Posts tagged ‘City of Hope’
A new therapy is offering hope to patients with a certain form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The drug recently received approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, thanks in part to studies conducted by Anthony Stein, M.D., at City of Hope.
The drug Blincyto, also known by its generic name of blinatumomab, is a bispecific T-cell engager, or BiTE.
An emerging class of monoclonal antibody drugs, BiTE antibodies have a unique way to activate a patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells. One section of the antibody attaches to cancer cells while the other section activates the patient’s own disease-fighting T cells and redirects them to kill the cancer cells.
Stein, a clinical professor in the Department of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, oversaw clinical trials of Blincyto at City of Hope for patients with a certain form of ALL that had returned after treatment and was resistant to therapy. “The approval of Blincyto represents a significant milestone in immunotherapy research,” he said. Clinicians now have a new therapy for patients diagnosed with a highly aggressive cancer for which there are limited treatment options.
Cancer cells are voracious eaters. Like a swarm of locusts, they devour every edible tidbit they can find. But unlike locusts, when the food is gone, cancer cells can’t just move on to the next horn o’ plenty. They have to survive until more food shows up — and they do.
Mei Kong, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Cancer Biology, recently received $1.7 million from the National Cancer Institute to understand how cancerous cells survive their self-imposed famines.
Glutamine is an essential form of food for cancer cells. The amino acid provides the energy the cells need to survive and multiply. But malignant cells are gluttons and grow so rapidly they run through the glutamine stores, leaving themselves without their nutrition source. Although this should cause the cells to starve to death, it doesn’t.
Kong is working to uncover the tricks cancer cells use to stifle their hunger until the famine again turns to feast. So far she and her colleagues have found several proteins and molecular pathways involved in the process. The current grant will help them extend their studies, furthering our investment in scientific discovery to uncover possible new cancer therapies.
Even as the overall rate of oral cancers in the United States steadily declines, the rate of tongue cancer is increasing — especially among white females ages 18 to 44.
An oral cancer diagnosis, although rare, is serious. Only half of the people diagnosed with oral cancer are still alive after five years, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In large part, that’s because of the late diagnoses of this disease. Early signs of this cancer in young adults can be easily overlooked by primary physicians.
Although the reason for the rise among young adults is unclear, people can take steps to reduce their risk of serious disease, especially a late-stage diagnosis.
Ellie Maghami, M.D., chief of head and neck surgery at City of Hope, offers this advice: » Continue Reading
When it comes to research into the treatment of hematologic cancers, City of Hope scientists stand out. One study that they presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology suggests a new standard of care for HIV-associated lymphoma, another offers promise for the treatment of relapsing or treatment-resistant lymphoma, and still another points to more effective treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Researchers from the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute at City of Hope shared their findings at the annual ASH meeting, held Dec. 6 through 9, in San Francisco. More than 20,000 hematology professionals attended the annual conference, which highlights the hottest topics in the field.
Here are some of the highlights: » Continue Reading
The holidays can create an overwhelming urge to give to people in need — especially to sick children and families spending the holidays in a hospital room.
That’s a good thing. Holiday donations of toys and gifts can bolster the spirits, and improve the lives, of people affected by illness, and hospitals nationwide rely on the generosity of the public to help provide holiday cheer.
“Sometimes even the smallest gestures can mean the world to someone going through a difficult time,” said Renee Ortiz, L.C.S.W., a pediatric social worker at City of Hope.
But before scouring the shelves at the local mall, give some thought to what pediatric patients and their families actually want and need. The No. 1 item on children’s and young adults’ wish lists? Gift cards.
“Gift cards allow patients and their families to shop in many ways,” Ortiz said. “They can go to the store and pick out what they need. And for patients who are stuck in the hospital during the holiday season, they can shop online. It allows them to shop and look forward for their items to be delivered to them.”
Other popular gifts include educational toys, arts and craft kits, and movies. Check out the City of Hope website for a full list of gift ideas for kids, teens and young adults.
But one more thing … If you’re finding it hard to resist that adorable stuffed animal, try a little harder. At City of Hope, stuffed animals and plush toys are strongly discouraged. A number of patients suffer from weakened immune systems, and these toys can easily trap dust and other substances that can potentially make the children even sicker.
If you want to make your donation in person, call City of Hope’s Department of Pediatrics at 626-256,4673, ext. 65430. The team will arrange for a time to meet you and accept the gifts on behalf of City of Hope patients. The deadline for holiday donations is Dec. 19. If you would like to make a monetary donation, please include a note clearly explaining the purpose of the gift, e.g., a donation to the Department of Pediatrics for pediatric patient gifts, activities, etc.
Cancer has a way of “talking” to the immune system and corrupting it to work on its own behalf instead of defending the body. Blocking this communication would allow the immune system to see cancer cells for what they are – something to be fought off – and stop them from growing.
Scientists have known for some time that cancer uses a protein called STAT3 to talk to the immune system. At City of Hope, Hua Yu, Ph.D, the Billy and Audrey L. Wilder Professor in Tumor Immunotherapy, and her team sought more than simply an understanding of how the two are able to connect and communicate. They wanted to create a treatment to address it.
Based on what they discovered about how STAT3 works, Yu and her team developed a drug that would clamp down on STAT3, halting its ability to talk to the immune system. Known as CpG-STAT3 siRNA, the drug administers a dual blow: It blocks the growth of cancer cells, even as it sends a message to surrounding immune cells to destroy the tumor. CpG-STAT3 siRNA also appears to enhance the effectiveness of other immunotherapies, such as T cell therapy, by helping prevent cancer from subverting the immune system.
As diabetes experts worldwide know, City of Hope has a longstanding commitment to combating diabetes, a leading national and global health threat. Now that commitment has led to a $60 million investment to expand basic and translational research efforts through the new Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute at City of Hope.
The diabetes institute will expand the existing diabetes program, already credited with important discoveries in the understanding and treatment of diabetes. With an estimated one in three people in the U.S. projected to be diagnosed with diabetes by 2050, the need for diabetes research has never been more crucial.
“Millions of diabetes patients worldwide depend on synthetic insulin, a medical breakthrough with its roots at City of Hope,” said Steven T. Rosen, M.D., Irell & Manella Cancer Center Director’s Distinguished Chair, provost and chief scientific officer. “The institute will accelerate our efforts to discover new treatments and potential cures for this serious health threat. We will push forward in epigenetics, immunology, developmental biology, translational medicine, obesity, nutrition and metabolism – all fields that will be integral in developing cures for diabetes.” » Continue Reading
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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