Yoga eases fatigue for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation

March 11, 2014 | by   

Women undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer should try yoga. That’s the take-home message of a new study linking yoga to a greater sense of well-being and better regulation of stress hormones among female breast cancer patients.

Yoga for cancer patients

Yoga improves well-being and reduces fatigue among female breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, a new study has found.

The study, published online March 3 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, was conducted by researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and adds to increasing evidence that exercise benefits cancer patients.

“This study supports that the more you do, the better off you are,” said City of Hope’s Joanne Mortimer, M.D., providing expert commentary on the study to HealthDay. Mortimer is director of Women’s Cancers Programs.

To measure the impact of yoga, researchers assigned women undergoing radiation therapy to one of three groups. One group practiced yoga for up to three times a week, one group did stretching exercises for up to three times a week and one group did neither. Participants in each group shared with researchers their feelings of fatigue and how that impacted their quality of life, as well as their levels of depression and sleep disturbances. They also gave saliva samples so researchers could measure their levels of cortisol, considered an indicator of stress.   » Continue Reading

In the world of nursing research, Betty Ferrell is a hall-of-famer

March 10, 2014 | by   

Every field has its stars, and nursing research is certainly no exception. One of those stars – City of Hope’s Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., R.N.,  – will soon be inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI).

City of Hope's Betty Ferrell

Betty Ferrell, City of Hope’s director of Nursing Research and Education, is being recognized for her research in the field of palliative care nursing.

A pioneer in the field of palliative care nursing, Ferrell is City of Hope’s director of Nursing Research and Education. She will join 24 other nurses being inducted this year. The award recognizes nurse researchers who have achieved national or international recognition and whose work has improved the nursing profession and the patients it serves. The honorees’ research projects will be shared through the Virginia Henderson International Nursing e-Repository, allowing nurses around the globe to benefit from their discoveries.

“The combined accomplishments of these 25 honorees are nothing short of world-changing,” said Hester C. Klopper, Ph.D., M.B.A., R.N., R.M., STTI president. “In keeping with the STTI mission to celebrate nursing excellence in scholarship, leadership and service, I congratulate the 2014 Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame honorees.” » Continue Reading

8 questions and answers about bladder cancer

March 7, 2014 | by   

Bladder cancer incidence rates have not increased over the past few years — which is a good thing. But unlike cancers of the colon, prostate and lung, they haven’t declined either.

Bladder, shown with kidneys

Bladder cancer rates remain stubbornly unchanged. City of Hope’s Sumanta Pal explores the reasons. Here, the bladder is shown with the kidneys; all part of the renal system.

With more than 74,690 new cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in the United States each year and approximately 15, 580 deaths from the disease, it’s imperative to find the underlying causes of bladder cancer and why the incidence rate remains stubbornly unchanged.

Here Sumanta Kumar Pal, M.D., co-director of the Kidney Cancer Program at City of Hope, explores both the factors behind the stagnant incidence rates and the disease’s current and future treatments.

What is the current trend for bladder cancer incidence rates?

When reviewing the most recent American Cancer Society statistics, it appears as though bladder cancer incidences have flat-lined to some extent. This is disappointing because there are several other cancers indicated in the same annual report that appear to be on the decline. For instance, the incidence rates on prostate cancer in broad terms seem to be falling.

Furthermore, incidence rates of lung cancer and colorectal cancer also appear to be falling. This may potentially reflect little change in terms of bladder cancer screening; whereas for colorectal cancer and prostate cancer, there’s been a great extent of literature on cancer screening. We just don’t have the same in the context of bladder cancer.

» Continue Reading

For low-risk prostate cancer, he chose ‘active surveillance’

March 6, 2014 | by   

When Ralph Richardson discovered that his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) reading was a 6, he told his primary care physician that he wanted to go to City of Hope. “I felt I was better off in a City of Hope environment, where it’s a cancer treatment specialty hospital. This is what they do,” Richardson said.

At City of Hope, Richardson met with Jonathan Yamzon, M.D., clinical professor in the Prostate Cancer Program. “After Ralph’s biopsy revealed prostate cancer, we discussed the parameters used to stratify his risk of disease progression, and he fell into the ‘low-risk’ category. With that, we discussed his options, including treatment with robotic-assisted surgery or radiation therapy, versus active surveillance. Since his cancer risk was low, I recommended active surveillance as the most appropriate treatment,” Yamzon said.

» Continue Reading

Concern about Paxil’s effect on breast cancer risk misses larger point

March 4, 2014 | by   

A new test that allows researchers to quickly identify drugs and chemicals that could disrupt the balance of hormones in the body – potentially affecting development and progression of cancer, including breast cancer – has raised worries about the common antidepressant Paxil.

Antidepressants are a common therapy to combat depression in cancer patients. A new assay that found one antidepressant raises questions that should be researched, but no one should stop medications without consulting a doctor.

Antidepressants are a common therapy to combat depression in cancer patients, but a new assay that found one antidepressant, Paxil, could have an estrogen-promoting effect. That same assay found that other common drugs could have an estrogen-inhibiting effect. City of Hope’s Joanne Mortimer urges women and their doctors to focus on the larger picture.

In a trial screening of 446 common drugs, paroxetine – commercially known as Paxil – was found to have a weak estrogen-boosting effect, while other drugs were found to have slight estrogen-inhibiting effects. The implications for such an assay – developed at City of Hope – are significant, but it was the Paxil finding that grabbed national media attention. With 12 percent of Americans age 12 and older taking some form of antidepressant, the study and ensuing coverage raised concern among many women that Paxil might promote the growth of breast tumors.

A City of Hope women’s health expert says the new research has a larger message. The message isn’t that women should stop important medications – but rather that scientists and physicians should focus on increased opportunities for breast cancer research.

 “They’re very important drugs from a quality-of-life standpoint,” said Joanne Mortimer, M.D., director of Women’s Cancers Programs at City of Hope. “No drug has a single effect on the body. Every drug has many different effects. It’s really important to know that, and to be able to measure this in the laboratory, but ultimately we don’t know at this point what impact they have on breast cancer. What comes out of the lab isn’t the same as what happens when you put this in the human body.” » Continue Reading

Cancer of the breast, colon, lungs … Putting research in perspective

March 3, 2014 | by   

No matter how impressive a research study’s conclusion may be – or how seemingly unsurprising – experts are needed to put the findings into context. Perhaps a study’s methodology wasn’t as strong as it could have been. Perhaps the conclusions confirmed that other researchers are on the right track. Perhaps the study missed the mark completely.

Commentary on cancer research

City of Hope physicians offer context and insight on recent cancer research.

City of Hope’s physicians recently weighed in on an array of recent published studies, offering their expertise, insight and perspective via a special commentary feature in Clinical Oncology News.

From Journal of the National Cancer Institute came this recent study: “More Exercise Is Better During Breast Cancer Chemotherapy.”

Commented Joanne Mortimer, M.D., director of the Women’s Cancers Program and professor and vice chair of the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research at City of Hope:

The researchers “demonstrated that as little as 25 to 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise three times a week can improve self-reported physical functioning in women undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy. Twice that amount of aerobic exercise resulted in a significant reduction in bodily pain and fatigue. … The relationship between physical activity, obesity and breast cancer continues to intrigue us and provide important biological insights.” » Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Hematologist Leslie Popplewell on clinical trials

March 2, 2014 | by   

Research studies known as clinical trials have led to countless advances in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. These studies test the effectiveness of new medical approaches that can lead to fewer treatment-related side effects and, in some cases, improved outcomes for patients with certain cancers.

Leslie Popplewell, M.D., says clinical trials can offer additional treatment options for patients.

Leslie Popplewell says clinical trials can offer additional treatment options for patients.

But many patients know little about clinical trials, much less what’s involved to participate. Here,  Leslie Popplewell, associate professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope, explains how clinical trials work and how patients and their families can make informed decisions about participating in trials.

What are clinical trials, and why are they important?

Clinical trials are a way of delivering a promising new drug or combination of drugs to patients.  Trials typically have a strict set of guidelines on which patients can be treated (“are eligible”), and they’re carefully controlled so that the results can be recorded and the outcomes reported in a scientific way.

Usually clinical trials are designed to test new drugs, or drugs that have been in use for a while, but are now used in a different setting or patient population than previously. A clinical trial may also offer a new drug combination that hasn’t been used before. » Continue Reading

Kidney cancer rates are rising: Expert explains risks, outcomes

March 1, 2014 | by   

Many cancer incidence rates decline over time, but kidney cancer is one of the few cancers with incidence rates that continue to rise year after year. 


Kidney cancer is on the rise. A City of Hope expert explores the risks and the treatments.

Currently, nearly 64,000 new cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, and approximately 13,860 people die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. Men are much more likely than women to be diagnosed with the disease and to die from it.

But unlike other cancers, there is no formalized way to detect kidney cancer, which is why it’s important to know the disease’s risk factors and symptoms. Here Sumanta Kumar Pal, M.D., co-director of the Kidney Cancer Program at City of Hope, explores both the factors behind the rise in kidney cancer and the disease’s current treatments.

While most cancer incident rates continue to drop each year, kidney cancer is one of the few that continue to increase. Why is this?

Unlike breast cancer or colon cancer, kidney cancer is a disease for which we have no good screening modalities. At the moment, there’s no formalized way to actually detect kidney cancer before the onset of the disease. But as time has gone on, our imaging modalities have gotten better and better  — what I’m referring to here are CT scans and MRIs — and as that happened, we’ve found more and more incidental diagnosis of kidney cancer. » Continue Reading

HPV and cancer: 2 physicians explain links (W/VIDEO)

February 28, 2014 | by   

Once unknown to most people, HPV, or human papillomavirus, has become a subject of both worry and debate. It’s directly linked to cervical cancer, head and neck and other cancers, but many parents are reluctant to vaccinate their daughters against the disease.

City of Hope’s recent “Ask the Experts” session “HPV and Links to Cancer” brought some clarity to the issues surrounding this now-common virus, answering questions about the connection between HPV and cancer.

Ellie Maghami, M.D., chief of head and neck surgery at City of Hope, and Lily Lai, M.D., associate clinical professor of colorectal surgery, discussed HPV vaccines, how HPV is contracted and the relationship between HPV and cancer. They also explored the changing patient profile of people affected by HPV-related cancers.

A few highlights:

  • Up to 25 percent of oropharyngeal cancer (throat cancer) cases in the United State are not related to tobacco and alcohol abuse.
  • Sexually transmitted oral HPV infection is the principal risk factor for the distinct form of head and neck cancer.
  • HPV is linked to 80 to 95 percent of all anal canal cancers.
  • A total of 90 percent of women with cervical dysplasia have anal HPV infection.

Watch the full presentation above.


Sign up for our next “Ask the Experts” program, “Colon Health,” on March 19 to learn about the importance of screenings, colon cancer risk factors, cancer treatments and much more.

To view past Ask the Experts programs that feature several cancer related topics, visit our “Ask the Experts” video series.

Tip for parents of children with cancer: ‘Be the parent’ (VIDEO)

February 27, 2014 | by   

Parenting a child isn’t easy. Parenting a child with cancer can be infinitely more difficult. But parents can’t give up on their basic responsibilities to raise a child properly.

In this video, Jeanelle Folbrecht, Ph.D., associate clinical professor of psychology in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine at City of Hope, offers parents of young cancer patients some perspective. “You still have to be the parent. This is still a developing person,” she says. “You need to be engaged in that development.”

Folbrecht adds: “That will create for your child a sense of safety that things aren’t so bad that all of a sudden I don’t get parented and I get everything I want in the world.”


Read the Wolfrank family’s advice to parents of children with cancer.