Posts tagged ‘cancer research’


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.

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Aspirin might reduce risk of breast cancer recurrence for obese women

August 20, 2014 | by

An aspirin a day might help keep breast cancer away for some breast cancer survivors, a new study suggests.

Aspirin closeup

A new study indicates that aspirin and similar painkillers could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence in obese and overweight women. More research is warranted, experts say.

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


Breast cancer risk linked to birth control pills, but no need to panic

August 5, 2014 | by

Women using some birth control pills, specifically those with high doses of estrogen and a few other formulations, may be at an increased risk of breast cancer, a new study has found. At first glance, the findings seem alarming, but a City of Hope breast cancer surgeon is warning against overreaction.

Birth control pills

A new study links some birth control pills to higher breast cancer risk, but study leaders and experts say more research is needed.

The study, published recently  in the journal Cancer Research and led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, compared women who used oral contraceptives in the past year to those who never used them or who had formerly used them. However, the researchers acknowledged, their findings should be interpreted very carefully.

“Our results require confirmation and should be interpreted cautiously,” said study researcher Elisabeth F. Beaber, Ph.D., M.P.H., in a statement released by the journal. “Breast cancer is rare among young women and there are numerous established health benefits associated with oral contraceptive use that must be considered. In addition, prior studies suggest that the increased risk associated with recent oral contraceptive use declines after stopping oral contraceptives.” » Continue Reading


Research, plus newest techniques, improves treatment of prostate cancer

July 28, 2014 | by

Counter-intuitive though it might seem, a prostate cancer diagnosis shouldn’t always lead to immediate prostate cancer treatment.

prostate cancer

Men with prostate cancer face difficult and often complicated choices in how to proceed with their medical care. It’s more important now than ever to find doctors with the expertise to know when to pursue aggressive treatment and when to manage with active surveillance.

Although prostate cancer is the second-leading cancer killer of men, behind lung cancer, and causes more than 29,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, in many cases, the tumors are small, slow-growing and confined. That means that most prostate cancer tumors might not automatically warrant medical intervention.

“Active surveillance,” in which physicians closely monitor patients so they can identify early signs of disease progression, is emerging as the best course of action for many men with prostate cancer. The strategy enables doctors to treat cancer before it becomes a serious threat, while avoiding unnecessary risk by treating tumors unlikely to spread. » Continue Reading


Meditopes: Hitching cancer drugs to antibodies (w/VIDEO)

July 1, 2014 | by


Scientists have long searched for ways to bolster the immune system to fight diseases that seem to evade it, including cancer.

City of Hope scientists discovered what they call a meditope, an opening in the center of an antibody and a peptide that fits neatly into it, creating the perfect "hitch" that allows medicines to be attached to the antibodies for delivery to tumor sites.

City of Hope scientists discovered what they call a meditope, an opening in the center of an antibody and a peptide that fits neatly into it, creating the perfect “hitch” that allows medicines to be attached to the antibodies for delivery to tumor sites.

Many have focused on monoclonal antibodies, trying to use them as trucks to drop off payloads of drugs right at the site of an infection or tumor. The problem, however, has been welding the payload to the truck. While analyzing the structure of these antibodies, City of Hope scientists discovered a “hitch” – a hole in the center of the antibody’s structure, and a peptide that fits cleanly and easily into it.

This universal “hitch” – named a meditope by John C. Williams, Ph.D., and his research team that discovered it – has the potential to arm the immune system against cancer as well as other diseases.

Williams says his team is still exploring the applications but that the discovery has the potential to dramatically change oncology, radiology and other disciplines. Because the peptide can easily link to therapeutic molecules and hitch them to antibodies, the use for meditopes goes beyond cancer. Some of the diseases Williams and his team have considered so far include rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and macular degeneration.

This video explains how Williams and his team discovered the meditope.


Meet our doctors: M. Houman Fekrazad on a potential chemotherapy patch

June 21, 2014 | by

Chemotherapy is a major tool in the fight against cancer. This method of using drugs to destroy cancer cells has successfully treated many patients. Yet while chemotherapy has been proven to effectively attack cancer cells, it can cause serious side effects that can severely impact a patient’s quality of life.

Dr. Fekrazad says a chemo patch may help decrease side effects for patients.

Medical oncologist M. Houman Fekrazad is developing a chemotherapy patch that he believes will reduce side effects for cancer patients.

Here M. Houman Fekrazad, M.D., an associate clinical professor of medical oncology at City of Hope | Antelope Valley, discusses ongoing research, including a new chemotherapy patch he is currently developing. Such research has considerable promise not only to increase chemotherapy’s efficacy, but to reduce the toxic side effects that often accompany this form of treatment.

How does chemotherapy work? Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells. At the same time, it can damage normal healthy cells of the human body, such as those in the bone marrow, liver, kidney, nerves, hair or the lining of your mouth and intestines. Damage to healthy cells may cause side effects. Most are temporary while the patient is on treatment. However, long-term side effects of chemotherapy need to be discussed with patients prior to initiating therapy.

You own a patent on a patch that can deliver chemotherapy through the skin. Can you tell us more? Sure. By today’s standards, there has only been two ways to administer anti-cancer drugs – intravenously (IV) and orally. In this project (which is still in the planning stages), we aim to put chemotherapy into nanoparticles and then pass it through the skin. The chemotherapy will then be released in the bloodstream to target the cancer cells. There are several issues that can potentially be eliminated when chemotherapy is administered through the skin. For example: » Continue Reading


Kids with leukemia at relapse risk due to forgetfulness about their pills

June 5, 2014 | by

A quarter of children in remission from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, are tripling their risk of a relapse because they are missing too many doses of an essential maintenance medication, according to findings from a recent City of Hope study .

bottle with tablets

A City of Hope study found that a quarter of kids with acute lymphoblastic leukemia are at a tripled risk of relapse because they are missing doses of an oral chemotherapy. The No. 1 reason why: they forget.

The research, published in the journal Blood, also reports maintenance medication adherence was lower in minority groups. About 46 percent of African-American children and 28 percent of Asian children are not taking enough doses to prevent relapse, compared with 14 percent of white children.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, is the most common form of childhood cancer. While more than 95 percent of children with ALL enter remission within a month of receiving initial cancer therapy, one in five will relapse. Additionally, relapsed disease is often harder to treat and may involve costlier, most toxic therapies.

In order to remain cancer-free, children in ALL remission must take a form of oral chemotherapy, called 6-mercaptopurine(6MP), every day for two years to protect against the disease coming back.

Despite 6MP’s proven benefit, previous studies have suggested pediatric ALL patients have difficulty taking it consistently. Other studies reported survival rates vary greatly among racial groups – prompting investigators to begin studying race-specific patterns of adherence in children with ALL.

“While we don’t yet know why children of different races have significantly different survival rates for ALL, we know that their adherence to their maintenance medication is a critical factor in their survival,” said first author Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H. “With this in mind, we sought to explore the potential linkages that may exist between several key race-specific sociodemographics of these children and their adherence to 6MP.”

Bhatia, who is also the Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences, and her team began their research studying differences in medication adherence among different racial groups of children in remission from ALL in 2012, reporting that Hispanic children did not follow their prescribed maintenance regimen as consistently as non-Hispanic whites. » Continue Reading


ASCO 2014: Chemo with either Avastin or Erbitux are equally effective against colorectal cancer

June 2, 2014 | by

Results from a large-scale study found that four commonly-prescribed drug regimens are equally effective for most types of colorectal cancer. The findings were presented during the plenary session at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting.

A new study presented at ASCO's annual meeting found that Avastin and Erbitux are equally effective against most kinds of colorectal cancer.

A new study presented at ASCO’s annual meeting found that chemotherapy plus either Avastin or Erbitux are equally effective against most kinds of colorectal cancer.

The researchers reported that, for metastatic colorectal cancer patients who do not have a KRAS 12/13 gene mutation, nearly identical results were seen from taking chemotherapy with either bevacizumab (trade name Avastin) or cetuximab (trade name Erbitux).

According to Marwan Fakih, M.D., director of City of Hope’s gastrointestinal medical oncology program, these results mean that patients and their doctors can choose a regimen based on other factors — such as side effects — without having to worry about a reduction in effectiveness.

“For now, this report’s message is simple: no change in standard practice in the United States,” said Fakih, who is not involved in this study.

For this federally funded phase III clinical trial, more than 1,100 metastatic colorectal cancer patients are randomized to receive one targeted therapy (bevacizumab or cetuximab) and one chemotherapy combination (FOLFIRI or FOLFOX). The researchers hypothesized that bevacizumab and cetuximab may have varied in efficacy due to their different mechanisms of action. Bevacizumab prevents tumor growth and spreads by blocking the formation of new blood vessels while cetuximab works by inhibiting a growth factor that is used for cancer cells’ uncontrolled division.

After patient follow-ups and data evaluation, the researchers found that there were no significant differences between the bevacizumab+chemotherapy and cetuximab+chemotherapy groups in either overall survival (29 months versus 29.9 months, respectively) or progression-free survival (10.8 versus 10.4 months, respectively.)

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Care at a Comprehensive Cancer Center – like City of Hope – saves lives

June 2, 2014 | by

Although comprehensive cancer centers — including City of Hope — are recognized by the National Cancer Institute for their robust clinical care, research and education programs, patients have had little way to compare those centers’ outcomes and patient populations against other facilities’. Until now.

African Americans and cancer

City of Hope researchers found that a number of factors, including race and ethnicity, are tied to a lower likelihood of getting treated at a comprehensive cancer center.

This question is addressed in a new City of Hope study which found that receiving cancer care at a comprehensive cancer center does indeed improve survival. The study also found that multiple factors — including ethnicity, insurance type and socioeconomic status — can affect a person’s likelihood of being treated at a comprehensive cancer center.

The abstract of the study will be presented on June 2 by Julie Wolfson, M.D., M.S.H.S., assistant professor of City of Hope’s Department of Pediatrics and Department of Population Sciences, at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago.

“To be designated as a comprehensive cancer center, an institution has to go through a rigorous approval process to ensure its quality in diagnosis, treatment, research and education,” Wolfson said. “However, there have not been any studies on treatment site’s effect on survival outcomes or demographic factors that can impact where a patient goes for treatment.”

To investigate this topic, Wolfson and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 53,000 cancer patients in the Los Angeles County cancer registry from 1998 to 2008. Of this patient population, approximately 7 percent were treated at a comprehensive cancer center; the team compared this subset against patients treated in other settings to determine whether there were any significant differences in demographics and overall survival. » Continue Reading


ASCO 2014: Younger women with breast cancer are less likely to survive

May 29, 2014 | by

Cancer can affect a person at any age, with the disease often considered one of aging. But increased age isn’t always linked to an increased risk of death. City of Hope researchers have found that, when it comes to breast cancer, younger women are more likely to die than their older counterparts.

Breast cancer

Younger women diagnosed with breast cancer face poorer outcomes, according to a new study by City of Hope researchers.

That research will be presented on June 2 by Julie Wolfson, M.D., M.S.H.S., assistant professor of City of Hope’s Department of Pediatrics and Department of Population Sciences, in an abstract at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago.

“Adolescents and young adults are documented to have poorer cancer outcomes, but no one has studied outcome differences for cancers that are typical in young adults, including breast cancer,” Wolfson said.

In their research, Wolfson and her colleagues analyzed data on more than 67,000 patients from the Los Angeles County cancer registry from 1998 to 2008, including almost 6,000 from the young adult age group (22 to 39 years old). They then looked at overall survival and mortality rates for the seven cancers most common in young adults (breast, liver, lung, colorectal, gastric, cervical and oral).

After adjusting for demographic and clinical characteristics (such as stage of cancer and race/ethnicity), the researchers found that younger women with breast cancer have worse outcomes than older women with breast cancer. In their analysis, the mortality rate for this group was 10 to 30 percent higher than that of older women (40 to 65 years old). » Continue Reading