Posts tagged ‘lung cancer’

The star of annual ASCO meeting? The human immune system

June 7, 2015 | by

Of the hundreds of important developments in cancer research and care showcased at one of the world’s largest medical meetings, featuring scores of studies about drugs, chemotherapy and radiation, the most exciting tool showcased for fighting cancer was the human immune system.

ASCO 2015 and research

The human immune system, in all its often problematic glory, was the star of the recent meeting of the nation’s oncologists.

For blood cancers and solid tumors alike, studies at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago showcased medicines adept at unleashing the immune system to attack cancers, including colon cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. One study presented at the meeting compared standard chemotherapy with a drug called nivolumab, a “check-point inhibitor” that works by disrupting the signaling system used by cancer to avoid detection by the immune system.

“Patients in the trial who took nivolumab had nearly double the survival rate of patients treated with chemotherapy,” said Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope. Reckamp was an author of the study, which was also published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “This provides further evidence that immunotherapy is a treatment option for lung cancer.” » Continue Reading

NCI-MATCH: Trial focuses on mutations for rare cancers, not tumor site

June 2, 2015 | by

Precision medicine is becoming a reality for cancers with genetic mutations that are practically household names, such as those behind some breast cancers and lung cancers.

rare cancers

A new multicenter trial focuses on providing precision treatments for rare cancers based on genetics, not tumor site.

For patients with very rare cancers, the options are fewer.

A new National Cancer Institute clinical trial, called NCI-MATCH: Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice, aims to help such patients. The nationwide effort, announced Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, will provide a way for patients who have cancers with known mutations in unusual sites to access new therapies in clinical trials.

For example, BRAF gene mutations are commonly associated with melanoma, but they can also be linked to other cancers. The NCI-MATCH trial will allow a patient with a BRAF mutation in a different kind of tumor to have access to a clinical trial.

“It’s tissue agnostic,” said Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope. Reckamp will serve as a principal investigator for one of the arms of the multicenter trial. “This will open up the availability of targeted therapies to patients with very rare cancers.” » Continue Reading

ASCO 2015: Drug combination promising for some lung cancer patients

May 29, 2015 | by

Lung cancer patients in need of improved treatment options may soon get good news, with a new combination therapy showing promise where other treatments have failed.

lung cancer

City of Hope researchers share findings on a promising combination treatment for lung cancer.

Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope, will be among the researchers presenting data this week on a combination of the drugs cabozantinib and erlotinib. They’ll be discussing their study at the American Society for Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

Although lung cancer treatments have improved overall with the introduction of tyrosine kinase inhibitors, some patients develop resistance to the drugs. The common culprit is the resistance mutation known as T790M. Often, patients without that mutation also become resistant to the treatment.

That leaves patients without use of one of the primary type of drugs used to treat their disease.

“Lung cancer patients with these mutations have an unmet need, and they don’t have significant options right now,” Reckamp said. » Continue Reading

ASCO 2015: Cancer research brings new and better therapies to patients

May 26, 2015 | by

Anyone who tours City of Hope will almost certainly be taken by two key buildings: City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital and the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology.

cancer research

City of Hope scientists will share their cancer research breakthroughs at the ASCO 2015 annual meeting in Chicago.

The heart of the campus, in more ways than one, the two buildings are a stone’s throw from each other. The hospital is dedicated to treating cancer patients who are currently fighting their disease, and the research institute to finding the treatments and cures these patients need – and efficiently bringing those innovations to the clinic.

That drive to help patients is what inspires so many City of Hope physicians and scientists to attend, and present research at, medical conferences. There, they can share their discoveries with their peers worldwide, as well as learn about new advances and developments in cancer research and care. One of the most notable of those conferences will take place this week in Chicago.

Thousands of researchers and physicians will convene in Chicago May 29 through June 2 for the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, including a delegation from City of Hope who will share findings about a number of cancers and treatment approaches, including assessments of potential new therapies and comparisons of current therapies.  » Continue Reading

Lung cancer patient can ‘finally push play on my life again’

May 26, 2015 | by
Emily Taylor

Lung cancer patient Emily Bennett Taylor with her husband, Miles. Taylor has had “No Evidence of Disease (NED)” for two years.

In June 2012, 28-year-old Emily Bennett Taylor was getting ready to celebrate her second wedding anniversary with her college sweetheart when she discovered that she had Stage 4 lung cancer. Taylor was a former college athlete, had led a healthy and active lifestyle and had never smoked. She quickly began treatment at City of Hope and vowed from Day 1 that she would do whatever it took to survive. After eight rounds of chemotherapy, surgery to remove her right lung and radiation, Taylor is now in remission. Here, Taylor shares how it felt to find out her scans no longer showed evidence of the disease.


It was the first scan that I was nervous about … I mean really nervous. So much was riding on this.

Statistically, two years of clean scans showing No Evidence of Disease (NED) represents a significant milestone and increase in survival for lung cancer patients like myself. But to be honest, I’ve never been one to be too hung up on the statistics.

Rather, the two-year mark was so nerve-wracking because it signified something even bigger – something that cancer so cruelly pauses upon diagnosis – it presented me with the opportunity to finally push play on my life again.

Since my diagnosis in June of 2012 at the age of 28 with Stage 4 lung cancer, I’ve been the cause of so much stress and pain on my family. Of course, they all never complain, but I can easily see the effects. It’s not hard when my husband, Miles, is continually gripping his chest and trying to beat the ulcer out of his stomach. Or, when I call my grandparents and my grandmother cries each time she says goodbye to me. I hate seeing my loved ones hurting over me.

I once asked Miles to just relax and breathe easy, and he told me, “I’ll breathe normally when you’re two years NED.” So, I internalized his comment and earmarked that two-year date. Each night, I’ve prayed and hoped for it to come sooner, as with it, I hoped it would finally bring peace to my family.

» Continue Reading

Cancer Insights: Lung cancer clinical trials are on the right track

March 31, 2015 | by

Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S., has an office next to my own, and we often see patients at the same time. As such, I’ve gotten to know her quite well over the years, and I’ve also gotten a glimpse of many of her patients.

lung cancer in women

Lung cancer clinical trials are yielding promising results, changing the prognosis for more people with the disease. Shown here: Lung cancer in a female patient.

She specializes in lung cancer, and most of her patients have tumors that have spread widely to the bones, brain and other sites (termed “advanced,” or “metastatic,” disease). When I first started in the field about a decade ago, her patients had a characteristic appearance – weak and debilitated by chemotherapy, and dejected by a grim prognosis.

Now, things have changed.

Reckamp, co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program, has been at the forefront of a number of lung cancer clinical trials that have had a marked impact on survival, meaning her patients have benefited from new therapies before they’ve become available to the general patient community. These clinical trials frequently involve drugs that more selectively target cancer tissue and spare normal tissue, enhancing effectiveness while limiting toxic side effects. This has had a palpable effect on what I observe in her clinic – her patients appear to be enjoying a far better quality of life than in years past. » Continue Reading

National Doctors Day: Behind great medical care, there’s research

March 30, 2015 | by

Today is National Doctors Day, the official day to recognize, thank and celebrate the tremendous work physicians do each and every day.

Launched in 1991 via a presidential proclamation from then-President George Bush, the observance offers a chance to reflect on the qualities that define truly great medical care. Compassion and expertise are vital, of course, as is the intuitive understanding that each patient must be treated as a person, not his or her disease. But research is vital as well.

research and doctors day

The proclamation launching National Doctors Day highlights the impact of research. So does City of Hope.

As the proclamation states: “The day-to-day work of healing conducted by physicians throughout the United States has been shaped, in large part, by great pioneers in medical research.”

Here, we acknowledge a few of the City of Hope physicians working to improve care and treatment of patients everywhere by maximizing the most leading-edge research from around the world – and by conducting it themselves at City of Hope.

Karen S. Aboody, M.D.: Pushing the frontiers of brain cancer therapy

Although the mass of a glioblastoma, the most aggressive and common type of primary brain tumor in adults, can be removed surgically, removal of all the tumor cells is virtually impossible – meaning recurrence is common. Karen S. Aboody, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and Division of Neurosurgery at City of Hope, believes the answer could lie in special cells called neural stem cells. Neural stem cells are known for their ability to become any type of cell in the nervous system. These cells not only are attracted to cancer cells, they have the ability to deliver drugs directly to the tumor sites, sparing healthy tissues and minimizing side effects. City of Hope is currently conducting a phase I clinical trial of neural stem cells to treat glioblastoma. » Continue Reading

Need lung cancer screening? Medicare will pay for some beneficiaries

February 18, 2015 | by

Providing lung cancer treatments to patients when their cancer is at its earliest and most treatable stages will now be a more attainable goal: Medicare has agreed to cover lung cancer screening for those beneficiaries who meet the requirements.

lung cancer screening

Medicare will now cover annual lung cancer screening for seniors who qualify using low-dose CT scans.

The only proven way to detect lung cancer early enough to save lives is through low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening. One of the largest randomized, controlled clinical trials in the National Cancer Institute’s history showed that this screening could reduce lung cancer mortality rates by at least 20 percent. This is a significant reduction; lung cancer currently has a five-year survival rate of 17 percent. For people diagnosed at advanced stages, survival rates are less than 4 percent.

“Finally, seniors who are at high risk for lung cancer can undergo screening without the barrier of out-of-pocket costs,” said Dan Raz, M.D., co-director of the Lung Cancer  and Thoracic Oncology Program at City of Hope. “Medicare got this right because lung cancer screening saves lives in high-risk current and former smokers. In fact, the low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer has the potential to save more lives than any cancer test in history.” » Continue Reading

Observe World Cancer Day by reducing your cancer risk. Here’s how:

February 2, 2015 | by

With this week’s World Cancer Day challenging us to think about cancer on a global scale, we should also keep in mind that daily choices affect cancer risk on an individual scale. Simply put, lifestyle changes and everyday actions can reduce your cancer risk and perhaps prevent some cancers.

cancer risk reduction

Choosing healthy foods, exercise and other healthy habits are essential to cancer risk reduction.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through reduced alcohol consumption, healthier diets and improved physical activity levels. If smoking were also eliminated, that number could jump to as many as half of all common cancers.

Here are a few suggestions. Truly, they’re not that difficult. Give them a try this week to mark World Cancer Day, Feb. 4, Try them the next week too. And the week after that …

In a word, exercise. Simple exercise benefits everyone, and even a little helps. Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Cancer Etiology at City of Hope, recommends a 45-minute walk five days a week. While that is ideal, her research has found that, for some people, even 30 minutes per week can make a difference. The benefit of exercise applies for people of all weights and fitness levels.

The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise each week, preferably spread throughout the week. Don’t deny yourself the benefits just because you don’t have a large block of time or can’t get into the gym for a more formal workout. » Continue Reading

Blood and urine tests could identify lung cancer mutation without biopsy

January 27, 2015 | by

As treatments for lung cancer become more targeted and effective, the need for better technology to detect lung cancer mutations becomes increasingly important. A new clinical study at City of Hope is examining the feasibility of using blood and urine tests to detect lung cancer mutations, potentially allowing for targeted cancer treatments without an invasive biopsy.

cancer mutation

A new clinical trial at City of Hope will assess the ability of blood and urine tests to identify non-small cell lung cancer mutation without a biopsy.

The trial, a collaboration with Trovagene Inc., focuses specifically on mutations that make EGFR proteins (for epidermal growth factor receptor) grow and divide faster than they should. The protein is normally found on the surface of cells, but nonsmall cell lung cancer cells can have too much of this protein.

Sometimes, a patient can require two procedures to obtain an adequate biopsy that determines the presence of EGFR mutation. In this first clinical study, patients who have been biopsied will also get specific blood and urine tests to determine if those tests are as effective as a traditional biopsy to determine an EGFR mutation.

“Tracking various alterations in the EGFR oncogene has potential to improve therapeutic strategies for treating patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer,” said Mihaela Cristea, M.D., lead investigator and associate professor in City of Hope’s Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program. “We look forward to evaluating Trovagene’s molecular diagnostics for the monitoring of circulating tumor DNA found in both urine and blood, with the goal of delivering highly personalized cancer treatment to improve patient outcomes.” » Continue Reading