Posts tagged ‘leukemia’


The City of Hope difference? Take patients’ word for it, not ours

December 22, 2014 | by
The Wolfrank family stands atop City of Hope’s Rose Parade float during its preparation for the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

The Wolfrank family stands atop City of Hope’s Rose Parade float during its preparation for the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

“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.

Gavin Wolfrank’s family:

“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


Leukemia drug gets FDA approval due, in part, to City of Hope researcher

December 19, 2014 | by

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.

Anthony Stein, M.D.

City of Hope’s Anthony Stein helped gain approval for a new leukemia drug, giving clinicians a new treatment option for patients diagnosed with a highly aggressive cancer for which there are limited treatment options.

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.

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Made in City of Hope: Drug stops cancer’s siren call to the immune system

December 5, 2014 | by

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.

Hua Yu, Ph.D, and her lab team

At City of Hope, Hua Yu and her team developed a drug that will clamp down on STAT3, halting its ability to talk to the immune system.

A breakthrough

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.

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Inspiring Stories: To family of son with leukemia, every day is a gift

December 3, 2014 | by

On Jan. 1, 2015, six City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome the new year with their loved ones atop City of Hope’s Tournament of Roses Parade float. The theme of the float is “Made Possible by HOPE.” The theme of the parade is “Inspiring Stories.”

The Wolfrank family will ride the float the same way they fought son Gavin’s leukemia together. 

By Diana and Ken Wolfrank

We see every day as a gift. Our family has endured a number of challenges in the past eight years but today … is a good day.

With cancer behind him, Gavin's story has just begun. (Photo courtesy of the Wolfrank family)

With leukemia behind him, Gavin’s story has just begun. (Photo courtesy of the Wolfrank family)

Our son, Gavin, was 7 months old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). He endured  3 ½ years of various chemotherapy treatments, just to have the disease return. We were told his only chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant. We were lucky to find our donor, Catherine “Cat” Benson, who saved not only our son but our family. She was our only hope. After eight rounds of radiation in four days and a dozen meds, Gavin was ready to receive Cat’s bone marrow.

It’s tough to sit in a room day after day where children are hooked up to IV pumps, enduring so much. Families spend lots of time sharing stories and good luck prayers. Over the years, we’ve known many families who have lost loved ones. We spent 95 days at City of Hope praying that our son would survive and be able to come home and be a happy and “normal” kid. After three trying months, Gavin was able to come home, but not without a long road still ahead of him.

City of Hope is just what the name says it is. It’s a small city full of hope for all patients and families who walk through their doors. The doctors and nurses do so much to make miracles happen. We feel very blessed to have been able to walk out of there with hope in our future.

It has 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.

The opportunity to ride on the City of Hope float means more to our family than anyone can imagine. We will ride on that float and remember all the ones who lost their battle and show support for all those who continue to fight. Our life truly is made possible by City of Hope and our family will never forget that.

Rose Parade Photo Day with young leukemia survivor Gavin Wolfrank and his family

The Wolfrank family (parents Diana and Ken with kids Gavin and Emma) helped kick off City of Hope’s Rose Parade float entry at the Tournament’s recent photo day. It’s been four years since Gavin battled leukemia and received a lifesaving bone marrow transplant at City of Hope.

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Read more about City of Hope’s Rose Parade float.

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.


Inspiring Stories: A father’s leukemia through his daughter’s eyes

December 2, 2014 | by

On Jan. 1, 2015, six City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome the new year with their loved ones atop City of Hope’s Tournament of Roses Parade float. The theme of the float is “Made Possible by HOPE.” The theme of the parade is “Inspiring Stories.”

In 2007, Christina Ge’s father, Jin, faced the fight of his life when his leukemia relapsed. In 2009, she wrote about his journey as only a child of 11 could – filled with the fear she faced and the hope she kept. Now 17, Christina and her sister, Cynthia, will ride the float with their father. They’ll celebrate their story, one that took hold on New Year’s Day after a successful cord blood transplant.

Christina and Cynthia Ge enjoying some play time at City of Hope while their father recovers from a bone marrow transplant. (Courtesy of the Ge family)

While visiting City of Hope in their (slightly) younger days, Christina and Cynthia Ge make time for play while their father recovers from a bone marrow transplant. (Photo courtesy of  the Ge family)

By Christina Ge

Mom and Dad came home one day, frowning as they have never frowned before. My dad slowly entered my room and said quietly, “Christina, I have leukemia again.” I froze, suddenly feeling somber. Then my dad said, “Time for dinner.”

At dinner, we did not talk much, exchanging only one or two words. That night I lay in my bed thinking, “Why does it have to be my dad that has to have leukemia again? Why can’t it be some other person? Some other person – not my dad.” I lay there thinking hard until sleep finally took over. » Continue Reading


Made in City of Hope: T cells – enlisting the immune system to beat cancer

November 21, 2014 | by

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.

Stephen Forman

Stephen J. Forman, the head of City of Hope’s bone marrow transplant program, is leading a wave of T cell clinical trials, all of which are moving the treatment out of the lab and directly to patients.

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


13-year-old leukemia survivor has one true hero: her brother

November 12, 2014 | by

In February 2003, when she was only 16 months old, Maya Gallardo was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and, to make matters much worse, pneumonia.

Aaron Gallardo hugs his little sister Maya, while she was sick with acute myelogenous leukemia.

Aaron Gallardo hugs his little sister Maya, while she was sick with acute myelogenous leukemia. Aaron’s stem cell donation cured Maya of the disease. (Photo courtesy of the Gallardo family.)

The pneumonia complicated what was already destined to be grueling treatment regimen. To assess the extent of her illness, Maya had to endure a spinal tap procedure; the pneumonia meant it had to be done without anesthesia. Her parents could do nothing but watch, and try to comfort her.

The spinal tap revealed such severe leukemia that doctors at the children’s hospital where she was being treated said she would likely live only a few weeks.

Nonetheless, they stabilized her, and began treating her with chemotherapy. Normally, chemotherapy is not given to pneumonia patients, but because Maya’s leukemia was so advanced, she had no option but to undergo simultaneous treatment for both. If the chemotherapy went well, she would need a bone marrow transplant, the only option for curing her AML. » Continue Reading


City of Hope launches institute focused on hematologic malignancies

October 28, 2014 | by

Cancers of the blood and immune system are considered to be among the most difficult-to-treat cancers. A world leader in the treatment of blood cancers, City of Hope is now launching an institute specifically focused on treating people with lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma, as well as other serious blood and bone marrow diseases.

hematopoietic cell transplantation survivors

City of Hope’s success in treating blood and bone marrow cancers is just the beginning. The institution is launching the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute to speed cures to patients even more efficiently and quickly. Here, survivors of hematopoietic cell transplantation celebrate at City of Hope’s 2014 Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion.

Through this institute, laboratory and physician investigators will expand their work and develop new therapies and possible cures for leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. The Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute at City of Hope is built upon a foundation that was created by City of Hope’s Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope, and the leader of the institution’s Hematologic Malignancies Program, and Steven T. Rosen, M.D., the provost and chief scientific officer at City of Hope.

Both are known worldwide for the vision, discipline and compassion with which they approach some of the most complex and difficult diseases that afflict men, women and children. Both are committed to continuing to make scientific breakthroughs while caring for patients in the uniquely patient-centered environment for which City of Hope is known.

“Over the years we have seen the development of therapies that, had we known then what we know now, could have saved more lives. The institute will create a collaborative culture of research and individualized care that will accelerate our research breakthroughs for the patients and families who come to us for help,” Forman said. » Continue Reading


Advice from Rob: How to overcome anxiety during a hospital stay

October 22, 2014 | by
Cancer survivor Rob Darakjian

Cancer survivor Rob Darakjian shares tips on how to overcome anxiety and depression while being treated for cancer.

Rob Darakjian was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at just 19 years old. He began chemotherapy and was in and out of the hospital for four months. After his fourth round of treatment, he received a bone marrow transplantation from an anonymous donor. Today, he’s cancer free.

In his first post, he shared his story and explained what NOT to do when you’re depressed and have cancer. In his second post, he explained what cancer patients SHOULD do if they’re depressed. Here, he offers seven tips on how patients can confront cancer and anxiety.

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How to ease anxiety: 

Listen, watch: I find this technique to be particularly helpful when I’m experiencing anxiety at almost any level. I call it “listen, watch” because that’s what I do: I try and place myself in the present moment by paying attention to what I can see and what I can hear. Try to pick up on everything you can hear, from your own breathing, to the faint sound of conversation somewhere outside. Then, after awhile turn to a different sense, say sight, and just look around your physical environment. » Continue Reading


Advice from Rob: Have cancer? Depressed? Do these 3 things

October 8, 2014 | by
Cancer survivor Rob Darakjian

Cancer survivor Rob Darakjian shares tips on how to overcome anxiety and depression while being treated for cancer.

Rob Darakjian was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at just 19 years old. He began chemotherapy and was in and out of the hospital for four months. After his fourth round of treatment, he received a bone marrow transplantation from an anonymous donor. Today, he’s cancer free.

 

In his previous post, he shared his story and explained what NOT to do when you’re depressed and have cancer. Here, he explains what TO do.

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Being in a hospital for a prolonged period of time is depressing. You may not get depressed or be as prone to depression as I am, but if you find yourself in the hospital with cancer, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have at least a few depressive episodes.

You cannot think your way out of depression, this is a key thing to remember. Naturally, when you’re distraught, you want to solve the problem as soon as possible so you turn inward and start thinking. You believe that, by thinking, you’re going to find the “magic switch” that will bring the happy back.

Wrong. When you’re legitimately depressed, you’re unable to think rationally. Your brain isn’t working as it normally would. Here are some things to think about and, most important, DO when you’re feeling as if you’re trapped in a dark closet and you’ve suddenly forgotten how to turn the door handle to let yourself out.

What cancer patients should DO when they’re depressed:
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