Posts tagged ‘cancer research’
People with a family history of cancer often want, or need, to know whether they have a gene mutation linked to that cancer. For that, they seek genetic testing, involving a blood sample that is analyzed for specific gene abnormalities.
Thomas Slavin, M.D., a geneticist and assistant clinical professor at City of Hope, typically works with patients – primarily breast, ovarian or colorectal cancer patients – who have a hereditary predisposition to cancer. Most are part of City of Hope’s large Hereditary Cancer Registry and are working with a genetic counselor. Slavin, the counselor and the patient use the patient’s history and genetic information to inform testing and make treatment plans.
Here, Slavin explains why he chose such a complex and rapidly involving field.
Why did you choose the field of genetic testing?
It has been an interest of mine since I was very young. When I was in middle school, I wrote to the American Society of Human Genetics requesting information about careers in genetics because I’ve always found it intriguing that one little mutation in a single gene can be life-changing for a family. After pursuing residencies in both pediatrics and medical genetics and completing a board certification in molecular diagnosis, I became particularly interested in the rapid advances in genetics sequencing and the newfound ability to make detailed molecular diagnoses on individuals. » Continue Reading
The outlook and length of survival has not changed much in the past 25 years for patients suffering from an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). These patients still have few options for therapy; currently available therapies are generally toxic and do not increase survival by more than a few months.
Now, City of Hope researchers have identified a promising new strategy: a bacterial-based therapy that homes to tumors and provokes an extremely effective tumor-killing response.
In a study that appears in the journal Cancer Immunology Research, published by the American Association for Cancer Research, they report that the therapy frequently triggered the complete regression of pancreatic tumors and significantly extended survival in preclinical mouse studies. The study was led by Don J. Diamond, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at City of Hope, who believes that this method can be used to treat a variety of cancers that share similar features to PDAC.
Bacteria-based therapies have been used to treat solid tumors for decades and are commonly used to treat bladder cancer. Typically, an attenuated (i.e. weakened) form of the microbe is used as the therapy itself, or as a delivery vector to generate anti-tumor responses confined only to the cancer site. » Continue Reading
The American Society of Clinical Oncology, a group that includes more than 40,000 cancer specialists around the country, recently issued a list of the five most profound cancer advances over the past five decades. Near the top of the list was the introduction of chemotherapy for testicular cancer. To many in the field, this comes as no surprise.
Prior to the advent of effective chemotherapy regimens, 90 percent of patients with advanced disease died. Now, the tables have turned entirely — more than 80 percent are survivors.
With April being Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, I think it’s entirely appropriate to celebrate these amazing statistics. After all, only a handful of cancers can be declared highly curable in 2015. As an oncologist, I can attest that treating testicular cancer can be highly rewarding. The disease tends to affect younger males, and a cure means they can return to the process of starting their careers and families.
However, it is important to draw a distinction between a disease that is highly curable and a disease that’s entirely curable — and testicular cancer is the former, not the latter. » Continue Reading
Today is National Doctors Day, the official day to recognize, thank and celebrate the tremendous work physicians do each and every day.
Launched in 1991 via a presidential proclamation from then-President George Bush, the observance offers a chance to reflect on the qualities that define truly great medical care. Compassion and expertise are vital, of course, as is the intuitive understanding that each patient must be treated as a person, not his or her disease. But research is vital as well.
As the proclamation states: “The day-to-day work of healing conducted by physicians throughout the United States has been shaped, in large part, by great pioneers in medical research.”
Here, we acknowledge a few of the City of Hope physicians working to improve care and treatment of patients everywhere by maximizing the most leading-edge research from around the world – and by conducting it themselves at City of Hope.
Karen S. Aboody, M.D.: Pushing the frontiers of brain cancer therapy
Although the mass of a glioblastoma, the most aggressive and common type of primary brain tumor in adults, can be removed surgically, removal of all the tumor cells is virtually impossible – meaning recurrence is common. Karen S. Aboody, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery at City of Hope, believes the answer could lie in special cells called neural stem cells. Neural stem cells are known for their ability to become any type of cell in the nervous system. These cells not only are attracted to cancer cells, they have the ability to deliver drugs directly to the tumor sites, sparing healthy tissues and minimizing side effects. City of Hope is currently conducting a phase I clinical trial of neural stem cells to treat glioblastoma. » Continue Reading
Pick up any biotech industry report and you’re guaranteed to come across one term repeatedly – CAR-T therapy. A fierce competition is now underway to bring CAR-T treatments to market – several companies (Juno, Novartis, Kite and Cellectis, to name a few) have major stakes in the race. I’ve found the CAR-T buzz has also penetrated the clinic — not a day goes by that I don’t have a conversation with a patient regarding this emerging technology.
So what is CAR-T? Essentially, it’s an engineered immune cell (called a T cell) that has on its surface a highly specific protein called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). These “souped up” immune cells can mount a potent and highly specific attack against tumors.
Last year, a group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania published results in the New England Journal of Medicine pertaining to 30 patients who had received CAR-T therapies. These patients were suffering from a relapse of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and had failed standard treatments. The results were nothing short of remarkable – at six months following treatment, roughly two-thirds of patients remained free of disease.
These findings were a phenomenal leap forward for patients with this relatively rare disorder. A couple of roadblocks stand in the way of further development of CAR-T cells, however. » Continue Reading
The breakthroughs that have revolutionized cancer treatment, transforming cancer in many cases to a very manageable and even curable disease, started out as just ideas.
“I will often tell patients there’s no therapy we’re using to help them that wasn’t derived from somebody’s idea in some laboratory, working late into the night,” said Stephen J. Forman, M.D., Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope. “There’s a challenge, I think, maintaining a certain level of funding so that all good ideas get a chance to see if they’re going to help someone.”
The commitment to that ingenuity, along with the ability to seamlessly and safely bring those ideas from the laboratory to the patient, are what set City of Hope apart. The challenges in translating medicine into practical benefit, the future of precision medicine, how the field of cancer treatment has evolved and the role of 101-year-old City of Hope were the topics recently on “Charlie Rose,” a nationally syndicated show on PBS and Bloomberg television.
City of Hope President and Chief Executive Officer Robert W. Stone, Provost and Chief Scientific Officer Steven T. Rosen, M.D., and Forman sat down with Rose in an interview that aired Feb. 25. » Continue Reading
At City of Hope, innovative scientific research, important clinical studies and vital construction projects are all powered by philanthropy. Generous supporters fuel a powerful and diverse range of progress in science and medicine, enabling researchers and clinicians to improve cancer treatments and create cures not just for cancer, but also for diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses.
Take a look at what City of Hope supporters have helped build, launch and create over the past year:
Improving care through science
Innovative approaches: In 2014, John Williams, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular medicine, pushed ahead in his research on meditope technology. As described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these engineered peptides “fit” into antibodies, much like a lock and key, making it possible to selectively deliver material to cancer cells.
This research has already earned funding from the prestigious W. M. Keck Foundation, which is helping Williams’ team advance its applications. Those include the recent development of several new meditopes that can be attached to therapeutic antibodies targeting several different forms of cancer, including breast cancer. » Continue Reading
If you haven’t heard the term “precision medicine,” you will. If you don’t have an opinion about access to it, you will.
On Friday, President Barack Obama unveiled details of the Precision Medicine Initiative, an effort intended to accelerate cancer research in a powerful way, giving doctors new knowledge and new therapies to help them better treat individual patients much more effectively than is generally currently possible.
The specific goal of the $215 million plan is the creation of more targeted treatments for individual patients, not general-approach therapies that doctors then try to modify to the best of their abilities. As the White House said in a briefing:
“Most medical treatments have been designed for the ‘average patient.’ As a result of this ‘one-size-fits-all-approach,’ treatments can be very successful for some patients but not for others. This is changing with the emergence of precision medicine, an innovative approach to disease prevention and treatment that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments and lifestyles. Precision medicine gives clinicians tools to better understand the complex mechanisms underlying a patient’s health, disease or condition, and to better predict which treatments will be most effective.”
Explaining a prostate cancer diagnosis to a young child can be difficult — especially when the cancer is incurable. But conveying the need for prostate cancer research, as it turns out, is easily done. And that leads to action.
Earlier this year, Gerald Rustad, 71, who is living with a very aggressive form of metastatic prostate cancer, found himself trying to explain his heath condition to 10-year-old granddaughter Aurora.
He told her that his cancer couldn’t be cured, but that scientists at City of Hope were busily conducting research so they could help patients like himself. His doctor, for example, Sumanta Pal, M.D., co-director of City of Hope’s Kidney Cancer Program, was working with other City of Hope researchers to develop a drug that could treat metastatic prostate cancer without targeting testosterone.
The targeting of testosterone is too arcane for most 10-year-olds, but the need for scientific answers isn’t. Aurora asked if there were any way she could help. » Continue Reading