Happy Birthday, CIRM! 10 years, 10 new stem cell therapies

November 29, 2014 | by   
stem cell research

City of Hope joined other leaders in stem cell research to celebrate 10 years since voters approved funding for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM.

On its 10th birthday, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine celebrated 10 stem cell therapies that have been approved for clinical trials, including an HIV/AIDS trial at City of Hope.

At the recent anniversary event at USC’s Broad Stem Cell Center, scientific leaders in the development of stem cell therapies for a range of diseases and conditions – such as AIDS, cancer, diabetes and blindness – reflected on the accomplishments of the last decade and thanked voters for their investment in research aimed at pushing the frontiers of medicine.

City of Hope has used its $55 million in CIRM funding to participate in every facet of stem cell research, including basic science, translational medicine, clinical trials and training the next generation of scientists in stem cell biology. John Zaia, M.D., the Aaron D. Miller and Edith Miller Chair in Gene Therapy and chair of the Department of Virology, said during his remarks at the event that CIRM also has encouraged academic institutions to partner with biotech companies to achieve results. » Continue Reading

Made in City of Hope: A comprehensive approach to curing diabetes

November 28, 2014 | by   

Diabetes affects nearly every organ in the body. In type 1 diabetes (previously called juvenile onset, or insulin-dependent, diabetes), its cause, and potentially its cure, can be found in the pancreas — home to islet cells which produce insulin, the hormone that enables the body to process sugar.

Fouad Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D.

Fouad Kandeel was instrumental in launching City of Hope’s Islet Cell Transplantation Program. He has pursued the safest and most effective methods of transplantation — using islet cells from donors — a far simpler procedure than transplantation of an entire pancreas.

In people with type 1 diabetes — a lifelong condition — the body’s immune system attacks and kills the islet cells. Patients must inject themselves with insulin to control their blood sugar (known as glucose). Transplantation of healthy insulin-producing islet cells is the first step on the path to freedom from this constant struggle.

A leader in the field

Fouad Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D, chair of the Department of Clinical Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism, was instrumental in launching City of Hope’s Islet Cell Transplantation Program. Since leading the first transplantation in 2004, he has pursued the safest and most effective methods of transplantation — using islet cells from donors — a far simpler procedure than transplantation of an entire pancreas.

As Kandeel works to perfect the protocols, or rules, for islet cell transplantation, he’s also working with other researchers and clinicians at City of Hope to create a comprehensive — potentially conclusive — approach to curing diabetes. » Continue Reading

3 tips for controlling heartburn during the holidays

November 27, 2014 | by   

The holiday season has arrived and, with it, a celebration of food. Chocolate, butter cookies, stuffing, pies, smoked meat – all are holiday staples. All are also the perfect recipe for heartburn.

Chronic heartburn can lead to esophageal cancer

Sometimes heartburn is just heartburn. Sometimes it’s a risk factor for, or a sign of, esophageal cancer.

Occasional heartburn, formally known as gastroesophageal reflux, is common, but 20 percent of Americans suffer from a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, meaning they experience heartburn and regurgitation on a chronic basis. Eventually, GERD can lead to a precancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus and, worse, cancer.

“Over time, gastroesophageal reflux disease can cause inflammation of the lining of the esophagus,” said Jae Kim, M.D., chief of thoracic surgery at City of Hope. “If there is enough inflammation, the normal lining is replaced with an abnormal lining, called Barrett’s esophagus.  In some cases, Barrett’s esophagus can then lead to esophageal cancer.”

» Continue Reading

Thanksgiving food safety tips for all (especially cancer patients)

November 26, 2014 | by   
food safety tips

Food preparation is a big responsibility. Thanksgiving food preparation is an even bigger responsibility, especially if one of your guests is a cancer patient.

Preparing a Thanksgiving meal is a huge responsibility, not just in terms of taste and presentation, but also in terms of food safety. Special care must be taken when handling, assembling and cooking the feast  – and this is never more true than when your guests will include immunosuppressed patients, such as cancer patients currently in treatment.

For them, illnesses can be longer and more debilitating, possibly resulting in hospitalization. Their bodies simply can’t clear infection as easily as other people’s bodies. Here are some Thanksgiving food safety tips from City of Hope dietitians to help you shop, and prepare, carefully. » Continue Reading

Control the ‘spread': Healthy Thanksgiving recipes and tips

November 25, 2014 | by   

Turkey-Talk---Thanksgiving with the familyCelebrating the holidays with family and friends can be festive, but most of us definitely overeat. The average Thanksgiving meal is close to 3,000 calories – well above the average daily recommendation of 2,000 calories.

Here, we serve up some tips from City of Hope dietitians Dhvani Bhatt and Denise Ackerman to bring healthier options to the traditional Thanksgiving meal. We also offer updates on classic side dishes and desserts, tested by City of Hope dietitians, that use seasonal vegetables and fruits, herbs, egg whites and spices to minimize the need for butter, salt and cream.

» Continue Reading

For a (secretly) healthier Thanksgiving, try these recipe substitutions

November 25, 2014 | by   
Egg Whites as a suggested recipe substitutions

To make your Thanksgiving recipes healthier, without anyone noticing, try these recipe substitutions.

A healthier Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean a big plate of raw carrots and kale – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Instead, it can amount to a small change here, a small change there, and maybe a tweak beyond that.

Dietitians at City of Hope, which promotes a healthful lifestyle as a way of reducing cancer risk, suggest these substitutions for your holiday favorites. These tips are so smart, your guests might not even notice them.  » Continue Reading

Bone marrow recipient sees gift of life go full circle. ‘Karma,’ she says

November 24, 2014 | by   

Joselyn Miller received a lifesaving bone marrow transplant at City of Hope two years ago. Here, she reflects on her gratitude as a bone marrow recipient and on giving back.

By Joselyn Miller

cancer survivor Joselyn Miller

Bone marrow recipient Joselyn Miller and her brother Leason, who donated bone marrow to her for a lifesaving transplant, at City of Hope’s Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion.

thank•ful adjective  \ˈthaŋk-fəl\
:  conscious of benefit received
:  glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.
:  of, relating to, or expressing thanks

I was thankful for the perfect life I was living. Incredible childhood with ideal family. Wonderful high school and college experiences with amazing mentors and friends. Fantastic husband and children. Fun, adventurous lifestyle. I was thankful, but I had no idea what thankful truly meant beyond turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. I was about to get educated.

Throughout my 49 years, I avoided sickness like the plague. I never had a broken bone, I never had stitches, I never had surgery, I never fainted, I never had a freaking nosebleed. I had a massive phobia of needles (and snakes), and a doctor’s office was like a foreign land.  Then in May of 2012, the perfect health rug was ripped out from under me. » Continue Reading

Cancer in your family history? Your genes are not your destiny

November 22, 2014 | by   

When it comes to cancer, your family history may provide more questions than answers: How do my genes increase my risk for cancer? No one in my family has had cancer; does that mean I won’t get cancer? What cancers are common in certain populations and ethnicities?

City of Hope experts have some guidance. “Your genes are not your destiny, but they can play a role in the decisions you make related to cancer screenings, diet and interventions that you do along the way,” said Joseph Alvarnas, M.D., director of medical quality and an associate clinical professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope. “You can take an active role in how you move along in life, rather than be the passive recipient of the hand that genetics happens to deal to you.” » Continue Reading

Made in City of Hope: T cells – enlisting the immune system to beat cancer

November 21, 2014 | by   

The body’s immune system is usually adept at attacking outside invaders such as bacteria and viruses. But because cancer originates from the body’s own cells, the immune system can fail to see it as foreign. As a result, the body’s most powerful ally can remain largely idle against cancer as the disease progresses. Immunotherapy in general seeks to spur the immune system to action, helping the body fight cancer. One type of immunotherapy —T cell therapy — reprograms immune cells known as T cells to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

Stephen Forman

Stephen J. Forman, the head of City of Hope’s bone marrow transplant program, is leading a wave of T cell clinical trials, all of which are moving the treatment out of the lab and directly to patients.

A wave of clinical trials

Normally, T cells attack bacteria and other infectious agents. In T cell therapy, T cells are isolated from a sample of the patient’s blood, then genetically engineered to seek out and attack a specific cancer. Researchers grow millions of these engineered T cells in the laboratory. The engineered cells are reinfused into the patient, where they go to work eliminating cancer.

Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, has long pursued breakthrough treatments for hematologic cancers and blood-related disorders, and heads up City of Hope’s bone marrow transplant program. Under his direction, a wave of T cell clinical trials is underway, all of which are moving the treatment out of the lab and directly to patients. » Continue Reading

Inspiring Stories: One mother’s journey through adoption and neuroblastoma

November 20, 2014 | by   

On Jan. 1, 2015, six City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome the new year with their loved ones atop City of Hope’s Tournament of Roses Parade float. The theme of the float is “Made Possible by HOPE.” The theme of the parade is “Inspiring Stories.”

Here, Kari Penner shares the inspiring story of her battle for her son. 

Kari Penner with son Adi

Kari Penner, left, fought to get the best treatment for her now-son Adi, whom she met in a Romanian orphanage and who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma before he was even 2 years old. (Photo courtesy of Kari Penner)

By Kari Penner

In 2002 at age 20, I decided to move to Romania for one year to volunteer in an orphanage. More than a year went by, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave the precious children there.

In July 2003, a newborn who had been abandoned at birth was brought to the orphanage when he was 2 months old. This was Adi.  In November 2004, Adi now 16 months old started getting sick. He had high fevers for a week and blood tests revealed severe anemia. More tests were run and in early December 2004 and Adi was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system that started on his adrenal gland and spread to his bone marrow.

I got to work researching and trying to find treatment options for him. I tried to get him to the States for treatment, but I didn’t have any luck. Children in foster care are not allowed to leave the country.

I felt like there were two options: Walk away and don’t look back, yet live with regret – or fight alongside this precious child and adopt him as my own.

I chose Adi. » Continue Reading