Posts tagged ‘City of Hope’


The future of colorectal cancer screening? It might be in your DNA

March 4, 2015 | by

We’ve all heard the mantra: Cancer screening saves lives. And it does, especially with colorectal cancer.

DNA tests for colorectal cancer

A new colorectal screening that tests stool for DNA may persuade some colonoscopy-phobic people to be screened. It doesn’t detect all polyps, but as Dr. James Lin points out: “The best colon cancer screening test is the one the patient is using.”

Regular colonoscopies have been proven to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer death by up to 70 percent. Screening for colorectal cancer using the even simpler fecal occult blood tests has been found to reduce the risk of death by up to 33 percent.

Yet, despite the proven benefits of colorectal cancer screening, many people still put it off – or skip it altogether. To raise awareness of the very real need for colorectal cancer screening, March has been deemed Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 132,700 new cases of colorectal cancer in the United States this year and that approximately 49,700 patients will die from this disease.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends that adults begin colorectal cancer screening at age 50 and continue until they are 75 years old. Depending on which test is used, screening only need happen as little as once every 10 years.

New screening and prevention tools for colorectal cancer continue to evolve. In August of 2014, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new DNA stool test that can be used to screen for colorectal cancer.

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Cancer Insights: The potential of CAR-T cells to fight prostate cancer

March 3, 2015 | by

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.

Sumanta Pal, M.D.

Sumanta Kumar Pal explains the potential of CAR-T cell therapies for prostate cancer.

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


Evening of Remembrance: Coping tips for families who have lost loved ones to cancer

March 2, 2015 | by
Evening of Remembrance

City of Hope will host its inaugural Evening of Remembrance on March 12, 2015.

Patients undergoing treatment at City of Hope know they will be receiving the best medical care available, that their treatment will be delivered with compassion and that their care will extend to their families.

“When we treat a patient here, we treat a family,” says Jo Ann S. Namm, child life manager and specialist in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine. Sometimes, however, a patient dies. When this happens, City of Hope’s care for the family does not stop.

City of Hope’s commitment to the continuum of care ensures that the family is viewed as an extension of the patient. As a part of this commitment, City of Hope will hold an inaugural Evening of Remembrance on March 12 at 7 p.m. in the Duarte campus’ Cooper Auditorium.

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Spine tumors: 4 things you need to know

February 23, 2015 | by
spinal cord tumors

The spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Because spine tumors can interfere with the body’s ability to function normally, early detection is crucial.

The spinal cord is an integral part of the human body, connecting the brain to everything else. So when a tumor grows on the spine, any messages that the brain tries to send to the rest of the body are interrupted, making everyday tasks — such as walking — more difficult.

This year an estimated 22,850 people will be diagnosed with a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord in the United States, and nearly 15, 320 people will die from these tumors. That number doesn’t include tumors that have spread to the spine from other parts of the body.

These numbers may seem alarming, but an increased use of diagnostic imaging has led to improved detection of spine tumors, making them more treatable than ever before.

Here, neurosurgeon and scientist Mike Chen, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in City of Hope’s Brain Tumor Program, presents a fuller picture of spine tumors, explaining what everyone needs to know, especially former cancer patients. » Continue Reading


Powered by philanthropy: Bold science, better cancer treatments

February 17, 2015 | by
Impact of cancer research

At City of Hope, the breakthroughs discovered here are shared with cancer researchers, clinicians and patients worldwide.

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


Palliative care should begin on Day 1 of cancer care

February 3, 2015 | by

With more advanced cancer treatments and therapies saving lives every day, it’s safe to say cancer is “Not beyond us,” the official tagline for this year’s World Cancer Day.

palliative care

Palliative care is crucial in cancer – from Day 1 of treatment. Learn why.

This year’s World Cancer Day observance takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 4, and focuses on cancer prevention, detection and treatments. The awareness campaign highlights four key areas: healthy lifestyle, early detection, treatment for all and maximizing quality of life.

To explain the importance of quality of life, including pain management and palliative care, Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., R.N., director of the Division of Nursing Research and Education at City of Hope, answers questions about how providers, caregivers and patients can maximize the quality of life for themselves and loved ones.

Why is it important to incorporate palliative care at Day 1 of cancer treatment?

Palliative care is intended to address quality of life concerns from the time of diagnosis. There is strong recognition that attending to symptoms and psychosocial concerns and focusing on goals of care for each patient is vital throughout the course of the disease.

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Garden of Hope: Here, healing takes place indoors and outdoors

January 30, 2015 | by

City of Hope has long known what researchers increasingly are confirming: Gardens and natural surroundings help seriously ill people recover from their treatment ordeals.

Garden of Hope

The Argyros Family Garden of Hope was made possible by the support of the Argyros Family Foundation, led by former U.S. Ambassador to Spain George Argyros and his wife, Julia.

Already a trailblazer in the creation of beautiful natural spaces for cancer patients and their families, on Jan. 15,  City of Hope dedicated the newest in a series of healing landscapes: the Argyros Family Garden of Hope.

Supported by the Argyros Family Foundation – led by former U.S. Ambassador to Spain George Argyros and his wife, Julia – the garden provides a natural space of light, water, trees and native plants designed to encourage emotional, mental and physical healing.

Strategically positioned between City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital, where patients undergo treatment, and Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, where researchers work to find cures, the Argyros Family Garden of Hope provides patients with easily accessible places to walk and to rest – complete with new and mature trees, gurgling fountains and the soothing use of sand and rock – all artfully integrated into an intimate Southern California vignette. » Continue Reading


Surgery for advanced colorectal cancer? Each patient’s needs are unique

January 21, 2015 | by

Surgery is vital in the treatment of cancer – it’s used to help diagnose, treat and even prevent the disease – so a new colorectal cancer study linking a decrease in surgeries for advanced cancer to increased survival rates may raise more questions than it answers for some patients.

advance colorectal cancer surgery

Treatment options for advanced colorectal cancer depend on the unique needs of each patient. The decision needs to individualized, said Stephen Sentovich, a board-certified colon and rectal cancer surgical expert at City of Hope.

The surgery-and-survival study, conducted by researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center and published recently in JAMA Surgery, found that although surgery is still the most-used treatment for Stage 4 colorectal cancer, it has become less common. Surgical rates decreased from 74.5 percent in 1988 to 57.4 percent in 2010, with survival rates doubling from 8.6 percent in 1988 to 17.8 percent in 2009.

The trend reflects a greater use of new chemotherapy drugs and targeted treatment options and highlights the overall improvements made in the treatment of colorectal cancer. But Stephen Sentovich, M.D., M.B.A., a board-certified colon and rectal cancer surgical expert at City of Hope, cautions against making broad assumptions about the best treatment options.

Treatment choices aren’t always black and white, he says. Decisions needs to be individualized, based on the unique needs of each patient. » Continue Reading


Geriatric oncology nurse Peggy Burhenn: Older adults need special care

January 20, 2015 | by

Age is the single greatest risk factor overall for cancer; our chances of developing the disease rise steeply after age 50. For geriatric oncology nurse Peggy Burhenn, the meaning is clear: Cancer is primarily a geriatric condition. That’s why she is forging inroads in the care of older adults with cancer.

Nurse Peggy Burhenn

Geriatric oncology nurse Peggy Burhenn at City of Hope, has received the 2014 Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse of the Year Award.

Burhenn, M.S., C.N.S., A.O.C.N.S., is a professional practice leader in geriatric oncology in the Department of Clinical Practice and Professional Education at City of Hope. She focuses on the needs of older adults with cancer, researching better treatments for them and teaching other clinicians the best approach to caring for this important population.

Her innovative work and excellence in clinical care recently earned her the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse of the Year Award from the Greater Los Angeles Oncology Nursing Society. The honor adds to a list of accolades and achievements that includes the Margo McCaffery Excellence in Pain Management Award and leadership roles on the National Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Older Adult Oncology Expert Panel and the International Society for Geriatric Oncology.

Burhenn earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She joined City of Hope in 2011 after nearly a decade as a nurse educator in the biotechnology industry and as a nurse oncologist at a private hematology-oncology practice. She said her work with older patients began early in her career, sparked to some degree by her own parents’ experience with aging. » Continue Reading


Sportscaster Stuart Scott’s young age is reminder: Check family history

January 19, 2015 | by
Stuart Scott

ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott’s cancer diagnosis is a reminder to check family history. (Photo by Alan Rose)

One of American’s great sportscasters, Stuart Scott, passed away from recurrent cancer of the appendix at the young age of 49. His cancer was diagnosed when he was only 40 years old. It was found during an operation for appendicitis. His courageous fight against this disease began in 2007, resumed again with an operation for recurrent cancer in 2011, and yet again in 2013 when the cancer returned. Despite surgery, a long period of surgical healing, and then prolonged courses of different kinds of chemotherapy, he died on Jan. 4, 2015.

Scott went public with his struggle against the disease, and urged people to follow his example to fight cancer with both chemotherapy and an aggressive exercise program to keep his body strong. Because so many of my patients suffer from fatigue associated with treatments, I am sure his fitness program improved his quality of life.

But more important for all of us, we should realize that the occurrence of cancer at a young age (40 in Scott’s case) should raise a red flag to patients, families and physicians. Hereditary cancer syndromes due to mutations in our genes are the cause of 5 to 10 percent of cancers. And when we are reminded of this by the death of one of our celebrities at a young age, we should each examine our own family history and get tested for gene abnormalities.

When should we be asking for a discussion about gene testing? Family cancer syndromes are likely to be present when there are multiple family members with cancer, or when an individual patient has more than one cancer, or when a cancer occurs at a young age (less than 50). While we do not know if Scott was tested (that’s private health information), having cancer at age 40 warrants discussing gene testing with a physician.

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