Posts tagged ‘leukemia’
720 days. That’s how long Alex Tung, 38, had to give up surfing after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. For most people, even some surfers, such a hiatus wouldn’t be a big deal, but for Tung, surfing has been everything.
The Southern California resident began surfing when he was in elementary school, immediately falling in love with the sport and the ocean. As an adult, Tung would head straight to the beach to go surfing. It was his version of meditating. Nothing mattered when he was in the water.
“When I’m in the ocean, I feel more connected to mother nature,” Tung said. “It clears my mind, gives me positive energy and soothes my soul. It’s my escape. It’s everything to me.”
It was in the ocean, in early 2014, where Tung first noticed red dots on his body. He didn’t think much of it at the time.
Then, in May of that year, he went on a surfing trip to Hawaii. That’s when he also started noticing bruises on his legs and found himself getting tired easily. When he returned home to Cerritos, he decided to finally take his family’s and friend’s advice to make an appointment with his doctor.
Patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia may soon find themselves with improved treatment options.
Interim results from a study not conducted at City of Hope suggest that, for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, a new oral drug given in combination with standard treatment significantly reduced the risk of disease progression or death. Although the results are interim, not final – meaning the study and its analysis are not yet completed – the study itself is a randomized, placebo-controlled study, considered a marker of high-quality methodology.
City of Hope’s Guido Marcucci, M.D., co-director of the Gehr Family Center for Leukemia Research, is watching the results of the study closely. He recently offered some measured perspective to other physicians in an interview with MedPage Today.
“The implications of this study are very broad, and certainly may impact how we will treat CLL patients in the next years to come,” he said.
The new study combined the current standard of care for CLL – a combination of bendamustine and rituximab – with a new oral drug called ibrutinib. Ibrutinib targets a specific protein that disrupts the signals the cancer cells need to survive and proliferate. Patients in the study received up to six cycles of the standard treatment and were randomized to receive either a placebo or a dose of ibrutinib.
The combination of ibrutinib and the standard therapy reduced risk of CLL progression or death by 80 percent compared to the placebo group. The ibrutinib group also had a higher overall response rate to the therapy, with 83 percent of cancers responding to the treatment versus 68 percent in the placebo group.
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Nashville, Tennessee, native Stephen Bess, who received a hematopoietic stem cell transplant for acute lymphoblastic leukemia more than two years ago at City of Hope, will meet his genetically matched donor on June 13 in a rare and special ceremony at the 25th annual Celebrity Softball Game in Nashville.
Here, Bess recounts his treatment experience and the perspective he’s gained …
In the midst of all this craziness – meeting my hero donor, reaching the two-year post-transplant milestone, starting an incredible new job, celebrating life in my hometown of Nashville, and celebrating my wife’s first pregnancy – I was asked to write a blog post for City of Hope. Specifically, I was asked to answer two questions: How has life changed since my diagnosis and treatment, and why did I choose City of Hope as my treatment hospital?
The simple answer is that life has changed in every possible way.
From the moment I watched my oncologist’s lips move in slow motion as he said, “You have leukemia,” to my first chemo infusion, to my transplant prep and even to this day, everything is different.
I’m no longer gleefully ignorant of my mortality. It’s on my mind all the time. People often ask me, “Are you back to normal yet?” Life has changed so much, there will never be a “back to normal” for me; there’s only my new normal. » Continue Reading
The two hadn’t been in contact with each other for some time, but McKinny couldn’t think of anyone else with whom he wanted to be during that difficult period. He knew he had to find Mullins.
That proved more challenging than McKinny had imagined. Even with the help of the Internet and social media networking sites, McKinny wasn’t able to locate and communicate with his former boyfriend.
There was little left for McKinny to do but continue with his treatment on his own, as best he could. After his doctors in Hemet, California, told him there was nothing else they could do for him, he was transferred to City of Hope. At that time, his prognosis suggested he had but two months to live. Fortunately, because of City of Hope, that prognosis proved to be too grim.
In March 2011, McKinny had a stem cell transplant at City of Hope, which gave him more time with his family and friends, not to mention additional time to find Mullins. Finally, in 2013, three years after his diagnosis, McKinny located Mullins. They connected. The two have been inseparable ever since. » Continue Reading
Guido Marcucci, M.D., wants to put himself out of business.
A respected clinician and esteemed basic and translational scientist, Marcucci joins City of Hope as co-director of the Gehr Family Center for Leukemia Research within the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute. In this position, and as director of the Division of Hematopoietic Stem Cell and Leukemia Research, Marcucci will guide research into improved treatments, and even cures, for leukemia and other hematologic malignancies.
“For a physician-scientist like myself, City of Hope is an ideal place to work because both the research and clinical missions are fundamental and equally important for pursuing a society free of cancer,” he said.
Marcucci said he has a long-held passion for cancer research, and in particular for understanding its root causes. “I have always been interested in answering the fundamental questions of what events initiate cancer, and I believe that leukemia can be used as a model to answer these questions,” he said.
Ultimately, Marcucci hopes his work will make cancer — and in particular, leukemia — a footnote in history. “I know what a devastating disease leukemia can be for patients and their families. I would love one day to be able to say that I helped to alleviate their suffering.”
Acute myeloid leukemia is the most common form of acute leukemia among adults, accounting for 18,000 diagnoses in 2014.
Two decades ago, in 1996, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) published its first guidelines for treatment of acute myeloid leukemia, or AML. Margaret O’Donnell, M.D., associate clinical director of the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope, has chaired the guidelines panel since then. Those guidelines have undergone multiple revisions since that time, reflecting changing practice and increasing knowledge. They were recently revised yet again.
“Looking back on the very simple principles upon which the panel constructed the acute myeloid leukemia guidelines, it is interesting to see that, while much has changed, the principles still remain the same,” O’Donnell said. “We believed that it was our mandate to incorporate the best of current knowledge in the areas of prognostic indications, treatment and supportive care, but with a strong bias that we should not settle for the mediocre outcomes that were the norm at that time.”
While this form of leukemia remains the leading cause of leukemia deaths in the United States, key advances in treatment and diagnosis have made the disease more treatable and curable. One of the highlights has been the identification of a specific leukemia gene. The identification of that gene led to clinical trials in the U.S., China and Europe focused on new combination therapies. Using all-trans retinoid acid, or ATRA, and arsenic trioxide has proven to be especially potent: Preclinical studies yield up to 98 percent complete remission and survival of more than 90 percent at two years, according to a 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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
“World-class expertise,” “leading-edge research” and “compassionate patient care” are not just words at City of Hope; they’re a way of life.
No one knows this more than City of Hope’s patients. On New Year’s Day, six of those patients and their loved ones – plus a nurse who is both a City of Hope caregiver and a patient – will ride City of Hope’s Rose Parade float, celebrating the tomorrows that the institution’s researchers, doctors and staff have made possible. Here’s what those patients have to say about City of Hope.
“It’s been four years since Gavin’s transplant and, thanks to all the efforts of everyone at City of Hope, our life today is filled with laughter, happiness, determination, appreciation and love. We are inspired daily as we watch Gavin be a kid and enjoy all the things children should be able to enjoy. We know that City of Hope is working hard to save lives and we are eternally grateful for what they have done for us and continue to do for many others.” » Continue Reading
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 (FDA), 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 & 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 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.