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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With Labor Day just around the corner, summer is on its way out. But just because summertime is ending doesn’t mean we can skip sunscreen. Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is needed all year round. Exposure to UV radiation — whether from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps used in tanning beds — increases the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Here, Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in dermatology at City of Hope, shares simple prevention tips to lower the risk of melanoma. She also explains that the disease is almost always curable if detected and treated in its earliest stages.
What is melanoma and what causes it?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It arises from melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment in our skin. They are most common in sun-exposed areas of the skin, but can arise anywhere including under the fingernails, oral or genital mucosa, and eyes.
Melanoma is usually caused by too much UV exposure, either from natural sun or in tanning booths. Use of tanning beds can increase your risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Patients with fair skin, light hair and eyes, have a propensity to sunburn and are at higher risk of developing melanoma. Patients with many moles (greater than 50), atypical moles, and a family history of melanoma are also at increased risk. » Continue Reading
Undergoing reconstructive surgery may seem like a forgone conclusion for survivors of breast cancer, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. A new study has found that most breast cancer survivors who undergo a mastectomy decide against surgical reconstruction of their breasts.
The reasons for such a decision vary, according to the breast reconstruction study published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery. More than 48 percent of those who decide against reconstruction say they don’t want to undergo additional surgery, almost 34 percent say reconstruction isn’t important and 36 percent cite a fear of breast implants.
In fact, only about 42 percent of women choose reconstructive surgery after their mastectomy.
Not only is Laura Kruper, M.D., director of the Rita Cooper and J. William Finkel Women’s Health Center, unsurprised by the number of women who forgo reconstruction, she finds the number of patients who do choose surgery encouraging. » Continue Reading
Nearly four decades ago, City of Hope began its bone marrow transplant program. Its first transplant reunion celebration was a single patient and his donor, also his brother.
This year, City of Hope welcomed hundreds of hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) recipients to the annual bone marrow transplant/HCT reunion. Since the program’s inception, City of Hope has performed more than 12,000 hematopoietic cell transplants, for patients ranging in age from less than 1 year old to more than 79 years old.
The reunion of bone marrow transplant patients, one of the highlights of the year for City of Hope, underscores the close relationships that City of Hope caregivers have with their patients, even those who have been free of their cancer for decades. The outcomes for the program underscore the importance of those relationships and the high level of expertise provided here: They are among the very best in the nation. » Continue Reading
The burgeoning type 2 diabetes epidemic casts a pall over the health of America’s public. New research now shows the looming threat is getting worse. Much worse.
A diabetes trends study published earlier this month in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology by researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for the average 20-year-old man has doubled since the late 1980s from 20 percent to 40 percent. For women, the diabetes risk has risen from 27 percent to 39 percent.
Hispanics and black women face an even steeper threat, with half destined to develop the disease in their lifetimes. » Continue Reading
An aspirin a day might help keep breast cancer away for some breast cancer survivors, a new study suggests.
Obese women who have had breast cancer could cut their risk of a recurrence in half if they regularly take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs, report researchers from the University of Texas in Austin. The results of the NSAIDS study were published recently in the journal Cancer Research.
A City of Hope expert says the researchers’ conclusion makes sense. Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., R.N., director of the Division of Etiology at City of Hope, said the study echoes some of the findings of her own research on obesity. » Continue Reading
Christine Crews isn’t only a fitness enthusiast, she’s also a personal trainer and fitness instructor. Being active defines her life. So when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer at age 30, she decided she absolutely couldn’t let the disease interfere with that lifestyle.
And it didn’t. For the next 15 years, Crews continued to run marathons, teach fitness classes and train 20 to 30 clients a week, all while fighting her bladder cancer with chemotherapy and periodic tumor removals.
Cancer treatment and the cancer itself can cause changes in your sense of taste or smell. These side effects typically subside after treatment ends, but there are ways to help alleviate those bitter and metallic tastes in your mouth.
Here are tips from the National Cancer Institute to help keeps tastes and food interaction as pleasant as possible.
- Eat with plastic forks and spoons if you have a metallic taste in your mouth. Chopsticks are a good alternative, too.
- Cook foods in glass pots and pans instead of metal ones.
- Use special mouthwashes, brush often and floss. Ask your dentist or doctor about mouthwashes that may help.
- Choose foods that look and smell good. Avoid foods that do not appeal to you. Red meat may taste or smell strange, so try chicken or turkey instead.
- Marinate foods. You can improve flavor of meats and poultry by soaking them in marinade. While marinating it, keep meat in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
- Try tart foods and drinks. These include oranges and lemonade or adding lemon or lime juices to food or water. Tart lemon custard might taste good and help add extra calories. (Note: do not consume tart foods if you have a sore mouth or sore throat).
- Make foods sweeter. If foods have a salty, bitter or acidic taste, adding sugar or sweetener can help.
- Experiment with adding extra flavor or flavors you’ve never had before so you have no expectation of how it should taste. Try bacon bits, onions or herbs like basil, cumin, coriander and rosemary. Use barbecue sauce on meats and chicken.
- Avoid foods and drinks with smells that bother you.