LATEST POSTS

Be aware of breast cancer risks during pregnancy

July 9, 2015 | by   

Many women think they can’t develop breast cancer while pregnant or nursing. They can.

breast cancer while pregnant

Breast cancer during pregnancy is rare, but it does happen. Women should take any lumps and changes in their breasts seriously, and have them checked out by their doctor.

In fact, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer detected during pregnancy or while breast-feeding, according to the American Cancer Society. It’s rare, to be sure, but the incidence is expected to rise as women delay childbirth, leading them to have children later in life.

A City of Hope breast cancer surgeon wants to make women aware of this risk.

Remain vigilant, advised Courtney Vito, M.D., an assistant clinical professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology at City of Hope. Know your body, be aware of any changes in your breasts, and if something seems amiss, have it checked out, she said. In short:

Yes, you can get breast cancer while you are pregnant. Yes, you can get breast cancer while you are nursing. Yes, it is rare. But no, it is not normal to have a persistent hard area or mass in your breast.”

Vito continued: “You should have a doctor look at it – and by look at it, I don’t mean just tell you it’s normal. Look at the skin of your breast and your nipple, touch and feel the whole breast not just the hard area, and then at least check it with an ultrasound. Every woman needs to know this information.”

Vito is passionate about this message because more than once she has had to tell a new mother that she has cancer, and that it is advanced. She also understands how frightening a potential breast cancer diagnosis can be – especially in the midst of prenatal appointments, picking out nursery essentials, and the excitement and anticipation of holding your baby for the first time.

She’s been there, and had a scare herself. » Continue Reading

Brain tumor patient is first person treated in new stem cell clinic

July 8, 2015 | by   

A gliobastoma patient has become the first person to be treated by City of Hope’s new Alpha Clinic for Cell Therapy and Innovation (ACT-I), heralding a potential breakthrough in the treatment for brain tumors and in the use of stem cells.

clinical trail for brain tumors

A gliobastoma patient is the first person to be treated by City of Hope’s new Alpha Clinic for Cell Therapy and Innovation. The patient will receive injections of neural stem cells, which naturally home to cancer cells.

“Glioblastoma is the most aggressive-behaving, malignant primary brain tumor, and new treatments that target cancer cells in the brain are desperately needed,” said Jana Portnow, M.D., associate professor of medical oncology and associate director of the Brain Tumor Program at City of Hope, who is leading the current phase I neural stem cell study.

The patient underwent surgery for recurrent glioblastoma and was then treated in a clinical trial using genetically-modified neural stem cells – which naturally home to cancer cells – to help deliver chemotherapy to brain cancer cells. The aim of this neural stem cell research is to develop a treatment that is more potent and less toxic than existing treatments for brain tumors.

“We’ve genetically modified these cells to produce chemotherapy at the sites of the tumor in the brain,” said Karen S. Aboody, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery and co-leader of the Developmental Cancer Therapeutics Program at City of Hope. “Rather than putting chemotherapy through the whole body and possibly causing significant side effects that affect quality of life, the neural stem cells produce active chemotherapy only at the sites of the tumor, killing surrounding cancer cells.” » Continue Reading

Clinical trial offers islet cell transplantation for type 1 diabetes

July 7, 2015 | by   


A strict diet and insulin shots can’t always control type 1 diabetes. What people with the immune disorder really need are insulin-producing cells of their own – currently only available through a still-experimental procedure known as islet cell transplantation.

A new clinical trial at City of Hope will make that possible for some patients, with physicians in the newly launched Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute at City of Hope now providing this transplantation to suitable candidates. The trial, they say, could be the first step in a multipronged effort to permanently cure type 1 diabetes.

The new phase I/II trial is open to adults with type 1 diabetes who have had the disease for more than five years and who experience frequent episodes of hypoglycemia or hypoglycemia unawareness, in which blood sugar drops precipitously without corresponding symptoms. Diabetic patients who have hypoglycemic unawareness are at risk of injuries and accidents, because the drop in their blood sugar can go undetected until they suddenly lose consciousness.

“We are one of only a few islet cell transplant programs in the country,” said Fouad Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Clinical Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism at City of Hope, who is leading the islet cell transplantation trial. “This trial, in addition to providing a much needed potential cure for patients with severe type 1 diabetes, will also be vital in opening the door to other major studies to address the medical needs of these patients.”

The goal of the trial is to further evaluate the effectiveness of transplantation as a treatment and possible cure for type 1 diabetes. Researchers also hope to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of islet cell rejection if it occurs.

» Continue Reading

Nipple-sparing mastectomies and the rising rate of bilateral mastectomies (w/PODCAST)

July 6, 2015 | by   
mastectomies

Laura L. Kruper discusses breast cancer surgery and the latest advancements in reconstruction.

Approximately one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. Although the disease can have a profound impact on the patient and her loved ones, it can often be effectively treated with surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.

Skin- and nipple-sparing surgeries, as well as plastic and reconstructive procedures – individually and combined – can effectively treat breast cancer while minimizing impact to physical appearance. City of Hope offers the latest advances in the surgical management of breast cancer provided by specialized surgeons. For patients with small tumors and early-stage breast cancer, breast-conserving surgery is a treatment option providing optimal cancer surgery while achieving excellent cosmetic outcomes.

Here, Laura L. Kruper, M.D., discusses breast cancer surgery and all the latest advancements in reconstruction.

 

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For other interviews with City of Hope experts,  go to our list of City of Hope podcasts.

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Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

What you need to know about melanoma and other skin cancers (w/PODCAST)

July 4, 2015 | by   
skin cancer

Hans Schoellhammer is the assistant clinical professor of surgical oncology at City of Hope ǀ Antelope Valley. Here, he discusses the risk factors for skin cancer.

City of Hope is a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer and precancerous conditions. Our multidisciplinary team of health care professionals takes an integrated approach to treating this disease by combining the latest research findings with outstanding patient care.

In this podcast, Hans Schoellhammer, M.D., surgical oncologist at City of Hope, discusses ways to avoid skin cancer. He also explains the warning signs of skin cancer, why skin cancers are on the rise and the risk factors for skin cancer.

 

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For other interviews with City of Hope experts,  go to our list of City of Hope podcasts.

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Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

Drug shows promise for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia

July 3, 2015 | by   

Patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia may soon find themselves with improved treatment options.

ibrutinib chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia may find interim results of new study encouraging. Ibrutinib, a drug targeting a protein diseased cells need to survive and proliferate, is showing promise in combination with standard therapies.

Interim results from a study not conducted at City of Hope suggest that, for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, a new oral drug given in combination with standard treatment significantly reduced the risk of disease progression or death. Although the results are interim, not final – meaning the study and its analysis are not yet completed – the study itself is a randomized, placebo-controlled study, considered a marker of high-quality methodology.

City of Hope’s Guido Marcucci, M.D., co-director of the Gehr Family Center for Leukemia Research, is watching the results of the study closely. He recently offered some measured perspective to other physicians in an interview with MedPage Today.

“The implications of this study are very broad, and certainly may impact how we will treat CLL patients in the next years to come,” he said.

The new study combined the current standard of care for CLL – a combination of bendamustine and rituximab – with a new oral drug called ibrutinib. Ibrutinib targets a specific protein that disrupts the signals the cancer cells need to survive and proliferate. Patients in the study received up to six cycles of the standard treatment and were randomized to receive either a placebo or a dose of ibrutinib.

The combination of ibrutinib and the standard therapy reduced risk of CLL progression or death by 80 percent compared to the placebo group. The ibrutinib group also had a higher overall response rate to the therapy, with 83 percent of cancers responding to the treatment versus 68 percent in the placebo group.

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Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

 

Meet our doctors: Reconstructive urologist Kevin Chan on quality of life

July 2, 2015 | by   
Kevin Chan

Kevin Chan is head of reconstructive urology and a clinical associate professor of surgery at City of Hope, specializing in urology and urologic oncology.

The childhood journal of Kevin Chan, M.D., foreshadowed his future: At the tender age of 6, he wrote that he wanted to be a surgeon when he grew up. “I liked the idea of fixing broken arms and legs,” Chan said. “Back then, those were the procedures I could relate to.”

Although his passion for medicine never waned, Chan eventually chose a new specialty. Today he is head of reconstructive urology and a clinical associate professor of surgery at City of Hope, specializing in urology and urologic oncology.

Chan’s interest in urology was launched soon after he entered USC medical school and met Donald G. Skinner, M.D., its urology chair. “He did these amazingly elegant urologic surgeries, and afterward the patients were doing very well,” Chan said. “I was immediately drawn to urology.”

In particular, Chan was inspired by the neobladder procedure pioneered by Skinner. In this complex surgery, a new bladder is created out of intestine, and the kidneys are connected to this pouch, which is connected to the urethra, or as Chan explains to his patients, “the original plumbing.”

According to Chan, if a patient’s bladder needs to be removed, most urologists offer only an “incontinent diversion,” in which the urine drains into an external bag.

However, City of Hope has a much higher percentage of “continent diversions,” either the neobladder or an Indiana pouch, an internal pouch fashioned from intestine that allows the patient to drain urine by passing a tube through a small opening in the abdomen, called a stoma. No drainage bag is necessary. » Continue Reading

Purging pancreatic cancer with bacteria-based immunotherapy

July 1, 2015 | by   
pancreatic cancer

City of Hope researchers have identified a promising new strategy: a bacterial-based therapy that homes to tumors and provokes an incredibly effective tumor-killing response.

The outlook and length of survival has not changed much in the past 25 years for patients suffering from an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). These patients still have few options for therapy; currently available therapies are generally toxic and do not increase survival by more than a few months.

Now, City of Hope researchers have identified a promising new strategy: a bacterial-based therapy that homes to tumors and provokes an extremely effective tumor-killing response.

In a study that appears in the journal Cancer Immunology Research, published by the American Association for Cancer Research, they report that the therapy frequently triggered the complete regression of pancreatic tumors and significantly extended survival in preclinical mouse studies. The study was led by Don J. Diamond, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at City of Hope, who believes that this method can be used to treat a variety of cancers that share similar features to PDAC.

Bacteria-based therapies have been used to treat solid tumors for decades and are commonly used to treat bladder cancer. Typically, an attenuated (i.e. weakened) form of the microbe is used as the therapy itself, or as a delivery vector to generate anti-tumor responses confined only to the cancer site. » Continue Reading

Our bladder cancer experts give patients more, and better, choices

July 1, 2015 | by   

“With bladder cancer, the majority of patients that I see can be cured,” said urologist Kevin Chan, M.D., head of reconstructive urology at City of Hope. “The challenge is to get patients the same quality of life that they had before surgery.”

bladder cancer alternative

Bladder alternative allows bladder cancer patients to live a more normal life.

To meet this challenge, Chan and the urologic team at City of Hope ensure that bladder cancer patients who need a cystectomy, or bladder removal, are fully aware of their options. According to Chan, the majority of urologic surgeons will recommend only an “incontinent diversion,” in which the urine drains into an external bag.

But at City of Hope, 60 percent of patients receive “continent diversions” — either a neobladder or Indiana pouch—in which a section of intestine is used to create an internal reservoir. The neobladder allows patients to urinate out of their urethra, whereas the Indiana pouch results in a stoma on the abdomen that patients catheterize to empty.

“We spend an hour with each patient, explaining all three reconstructive procedures,” said Chan. “We go through the pros and cons of each one in that patient’s particular situation. And as long as it’s reasonable and makes sense from a cancer perspective, we will do everything we can to give them the reconstruction they want.” » Continue Reading

New clinical trial harnesses CAR-T immunotherapy to fight brain cancers

June 30, 2015 | by   
Already pioneers in the use of immunotherapy, City of Hope researchers are now testing the bold approach to cancer treatment against one of medicine’s biggest challenges: brain cancer. This month, they will launch a clinical trial using patients’ own modified T cells to fight advanced brain tumors.

immunotherapy

A new clinical trial at City of Hope uses CAR-T cell immunotherapy to treat brain cancers.

One of but a few centers in the United States offering human studies in chimeric antigen receptor or CAR-T cell therapy, City of Hope is the only center investigating CAR-T cells in injection form, administered directly to brain tumors. In this first-in-humans study, patients with advanced brain tumors will receive injections – directly at the tumor site – of immune cells genetically modified to recognize certain markers on cancer cells.
“The data from our preclinical studies makes us confident that this treatment has the potential to be very powerful and last longer than previous attempts at immunotherapy for brain cancer,” said Behnam Badie, M.D., chief of neurosurgery at City of Hope. “This could take the treatment of brain tumors to the next level, and open up a new avenue of treatment to patients who badly need it.”

» Continue Reading