial involving neural stem cells.

Student Stevee Rowe

Stevee Rowe is researching neural stem cells through the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy. (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)

Rowe — her full name is Alissa Stevee Rowe, but she prefers to use her middle name — will enter her senior year at the University of California, Riverside, this fall. She currently is enrolled in the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy. Her project examines neural stem cells used to target brain cancer.

Her father, Steven Keith Rowe, was a patient at City of Hope who enrolled in a clinical trial to treat his brain tumor with neural stem cells. “My father wanted to help further research and was always willing to try anything he could,” she said. Now she hopes to do the same. » Continue Reading

Multiple myeloma and bone health: What patients need to know

August 6, 2014 | by   

Although multiple myeloma is classified as a blood cancer, patients with this disease often experience bone-related symptoms, too. This includes bone pain, frequent fractures and spots of low bone density or bone damage that show up during a skeletal scan.

X-Ray image of hip

Multiple myeloma may be a blood cancer, but it also commonly affects the skeletal system — leading to bone loss, pain (most commonly in the lower back and hip) and an increased risk of fractures.

Here, Amrita Krishnan, M.D., director of City of Hope’s Multiple Myeloma Program, answers questions about this cancer’s connection to bone health and what patients and their care team can do about it.

How does multiple myeloma affect bone health?

In a normal body, bones are constantly being maintained by two types of cells: osteoblasts that create new bone matter and osteoclasts that break it down and reabsorb it. Myeloma cells can disrupt this balance in two ways, by interfering with osteoblasts‘ bone-building ability while overstimulating osteoclasts‘ breakdown processes. The result is overall bone loss. » Continue Reading

Breast cancer risk linked to birth control pills, but no need to panic

August 5, 2014 | by   

Women using some birth control pills, specifically those with high doses of estrogen and a few other formulations, may be at an increased risk of breast cancer, a new study has found. At first glance, the findings seem alarming, but a City of Hope breast cancer surgeon is warning against overreaction.

Birth control pills

A new study links some birth control pills to higher breast cancer risk, but study leaders and experts say more research is needed.

The study, published recently  in the journal Cancer Research and led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, compared women who used oral contraceptives in the past year to those who never used them or who had formerly used them. However, the researchers acknowledged, their findings should be interpreted very carefully.

“Our results require confirmation and should be interpreted cautiously,” said study researcher Elisabeth F. Beaber, Ph.D., M.P.H., in a statement released by the journal. “Breast cancer is rare among young women and there are numerous established health benefits associated with oral contraceptive use that must be considered. In addition, prior studies suggest that the increased risk associated with recent oral contraceptive use declines after stopping oral contraceptives.” » Continue Reading

Diet during cancer treatment: Tips on avoiding infections from food

August 3, 2014 | by   

Cancer is hard enough on the immune system, and chemotherapy takes an additional toll. This double blow to the immune system means cancer patients are more likely to develop infections than people not fighting cancer.

food preparation for cancer patients

Everyday foods can pose a special threat to cancer patients. One tip to make food safer for people undergoing cancer treatment: Use separate cutting boards for meat and fruits/vegetables.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one out of every 10 cancer patients receiving chemotherapy develops an infection that requires a hospital visit.

Sometimes, infections come from foods that people without cancer could consume with few concerns. For that reason, cancer patients or the people preparing food for them should take extra precautions when handling food. » Continue Reading

Protein power: How one protein can control many cellular effects

August 1, 2014 | by   

Some proteins really know how to multitask. Some of the best are called G-protein coupled receptors, or GPCRs, for short.

Computer rendering of protein

City of Hope scientists Nagarajan Vaidehi and Supriyo Bhattacharya have developed an advanced method to understand how one protein can affect multiple biochemical signaling pathways in a cell.

New research by City of Hope scientists Nagarajan Vaidehi, Ph.D., and Supriyo Bhattacharya, Ph.D., shows how a single GPCR can have very different effects in a cell depending on the molecule that stimulates it. The scientists’ findings could help researchers create better targeted drugs with fewer side effects.

A protein supergroup

GPCRs comprise a superfamily of proteins involved in a wide range of biological processes including immunity, maintaining blood pressure, nerve cell activity and even cancer growth and spread. » Continue Reading

Uterine cancer expert warns against morcellation, says dangers are known

July 31, 2014 | by   

A common surgical device, often used for minimally invasive hysterectomies, may be riskier than previously thought because of its potential to spread several types of cancer, not just uterine cancer, a new study has found.

Uterine removal via a power morcellator can spread cancer, a new study has found.

Use of a power morcellator to remove the uterus, shown here with the female reproductive system, can spread various types of cancer, a new study has found. A City of Hope surgeon isn’t surprised by the findings, saying he wouldn’t use such a tool.

One out of every 368 women treated with a power morcellator – a device that cuts the uterus into smaller pieces for easy removal – had unsuspected uterine cancer that was found during or after their procedures, the researchers showed. Other types of cancer were found as well, they reported, further reinforcing a government assessment that the device is risky. The discovery by Columbia University physicians, detailed in findings published online July 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, brings additional data and context to an issue of considerable debate in the gynecology and oncology communities for the last year. A study last December advised patients and their doctors to carefully discuss the risk and benefits of morcellation before reaching a decision about the procedure, which is a step in treating fibroids and facilitating minimally invasive hysterectomy. » Continue Reading