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Healthy Living grants will boost health of San Gabriel Valley residents

June 10, 2015 | by   
Healthy lifestyle

Grants will be given to organizations that help San Gabriel Valley residents eat right, exercise and make other lifestyle choices that can reduce their risks of cancer and diabetes.

Small is beautiful.

That’s the idea behind City of Hope’s Healthy Living Community Grant Program, according to Nancy Clifton-Hawkins, M.P.H., M.C.H.E.S, community benefit manager at City of Hope.

As part of a pilot project designed to improve the overall health of its home community, City of Hope will give about $30,000 in grants to organizations that help San Gabriel Valley residents eat right, exercise and make other lifestyle choices that can reduce their risks of cancer and diabetes. “Most likely, this means six awards of $5,000 each,” Clifton-Hawkins said. “We recognize this may not seem like a lot of money. But, in this case, a little can go a long way.”

The goal is to provide what she called “sparks” to start new projects and improve existing ones “through creativity and passion” and “by leveraging resources such as funding and networking.”

“We are going to be able to address some of the issues around health, health care and access that are not in our wheelhouse,” Clifton-Hawkins said, referring to the institution’s core missions of lifesaving patient-focused cancer care and biomedical research. “There are wonderful nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations that do this stuff every day. The point is to help connect the dots, invest in what they do and encourage them to take it to the next level.” » Continue Reading

Unsatisfied with today’s therapies, brain tumor scientists make new ones

June 9, 2015 | by   

Clinicians and surgeons at City of Hope aren’t satisfied with current treatments for brain tumors, nor are they satisfied with focusing on only one avenue of research. Instead, they’re exploring many potential – and promising – options to help people with cancer in the brain.

Those options are desperately needed. According to the American Cancer Society, 22,850 malignant tumors of the brain or spinal cord will be diagnosed this year, and 15,320 people will die.

brain tumor program research

Physicians and researchers in City of Hope’s Brain Tumor Program aren’t satisfied with the current treatment options for patients. So they’re creating new ones.

“The chance that a person will develop a malignant tumor of the brain or spine in one’s lifetime is less than 1 percent, but the survival rates for malignant gliomas, the type of brain tumor that is the focus of research at City of Hope, is poor,” said Behnam Badie, M.D., chief of neurosurgery and director of the Brain Tumor Program at City of Hope. In fact, the five-year survival rate for people age 45 to 64 is 6 percent; it’s 4 percent for those age 55 to 64.

Glioblastoma is the most common type of primary brain tumor in adults (with “primary” meaning that it originated in the brain) and the most aggressive. Surgery is the treatment of choice, because radiation has its limits, and most chemotherapy drugs can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. But surgery is not a perfect option. Removing all the tumor cells is virtually impossible due to the invasive nature of glioblastoma, and tumor recurrence is the norm. Most people live only 1.5 years after diagnosis.

Badie hopes that those numbers won’t be always be so grim. Here, he provides an overview of some of City of Hope’s most promising new treatments for brain tumors. » Continue Reading

Graduate school commencement launches tomorrow’s scientific leaders

June 8, 2015 | by   
graduate school commencement

Members of the 2015 graduating class from the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences pose with their mentors and teachers.

Updated June 15, 2015.

As a teenager living in Duarte, California, James Finlay organized 50 to 60 donors for a blood drive to benefit City of Hope, meeting his need for a community-service project on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout.

“That was my first major interaction with City of Hope,” he said. “I had very little sense of the research that goes on here.”

Finlay never imagined that two decades later he would be a student with not only an inside view of – but also a role in – the investigations conducted at City of Hope’s Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences. The renowned program trains a handful of select graduate students in the fields of chemical, molecular and cellular biology, as well as bioinformatics and genetics.

At 4 p.m. on Friday, June 12, Finlay was one of 12 graduate students who received Doctor of Philosophy degrees at the school’s 17th commencement ceremony, held in the Rose Garden on City of Hope’s main campus. Celebrating along with the graduates and their families were leaders of the school, City of Hope and the scientific community.

The keynote address was delivered by Harry Gray, the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology and the founding director of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology. Gray is acclaimed for his research on a wide range of fundamental problems in inorganic chemistry, biochemistry and biophysics. » Continue Reading

The star of annual ASCO meeting? The human immune system

June 7, 2015 | by   

Of the hundreds of important developments in cancer research and care showcased at one of the world’s largest medical meetings, featuring scores of studies about drugs, chemotherapy and radiation, the most exciting tool showcased for fighting cancer was the human immune system.

ASCO 2015 and research

The human immune system, in all its often problematic glory, was the star of the recent meeting of the nation’s oncologists.

For blood cancers and solid tumors alike, studies at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago showcased medicines adept at unleashing the immune system to attack cancers, including colon cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. One study presented at the meeting compared standard chemotherapy with a drug called nivolumab, a “check-point inhibitor” that works by disrupting the signaling system used by cancer to avoid detection by the immune system.

“Patients in the trial who took nivolumab had nearly double the survival rate of patients treated with chemotherapy,” said Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope. Reckamp was an author of the study, which was also published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “This provides further evidence that immunotherapy is a treatment option for lung cancer.” » Continue Reading

City of Hope cheers for jockey Victor Espinoza

June 6, 2015 | by   
Victor Espinoza

Jockey Victor Espinoza, a supporter of City of Hope, shows a signed card of support from patients during a recent visit. 

Updated: Sunday, June 7, 2015

On Saturday, for the second consecutive year, jockey Victor Espinoza attempted to capture the historic Triple Crown of horse racing. As in 2014, after wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Espinoza rode in the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York, in an attempt to claim a title not won since 1978. This time, riding American Pharoah, he won, capturing the Triple Crown.

As before, Espinoza has promised to donate a portion of his winnings to City of Hope, continuing his record of support of the institution’s groundbreaking research and lifesaving, patient-focused care. Espinoza often visits City of Hope campus, sharing smiles, gifts and stories of his more than 3,200 career victories with patients.

“Good health — that’s what I want for everyone. With good health, people can enjoy life and do those things that make them happy,” Espinoza said. “By working to defeat cancer, City of Hope’s researchers and doctors are bringing a greater chance of health and happiness to people everywhere.”

In Southern California, fans cheered on Espinoza track side at neighboring Santa Anita Park.

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Learn more about giving to City of Hope.

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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.

Cancer doctor/patient on life after breast cancer: You must flourish

June 5, 2015 | by   

Oncologist Elizabeth Lynn Meyering, M.D., an assistant clinical professor who practices at City of Hope | Simi Valley, can connect with cancer patients in a way that only a former patient herself can understand. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, Meyering knows firsthand their trials, fears and need to look forward. Here, Meyering – now cancer-free for nearly eight years – shares her own perspective on breast cancer and its aftermath. 

life after breast cancer

Oncologist Elizabeth Lynn Meyering, a breast cancer survivor, shares her recommendations on coping with breast cancer treatment and, as important, on life after breast cancer.

Did I always want to be a physician? For me, I have always felt that we usually do what we are meant to do. That means I have always taken what, to me, feels like the path of least resistance – but the least resistance doesn’t necessarily mean the easiest.

The only way to explain this is to say that my area of expertise, medical oncology, actually chose me. I could not imagine myself in any other field of medicine, and honestly, if I had attempted to do anything differently, it would have been an uphill struggle. I have a specific interest in breast cancer, and even more so, in “life after breast cancer” because of my own personal experience with the disease.

I tell my patients that it isn’t enough to survive cancer – they must flourish. » Continue Reading

Life after cancer treatment: Tips to help cancer survivors cope, thrive

June 4, 2015 | by   
Cancer survivor tips

Cancer patients and survivors need to get moving. People who exercise, even if they weren’t athletic before their diagnosis, do best after a battle with cancer, says City of Hope’s Joanne Mortimer. Aggressive, healthy exercise encourages good coping strategies and that helps with anxiety, and helps to get their head in the right place.”

As cancer treatments advance and outcomes improve, so does the ability to help survivors adjust to post-treatment life. Here, Joanne Mortimer, M.D., vice chair of medical oncology and director of the Women’s Cancers Program at City of Hope, explains how survivors can cope and, ideally, thrive.

1. Communicate your concerns

Cancer patients are worried about a lot of things, and superior treatment addresses the whole patient, not just the tumor. City of Hope launches that superior treatment through the use of Support Screen, a biopsychosocial questionnaire that “identifies the variety of problems patients have in addition to cancer,” Mortimer said. Virtually all patients worry about dying, and the pain of cancer, but some also worry about the effect on their finances, their fertility, how they will manage transportation to the treatment clinic …

Support Screen is administered through the supportive care program, whose social workers are trained to tame the elephant in the room: emotion.

“Patients are emotional about their disease,” Mortimer said, “and talking to a doctor when you’re emotional isn’t always the best use of the limited time physicians have.” The questionnaires are processed in real time, so by the time the patient enters the exam room, the doctor has been emailed with its results, and knows the patient’s concerns.

2. Develop your powers of perspective

The emotion of cancer can be overwhelming, but it can be disarmed somewhat by knowing how the human mind responds. Mortimer has defined three stages common among people diagnosed with cancer: » Continue Reading

National Cancer Survivors Day: Celebrate the courage of patients and families

June 3, 2015 | by   


June is a month of benchmark celebrations: People graduate. People get married. People celebrate their survival of cancer.

The first Sunday of the month (June 7 this year) is National Cancer Survivors Day, but City of Hope recognizes that a single day is insufficient to help people understand something as complicated as this disease. So City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and the Department of Supportive Care Medicine have planned a full week of events from June 8 to 12 to celebrate the courage of patients, families and caregivers, and to promote their well-being before, during and after treatment.

National Cancer Survivors Day

In 2014, there were about 14 million cancer survivors. By 2024, according to the American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates, that population will reach nearly 19 million, an increase of nearly one-third in only a decade.

A cancer survivor is anyone who has been diagnosed with the disease. It doesn’t matter if your tumor was found yesterday or your most recent chemotherapy treatment was during the Clinton administration.

The American Cancer Society identifies at least three distinct phases: the time from diagnosis to the end of initial treatment, the transition from treatment to extended survival and long-term survival. Practically speaking, however, a “survivor” often means someone who has finished active treatment.

In 2014, there were about 14 million cancer survivors. By 2024, according to the American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates, that population will reach nearly 19 million, an increase of nearly one-third in only a decade. » Continue Reading

NCI-MATCH: Trial focuses on mutations for rare cancers, not tumor site

June 2, 2015 | by   

Precision medicine is becoming a reality for cancers with genetic mutations that are practically household names, such as those behind some breast cancers and lung cancers.

rare cancers

A new multicenter trial focuses on providing precision treatments for rare cancers based on genetics, not tumor site.

For patients with very rare cancers, the options are fewer.

A new National Cancer Institute clinical trial, called NCI-MATCH: Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice, aims to help such patients. The nationwide effort, announced Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, will provide a way for patients who have cancers with known mutations in unusual sites to access new therapies in clinical trials.

For example, BRAF gene mutations are commonly associated with melanoma, but they can also be linked to other cancers. The NCI-MATCH trial will allow a patient with a BRAF mutation in a different kind of tumor to have access to a clinical trial.

“It’s tissue agnostic,” said Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope. Reckamp will serve as a principal investigator for one of the arms of the multicenter trial. “This will open up the availability of targeted therapies to patients with very rare cancers.” » Continue Reading

Leukemia survivor Stephen Bess on life, change and ‘my new normal’

June 2, 2015 | by   


Leukemia survivor Stephen Bess

Leukemia survivor Stephen Bess, pictured here with his wife, Erin, will meet his bone marrow donor for the first time at City of Hope’s Celebrity Softball game.

Nashville, Tennessee, native Stephen Bess, who received a hematopoietic stem cell transplant for acute lymphoblastic leukemia more than two years ago at City of Hope, will meet his genetically matched donor on June 13 in a rare and special ceremony at the 25th annual Celebrity Softball Game in Nashville. 

Here, Bess recounts his treatment experience and the perspective he’s gained …

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In the midst of all this craziness – meeting my hero donor, reaching the two-year post-transplant milestone, starting an incredible new job, celebrating life in my hometown of Nashville, and celebrating my wife’s first pregnancy – I was asked to write a blog post for City of Hope. Specifically, I was asked to answer two questions: How has life changed since my diagnosis and treatment, and why did I choose City of Hope as my treatment hospital?

The simple answer is that life has changed in every possible way.

From the moment I watched my oncologist’s lips move in slow motion as he said, “You have leukemia,” to my first chemo infusion, to my transplant prep and even to this day, everything is different.

I’m no longer gleefully ignorant of my mortality. It’s on my mind all the time. People often ask me, “Are you back to normal yet?” Life has changed so much, there will never be a “back to normal” for me; there’s only my new normal. » Continue Reading