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Bone marrow transplant may be answer to incurable, fatal blood disease

September 4, 2014 | by   

Even its name is daunting. Systemic mastocytosis is a fatal disease of the blood with no known cure. But a new study suggests a bone marrow transplant may be the answer for some patients.

Nakamura and Pullarkat

Systemic mastocytosis is currently considered a fatal blood disorder. City of Hope researchers Ryotaro Nakamura, left, and Vinod Pullarkat have found that bone marrow transplantation could offer a cure.

While rare, systemic mastocytosis is resistant to treatment with drugs and, when aggressive, can be fatal within four years of diagnosis. No standard therapy currently exists for the disease, which is caused by an overabundance of mast cells in the blood and bone marrow.

Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that normally helps in wound healing and in defending against infectious disease agents. The cells also are involved in allergic reactions including anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can sometimes lead to death.

Patients with mastocytosis tend to develop hives and itching and are prone to anaphylactic shock. They also can develop other blood cancers such as leukemia and myelodysplasia together with systemic mastocytosis. » Continue Reading

High-fat diet? You are what you eat, right down to your DNA

September 3, 2014 | by   

Could what you eat affect the health of your chromosomes? The short answer is, “Yes.”

Rama Natarajan and Dustin Schones

A high-fat diet may lead to detrimental changes to your chromosomes say Rama Natarajan, left, and Dustin Schones.

Researchers led by Dustin Schones, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Cancer Biology, and Rama Natarajan, Ph.D., director of the Division of Molecular Diabetes Research and the National Business Products Industry Professor in Diabetes Research, have found that a high-fat diet can lead to chemical changes in chromatin, the bundles of DNA and protein that form chromosomes. Further, the team found that those changes to chromatin structure can, in fact, alter the way genes are expressed in cells.

Researchers have long known that diet is a key factor leading to metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. These disorders result in abnormal processing of fats, proteins, sugars and other important molecules in the body.

» Continue Reading

Cancer insights: Urologist Bertram Yuh on prostate cancer risk

September 2, 2014 | by   

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Here, Bertram Yuh, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology at City of Hope, explains the importance of understanding the risk factors for the disease and ways to reduce those risks, as well as overall prostate health.

Prostate cancer expert Bertram Yuh

Bertram Yuh, a urologic cancer expert at City of Hope, explains prostate cancer risk factors and how to reduce them.

“What are my prostate cancer risks?” That’s becoming a more common, and increasingly important, question.

A lot of men wonder what can be done to prevent or reduce their risk of prostate cancer. The good news is, there’s a lot of research being conducted in this area regarding risks and influencing factors.

We already know there are racial predilections, such as that African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer and that, when they’re diagnosed, the cancer tends to be more aggressive. We also know that prostate cancer is less common in Asian-American and Hispanic men.

Further, while prostate cancer is certainly more common in older men, there is some recent clinical literature that states prostate cancer in younger men can be more aggressive. It is quite possible for a 47-year-old and a 77-year-old to have prostate cancers that behave differently.

I can’t treat every patient the same way just because their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) or Gleason grades look the same. In my role as a urology oncologist, I need to look at the whole patient.

» Continue Reading

Prostate cancer infographic: How to reduce prostate cancer risk

September 1, 2014 | by   

Prostate Health**
Learn more about prostate health, plus prostate cancer research and treatment, at City of Hope.

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Learn more about getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting us online or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). 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.

 

Childhood cancer: Know the 12 warning signs

September 1, 2014 | by   

Childhood cancer survival rates have increased dramatically over the past 40 years. More than 80 percent of children with cancer now survive five years or more, which is a tremendous feat.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Knowing the warning signs of childhood cancer is the first step in getting a diagnosis.

Despite the survival rate increase, cancer continues to be the No. 1 disease killer and second-leading cause of death in children. In 2014, nearly 1,400 children under the age of 15 are expected to die from cancer in the United States and about 10,450 children will be diagnosed with some form of cancer.

Although there are no widely recommended screening tests for childhood cancers, many cancers can be found early. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms for some of the most common childhood cancers, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, neuroblastoma and Wilm’s tumor. » Continue Reading

‘Mini’ stem cell transplant: What is it and how does it treat cancer?

August 29, 2014 | by   

Although a stem cell transplant can be a lifesaving procedure for people diagnosed with a blood cancer or blood disorder, the standard transplant may not be appropriate for all patients. This is because the conditioning regimen (the intensive chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments preceding the transplant) is very taxing on the body, and certain patients — such as those who are older — cannot tolerate the toxicity associated with the process.

Because non-myeloablative transplants rely on the anti-tumor effects of the donor cells, patients can be treated with a lower dose of chemotherapy and/or radiation—resulting in an easier-to-tolerate treatment regimen with fewer side effects.

Because nonmyeloablative, or “mini,” transplants rely on the anti-tumor effects of the donor cells, patients can be given a lower dose of chemotherapy — resulting in an easier-to-tolerate treatment regimen with fewer side effects.

But at City of Hope, this does not rule them out of a potentially curative transplant, thanks to our care team’s specialization in nonmyeloablative transplants (also known as a reduced intensity, or “mini,” transplant.)

Here, Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, explains how this relatively new procedure works.

What is a nonmyeloablative stem cell transplant and how does it work to treat cancer?

Nonmyeloablative stem cell transplant is a way of doing a transplant that is not as intensive as traditional transplant regimens. It uses lower doses of drugs than a standard transplant but still enables us to engraft stem cells from a donor. It then works through utilizing the donor stem cells, which builds an immune reaction against the residual cancer cells — hopefully eliminating the disease and preventing it from returning.

Because it is less intensive, nonmyeloablative transplants are generally used for patients who are older or otherwise too frail to tolerate a traditional transplant, and this procedure has allowed us to perform curative transplants in a greater range of people. » Continue Reading

Difficult-to-remove brain tumors present search for solutions

August 28, 2014 | by   

Brain tumor removal would seem to be the obvious course of action in the wake of a brain tumor diagnosis, but that’s not always the case. Some tumors are too difficult for many surgeons to reach or too close to areas that control vital functions. Removing them just proves too risky.

Mike Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Mike Chen, assistant professor in Division of Neurosurgery, is exploring the potential of the NeuroBlate device. He believes it could be a tool of the future for City of Hope.

A new device being considered at City of Hope, however, could ultimately allow neurosurgeons to not only reach these tumors safely, but to remove them in a carefully controlled way. This device, called the NeuroBlate, is an MRI-guided laser that destroys tumors through ablation, avoiding both traditional surgery and a craniotomy; that is, the removal of part of the skull.

“Ablation, or directing energy to kill tumor tissue is not a new thing,” said Mike Chen, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, Division of Neurosurgery at City of Hope. “The difference with NeuroBlate, or the newest generation of ablations systems, is that they are designed to be inserted stereotactically.” Stereotactic surgery uses very small incisions and extremely precise, three-dimensional positioning. » Continue Reading

Immunotherapy trials use viruses to teach immune cells to fight lymphoma

August 27, 2014 | by   

Hijacking the same sorts of viruses that cause HIV and using them to reprogram immune cells to fight cancer sounds like stuff of the future.

virus, antibodies and t-cells

Immunotherapy research at City of Hope is using viruses to program a patient’s own immune cells to fight lymphoma.

Some scientists believe that the future is closer than we think – and are now studying the approach in clinical trials at City of Hope. Immunotherapy is a promising approach for cancer treatment, and while the science is quickly advancing, the idea isn’t exactly new.

In the late 1800s – before much was known about the immune system – William Coley, M.D., a New York surgeon, noticed that getting an infection after surgery actually helped some cancer patients. So he began infecting them with certain bacteria, with positive results.

Today, doctors continue to seek ways to harness the immune system to fight disease. City of Hope researchers are examining immunotherapy techniques to treat some of the toughest cancers including gliomas, ovarian cancer and hematologic cancers. One especially promising approach is called adoptive T cell therapy.

» Continue Reading

Cancer insights: My father’s prostate cancer changed how I practice

August 26, 2014 | by   

Jennifer Linehan, M.D., an assistant clinical professor in City of Hope’s Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology in Antelope Valley, thought she knew all there was to know about treating prostate cancer. Then her father was diagnosed with the disease. This is her story.

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My father is 69 years old, has no health problems, is very active and still works diligently every day, from 5 a.m. till the evening. He is always smiling, laughing and enjoying life no matter what comes his way. He is an inspiration to me.

About 12 months ago, I was waiting for him to send me his prostate specific antigen (PSA) results from his recent physical. I just wanted to take a look. He was busy at work and told me that his PSA number was fine. I asked my mom to email it to me anyway. His PSA score was 28. I was stunned. I re-read the number at least twice to make sure it didn’t read 2.8 instead of 28.

Jennifer Linehan shares her story of dealing with prostate cancer first-hand, and how it affects how she treats her own patients.

A prostate cancer expert, Jennifer Linehan says her father’s treatment for prostate cancer has changed how she practices medicine and how she treats her own patients.

How could this be? I am a urologist.  How did I miss this? My head spun as every worst-case scenario started to fill my mind. As I was trying to calm down, I realized he needed a prostate biopsy. I started to think about who would do his surgery. He needed to come to City of Hope. My thoughts were racing. I began to wonder how far the disease had spread.

Finally, I got the nerve to call my parents; they could hear that my voice was panicked. I was panicked. I knew the realities that came with a high PSA and being diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was trying to keep calm, but instead blurted out: “How did this happen? Hasn’t your primary care physician been checking?”

Apparently, my father had been given the option of having his PSA checked for the last five years, but he refused every time. He told me that it was easier not knowing and not getting checked, because he was feeling fine. I tried to explain to him that prostate cancer is a silent killer. Often, a man won’t have any symptoms until the disease has progressed into the spine. I took a deep breath, apologized for my overreaction, and walked my parents through the next steps.

I was supposed to be the calm one, in control, but it’s all so different when someone so close to you is diagnosed.

» Continue Reading

Diet during cancer treatment: Tips to combat nausea

August 25, 2014 | by   

Nausea is the one of the most well-known, and dreaded, side effects of cancer treatment — and with good reason. Beyond the quality-of-life issues that it causes, severe nausea can prevent patients from receiving enough nutrients and calories at a time when they need every edge they can get.

A few simple actions, however, can help alleviate, or at least ease, food-related nausea, ensuring that patients can keep down the food they so desperately need. Here is what the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends to help control nausea.

Nausea

Nausea is one of the most well-known, and dreaded, side effects of cancer treatment. Experts suggest these tips (for starters) on how to control nausea: Eat small meals, choose easy-to-digest food and, counter-intuitive though it may seem, don’t skip meals.

Managing with food

  • Eat foods that are easy on the stomach like white toast, plain yogurt and clear broth.
  • Eat five or six small meals each day instead of three large meals.
  • Do not skip meals and snacks. Even if you do not feel hungry, try to eat something. Having an empty stomach makes nausea worse.
  • Choose foods that appeal to you, and avoid your favorite foods, so you don’t link them to feeling sick.
  • Sip only small amounts of liquids during meals. Eating and drinking at the same time can cause fullness or bloat.
  • Have liquids throughout the day. Drink slowly and through a straw or water bottle.
  • Consume foods at a moderate temperature, not too hot or too cold.
  • Eat dry toast or crackers before getting out of bed if you have nausea in the morning.
  • Plan when is best for you to eat around your treatments.
  • Check out this NCI guide of foods to that are easy on the stomach, along with questions to ask your doctor about nausea during cancer treatment.

» Continue Reading