Posts tagged ‘City of Hope’

Brain cancer treatment helps men with advanced prostate cancer

May 29, 2015 | by

City of Hope is developing cures for men by bridging the lab and clinic. Here, Karen Aboody works with Jacob Berlin.

Although science and medicine have much in common, their practitioners are immersed in work that often appears to be worlds apart. Developing cures together — that is, translating science into meaningful, effective medical treatment — requires boundless creativity and perseverance.

This journey often starts when City of Hope’s scientists and clinicians share their recent discoveries and challenges in the lab and clinic. This open forum enables them to make new connections and consider possibilities for improving treatment for patients.

One such connection was made when Karen Aboody, M.D., professor of neurosciences and a renowned translational scientist, shared advances using neural stem cells to treat cancer with Jonathan Yamzon, M.D., a urologic oncologist who spends his days treating men in the clinic. Yamzon was intrigued by the potential of this science to target prostate cancer.

As a result, a team of researchers has embraced this promising new approach as a way to cure men. Yamzon and Aboody, along with Jacob Berlin, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular medicine, and Jeremy Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular pharmacology, are now collaborating to bring neural stem cell therapy to men fighting prostate cancer — patients in urgent need of novel therapies for their disease.

Hormone therapy is the standard treatment for prostate cancer. The approach essentially starves cancer of testosterone, which the tumors need to grow and spread. But in many men, the cells mutate to produce testosterone on their own and keep growing, in effect becoming resistant to therapy. At this point, higher doses of chemotherapy may be effective, but would be too toxic to tolerate. This is where targeted neural stem cell therapy could step in. “We’re looking to treat patients who really don’t have any other options,” Yamzon said.

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Moving patients from terminal to treatable – with robotic surgery

May 28, 2015 | by
Robotic Surgery_004

“There are many ways that we can get at cancer without making giant incisions, yet still give the patients good outcomes,” said Yuman Fong, chair of the Department of Surgery at City of Hope.

Minimally invasive surgery at City of Hope is performed using robots with “wrists” that provide greater dexterity and range of motion than a human hand. These advanced “surgical assistants” enable surgeons to access hard-to-reach areas of the body through incisions no larger than a penny.

“Surgical robotics is a rapidly maturing field that represents both the present and the future at City of Hope, one of the largest centers of minimally-invasive and robotic surgery in the world,” says Yuman Fong, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery.

The less-is-more approach has dramatically altered the way patients experience and recover from surgery. A smaller incision often means less postoperative pain, fewer side effects, quicker recovery and a shorter hospital stay.

City of Hope surgeons have performed more than 10,000 robot-assisted surgeries since 2003, when the cancer center began performing prostatectomy using the da Vinci Surgical System, the first robotic surgery system approved by the Food and Drug Administration for general laparoscopic surgery.

An early adapter to robotics, the cancer center has played a key role in the development and refinement of the technology. From a console, the surgeon manipulates four robotic arms — three grip laparoscopic tools, while the fourth holds a pencil-sized video camera that is inserted through the incision to provide three-dimensional, magnified vision of the site.

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Free app lets blood donors schedule appointments and see impact

May 27, 2015 | by

Traditionally, blood donation comes with perks – tokens such as a gift certificate, swag emblazoned with the donor center’s logo or the occasional movie ticket.

blood donor

Carlos Morgan, a regular blood donor at City of Hope, checks the new COH Donate app on his smartphone. Morgan had just given three units of platelets.

Kasie Uyeno, manager of Blood Donor Recruitment for City of Hope, knows that’s not what brings donors back to the center again and again. They come for the ability to help others. That understanding sparked her idea for COH Donate: a free app that, in addition to offering practical applications like scheduling and reminders, aims to connect donors with examples of how they’re helping.

“Think of it as a feel-good corner on your phone,” she said in a recent interview with ABC7. “We want to help connect those dots for our donors and show them patients whose lives were saved because of their generosity – let them see the magnitude of what they’ve done.”

Blood products are especially important at City of Hope, where patients who have received bone marrow and stem cell transplants rely on transfusions and platelets while their body rebuilds its immune system. » Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Surgeon Laleh Melstrom on rewards of fighting melanoma

May 24, 2015 | by
Laleh Melstrom, M.D. , the newest skin cancer surgeon at City of Hope.

Meet Laleh Melstrom, an expert in  surgery for skin cancer.

Skin cancer is an enticing field to be in these days. Just ask Laleh Melstrom, M.D. M.S., one of City of Hope’s newest surgeons. “In the last few years, melanoma has been the type of cancer that has really shown the most progress in terms of treatments,” Melstrom said. “It’s the one cancer in 2015 that is probably the most exciting in terms of survival.”

The new melanoma treatments that have recently emerged “delay recurrences and progression,” said Melstrom, an assistant clinical professor of surgery who joined City of Hope in March from a similar role at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “And there are more forthcoming. They’re targeting aspects of the immune system to stimulate its response to melanoma” – the most deadly form of skin cancer.

However, although melanoma has seen “a lot of progress in the development of targeted therapies to treat for systemic disease, early surgical intervention remains the most effective strategy for preventing metastatic disease and prolonging survival,” Melstrom said.

Melstrom enjoys the challenges that skin cancer presents. “There are a multitude of treatment options for almost every cancer,” she said. “And tailoring the plan for each individual and their family and their value system is what makes this an art and not just a technical practice. The modalities of treatment cross all different disciplines. To be knowledgeable about all the different practices, as well as the person’s value system, really makes it a rewarding job.”

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STOP CANCER supports innovative scientists with research grants

May 22, 2015 | by
Research grants

Mark Boldin, left, pictured with Steven Rosen, provost and chief scientific officer, received a research grant, along with Thomas Slavin and Yuan Yuan that will provide $50,000 in funding for three years, totaling $150,000 each.

Stopping cancer starts with research. To that end, STOP CANCER has awarded $525,000 in grants to City of Hope for 2015, supporting innovative research projects and recognizing the institution’s leadership in advancing cancer treatment and prevention.

Founded in 1988, STOP CANCER underwrites the work of leading-edge scientists. The organization’s grants provide initial support for new and established researchers, giving their work exposure that can lead to additional funding and major advancements in fighting cancers.

Three faculty members received Research Career Development awards that will provide $50,000 in funding for three years, totaling $150,000 each:

  • Mark Boldin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, received an award for his research on lymphoma and microRNA biology. Boldin’s research group is investigating the role of microRNAs in the regulation of inflammation and cancer.
  • Thomas Slavin, M.D., assistant clinical professor of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics, received an award to study the genetics of pancreatic and gastric cancers under the mentorship of cancer geneticists Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., director of the division, and Susan Neuhausen, Ph.D., The Morris & Horowitz Families Professor in Cancer Etiology & Outcomes Research and co-leader of City of Hope’s Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program. Slavin will examine the genotypes of individuals with pancreatic and gastric cancers to look for hereditary markers that could be used to determine hereditary cancer risk.
  • Yuan Yuan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, received the Margie and Robert E. Peterson Foundation Research Career Development Award to study novel therapeutics to overcome therapy resistance in breast cancer. Yuan’s research project will focus on an arginine-depleting enzyme utilizing breast cancer cell lines.

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The Health Disparities Movement: Looking back, looking ahead

May 21, 2015 | by

“Of all forms of inequality, injustice in the health care system is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Health Disparities movement

CCARE helps underserved populations learn more, live healthier and receive better care.

By the time the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke those words in Chicago in 1966, the Civil Rights Act had been passed, the Voting Rights Act was the law of the land and the March on Washington was a 3-year-old memory. Yet King clearly recognized his work was far from complete. He knew he needed to advocate for what’s been called “America’s forgotten civil right.”

At about the same time, a group of psychologists gathered at the Swampscott Conference in Boston, where they began to shift their thinking from individual practice to the still-new realm of community psychology. It wasn’t enough, they realized, to treat a single patient when his or her community may be in crisis. A broader view was needed, one that examined social justice, diversity, empowerment, citizen participation … and yes, prevention and health promotion.

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Supportive care innovator Matthew Loscalzo on City of Hope: ‘We’re unique’

May 20, 2015 | by

Matthew Loscalzo, administrative director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and executive director of City of Hope’s Department of Supportive Care Medicine.

Eight years ago, Matthew Loscalzo surprised himself by accepting the offer to become City of Hope’s administrative director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and executive director of the Department of Supportive Care Medicine. At the time, he was administrative director of the Science of Caring Department he had founded at UC San Diego, and he loved it. He thought it would be his last professional gig.

But City of Hope made him the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse. “It took a lot of chutzpah for them to have this vision,” Loscalzo said in a New York accent as thick as cream cheese. Armed with best-in-show credentials, he directed the organization of a department in a way no other cancer center had dared to conjure.

Loscalzo’s success in establishing and sustaining the department is only the latest of his remarkable achievements, which have been recognized recently with two prestigious awards. In October, he received the Noemi Fisman Award for Lifetime Clinical Excellence from the International Psycho-Oncology Society. This year, he received the Holland Distinguished Leadership Award from the American Psychosocial Oncology Society.

“I get recognition because my team is smarter than I am,” Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., was quick to acknowledge. “I work with a bunch of people who are fantastic.” » Continue Reading

‘Chemo brain’ catches many patients unaware; new program can help

May 19, 2015 | by
chemo brain and cancer

Few patients are prepared for the cognitive side effects of cancer treatment, known as “chemo brain.” A new City of Hope program is helping solve that problem.

The mental fog that patients can experience after undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer has a name: “chemo brain.”

“Many patients report hearing or reading about chemotherapy-related cognitive deficits, but few are actually prepared to deal with these changes,” said Celina Lemon, M.A., an occupational therapy doctoral resident in the Department of Rehabilitation Services.

With Lemon’s guidance and the support of the Department of Rehabilitation Services, occupational therapists at City of Hope implemented a program over the past year to help patients cope with the cognitive dysfunction that can occur during or after cancer treatment.

Nearly 200 patients have benefited so far.

The “chemo brain” program initially targeted those who must undergo an “autologous” stem cell transplant, which uses a patient’s own bone marrow. Before such a transplant, a patient’s immune system is typically suppressed by high-intensity chemotherapy, which has been known to contribute to cognitive decline. Since then, the program has expanded to any patient who qualifies for cognitive therapy after being assessed.

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City of Hope receives SCALE award to improve health of community

May 16, 2015 | by
Photo of Kimlin Tam Ashing-Giwa

City of Hope has been selected as a pacesetter community to join a national program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation aimed at accelerating the improvement of health and well-being. The City of Hope efforts are led by Kimlin Tam Ashing.

As public health experts know, health improvement starts in the community. Now, City of Hope  has been recognized for its efforts to improve the lives of residents of its own community.

The institution will receive funding from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement  to support promising community-based work on health improvement, as part of the SCALE (Spreading Community Accelerators through Learning and Evaluation) initiative. Made possible by a $4.8 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and led by IHI, Community Solutions, Communities Joined in Action and the Collaborative Health Network, SCALE will help communities further their ability to improve the health of targeted populations and develop ways to share and spread community-driven approaches across the country.

SCALE matches four “mentor communities” – those with a recent track record of achieving better health – with 20 “pacesetter communities” that are seeking to accelerate their pace of change.

City of Hope has been named a pacesetter community and will design and implement a multilevel plan to reduce chronic disease health inequities due to obesity and sedentary lifestyle, through community-based resources, supportive physical environments and businesses, policies for healthful eating and an emphasis on physical activity.

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Why an annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion? It inspires us

May 15, 2015 | by

For almost four decades, blood cancer survivors who received bone marrow, or stem cell, transplants have returned to City of Hope to celebrate life, second chances and science. The first reunion, in 1976, was a small affair: spaghetti for a single patient, his brother who served as his donor and those who took care of him, including Stephen Forman, M.D., Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.

bone marrow transplant

Stephen Forman addresses patients and media on May 1, 2015, at the 39th annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion at City of Hope.

On May 1, 39 years after that first spaghetti dinner, the reunion brought 4,500 patients and their loved ones to City of Hope. Next year, the event will mark its 40th anniversary. Here, Forman reflects on the annual Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, and why the long-running event is one of the highlights for the City of Hope community each year.

What’s the importance of the BMT Reunion?

The reunion is the highlight of our program as it emphasizes what research and exceptional nursing and physician care have accomplished to save the lives of patients who otherwise would have succumbed to their disease.

It’s a moment when we pause and recognize both what has been accomplished, but also the challenges ahead that remain. It emphasizes we are all connected to each other and the many joys in life that a patient is able to experience once they have been cured by their transplant.

We do the reunion mainly for the patients and their families, but in truth, we also do it for ourselves as it remains an inspiring event that we carry in our memory throughout the year, looking forward to each patient we care for joining us for next year’s reunion. » Continue Reading