Posts tagged ‘lymphoma’

Adoptive T cell therapy: Harnessing the immune system to fight cancer

August 15, 2014 | by

Immunotherapy — using one’s immune system to treat a disease — has been long lauded as the “magic bullet” of cancer treatments, one that can be more effective than the conventional therapies of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. One specific type of immunotherapy, called adoptive T cell therapy, is demonstrating promising results for blood cancers and may have potential against other types of cancers, too.

In adoptive T cell therapy, T cells (in blue, above) are extracted from the patient and re-engineered to recognize and attack cancer cells. They are then re-infused back into the patient, where it can then target and kill cancer cells throughout the body. (Photo credit: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory)

In adoptive T cell therapy, T cells (in blue, above) are extracted from the patient and modified to recognize unique cancer markers and attack the cells carrying those markers. They are then reinfused back into the patient, where they can kill cancer cells throughout the body. (Photo credit: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory)

Here, Leslie Popplewell, M.D., associate clinical professor and staff physician in City of Hope’s Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, explains what this treatment entails.

What is adoptive T cell therapy and how does it work to treat cancer?

Every day, our immune system works to recognize and destroy abnormal, mutated cells. But the abnormal cells that eventually become cancer are the ones that slip past this defense system. The idea behind this therapy is to make immune cells (specifically, T lymphocytes) sensitive to cancer-specific abnormalities so that malignant cells can be targeted and attacked throughout the body.

Who would be good candidates for this type of therapy? » Continue Reading

With cancer, expertise matters – as these cancer patients know (w/VIDEO)

August 12, 2014 | by

A patient diagnosed with cancer – especially a rare, advanced or hard-to-treat cancer – needs specialized care from exceptionally skilled and highly trained experts. That kind of care saves lives, improves quality of life and keeps families whole.

That kind of care is best found at comprehensive cancer centers like City of Hope.

One of the top cancer hospitals for cancer in the United States, according to U.S.News & World Report’s annual rankings, City of Hope has also been awarded the highest level of accreditation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and is listed on Becker’s Hospital Review’s 2014 list of “100 Hospitals and Health Systems With Great Oncology Programs.”

Further, recent research found that receiving cancer care at a comprehensive cancer center improves survival of patients with cancers of the breast, lung, liver, stomach, pancreas and oral tissues, among others.

The cancer patients in the video above don’t need to be convinced by such commendations or research, however. They were convinced by City of Hope itself.

Read more about them:


Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting us online 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.

Cancer expertise matters. Just ask ex-lymphoma patient Christine Pechera

July 22, 2014 | by

Eleven years ago, lymphoma patient Christine Pechera began the long road toward a cancer-free life.

Christine Pechera unveils 2014 City of Hope Rose Parade Float Rendering at the Wrigley Mansion.

Former lymphoma patient Christine Pechera unveils 2014 City of Hope Rose Parade Float Rendering at the Tournament of Roses – Wrigley Mansion. Her second opinion at City of Hope ultimately led to her remission.

She had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and told by doctors elsewhere that her lifespan likely would be measured in months, not years. Refusing to give up, she came to City of Hope for a second opinion. There, she received her first encouraging words. She began treatment soon after watching the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, an event that she’d watched as a child and that she thought she might never see again.

After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and an autologous stem cell transplant – a procedure using her own stem cells – Pechera returned to health, only to relapse in 2005.

She can still find the YouTube video pleading for help in the search for a matching bone marrow donor. Because she was Filipino, matches were hard to come by; her search was even featured on “Nightline,” highlighting the need for more diversity among donors. Finally, a man in Hong Kong – who never saw the video or “Nightline” – was identified as a match.

His stem cells – and the expertise of City of Hope’s lymphoma experts – saved Pechera’s life. The journey that began with a poor prognosis at another institution brought her back to the Rose Parade on January 1 of this year. This time, the former lymphoma patient rode on City of Hope’s float, paying tribute to the fact that the dream of being cancer-free can be within reach, even in some of the toughest cases. » Continue Reading

A bone marrow transplant on an outpatient basis? For some patients, yes

July 17, 2014 | by

Six, to date; more soon. Outpatient bone marrow transplants, that is.

City of Hope is expanding the transplant services to more patients by delivering care on an outpatient basis.

City of Hope is now providing bone marrow transplant services to some patients on an outpatient basis.

Finding new ways to deliver quality care with the greatest benefit is a priority for a patient-centered institution like City of Hope. For example, not every bone marrow transplant patient needs to check into the hospital for treatment. In fact, some might even benefit from remaining outpatients.

City of Hope’s new day hospital is designed to address their needs.

Studies have shown that day hospitals can meet clinical standards for bone marrow transplants without compromising patient quality of care. They allow patients to be treated as outpatients rather than inpatients, which lets them go home after their treatment. The result can be greater patient satisfaction and an improved patient experience. » Continue Reading

For runner Michele Sturt, this journey began with a lymph node

May 22, 2014 | by

Every patient story is unique and, so in its own way, inspiring. Here, Michele Sturt – a runner, a nurse and a mother of four – shares her story of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and of her ultimate treatment at City of Hope.


I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2007 when I was 54 years old. I had been a runner since I was in my early twenties and used running as my gauge to my personal wellness status. How fast, how much effort, how many aches and pains, how many personal bests … these have been my general health parameters for many years. In other words, aside from various weekend warrior accidents, I had been quite healthy until I was told I had non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

patient Michele Sturt

Michele Sturt of Petoskey, Michigan, has long used running as her gauge of personal health. Before she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, her running signaled to her that something wasn’t quite right. Now, almost a year post-bone marrow transplant at City of Hope, she’s running once more. Here, she runs near a son’s home in Santa Barbara. Photo courtesy of Michele Sturt.

I had noticed that I was really having a hard time keeping up with my running friends. I was working too hard and not getting anywhere fast. I also had a single small inguinal lymph node that was new. It didn’t bother me other than I knew it wasn’t normal. Besides being a runner, I am also a nurse practitioner in internal medicine.

First, I waited the obligatory four to six weeks to see if it would go away. I also complained to one of the doctors I work with, and she felt I should have the node biopsied and be done with it. The general surgeon gave me the option of waiting longer before doing anything, but at that point I wanted the node out and evaluated. I was tired but had no other symptoms.

My diagnosis was non-Hodgkin lymphoma, specifically indolent follicular B cell, a slow-growing, not curable but treatable form of lymphoma.

So, now what? I didn’t feel like I had cancer. I had lived an unusually clean and healthy life, although crazy busy and active, and I was the last person you would expect to have cancer, unless you knew what I knew – it’s a dice throw and I just crapped out. With only one oncologist available in my hometown of Petoskey, Michigan, at that time, I needed to figure out where to go for answers. » Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Robert Chen on survival of Hodgkin lymphoma

May 17, 2014 | by

Hodgkin lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin disease, is a type of cancer that begins in lymphatic tissue, which includes the lymph nodes and other parts of the body’s immune and blood-forming systems. It affects white blood cells, thus damaging the body’s ability to fight infection. In the United States, 6,000 to 7,000 new cases of Hodgkin lymphoma are diagnosed each year.

City of Hope's Robert Chen

Hodgkin lymphoma specialist Robert Chen says advances in research and treatment of the disease have improved patient survival, and more advances are expected.

Although a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma can be challenging, Robert Chen, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope, explains that recent advances in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease are giving patients the chance for a full recovery and long-term survival.

What is Hodgkin lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the subtypes of lymphoma. Lymphoma arises out of lymphocytes, which are part of the white blood cells in the immune system. They are characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells when examined microscopically. The disease is considered curable, but a certain percentage of patients are refractory or relapsed to the primary treatment.

Are there any known causes of Hodgkin lymphoma? Also, who is most at risk?

This cancer primary occurs in two age groups – the first in young adulthood (ages 15 to 35), and the second in those over 55. Certain chemical and radiation exposures have been linked to Hodgkin lymphoma. Immunocompromised patients, such as patients with HIV or solid organ transplants, have been associated with having a higher risk. But in general, most patients do not have an identifiable risk factor. » Continue Reading

This celebration (Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion) includes reflection

May 7, 2014 | by

At City of Hope’s upcoming Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion on Friday, May 9, hundreds of patients and the doctors and nurses who cared for them through their battles with cancer and other hematologic diseases will celebrate life and second chances.

Survivors and family at the City of Hope "Celebration of Life" Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion

Survivors and family members at the City of Hope “Celebration of Life” Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion.

The annual reunion, formally known as the Celebration of Life and now in its 38th year, has grown from a single patient and his brother who donated lifesaving bone marrow to hundreds of patients and thousands in attendance.

The reunion is an opportunity to reflect on the personal connection between caregivers at City of Hope and patients. That connection matters. It’s one reason that City of Hope has the best outcomes in the nation for hematopoietic cell transplants.

» Continue Reading

Cancer is different for adolescents, young adults; so are their needs

April 30, 2014 | by

Cancer is undeniably difficult both for adults and for children. Even if they don’t fully understand the ramifications, adults usually enter treatment knowing who they are and where they stand in life. Children usually enter treatment by following their parents’ lead. Adolescents and young adults, at times, don’t have such a firm footing.

cancer in young adults

Young adults and teenagers with cancer face unique challenges, questions and concerns. Each of them need to undergo a comprehensive psychosocial assessment, says City of Hope’s Jonathan Espenschied.

Further, improvements in survival rates for adolescents and young adults – called AYAs – haven’t improved at the same rate as those for children and adults. With cancer as the leading cause of disease-related death among adolescents and young adults, many more advances in care and treatment are needed.

Here, Jonathan Espenschied, M.D., director of Graduate Medical Education and Clinical Training at City of Hope and a researcher on cancer among adolescents and young adults, explains how cancer affects young people differently and what steps need to be taken to serve them better. To begin with, he says, hospitals, doctors and other health care workers need to streamline assessment and treatment, improve their use of technology, provide comprehensive AYA specific support and, of course, conduct more research.

How is cancer for young adults different?

Forget about the cancer part for a second, and think about the physical and emotional development in this age group. This an important time in a young adult’s life where they’re figuring themselves out; their body and minds are developing, their personalities evolving. This age group is on the cusp of figuring out who they want to be and where they want to go in life. » Continue Reading

Join a bone marrow donor registry; you just might save a life

April 28, 2014 | by

For many patients with hematological cancers, transplantation is their best – and sometimes only – chance at a cure.

Thousands of patients each year rely on unrelated donors to provide stem cells or bone marrow for transplant.

Thousands of patients each year rely on unrelated donors to provide stem cells or bone marrow for transplant.

These lifesaving hematopoietic transplants use bone marrow, stem cells or cord blood cells to replace a patient’s faulty cells, which are critical to a healthy and functioning immune system.

Each year, thousands of patients rely on the generosity of anonymous donors to provide the cells they need for transplantation, as family members are not always a match. At City of Hope, between 500 and 600 bone marrow transplants are performed each year, and in almost half the cases, an unrelated donor is needed.

“Thousands of patients each year would benefit from a transplant from an unrelated donor, but unfortunately, many of these patients still do not have a match,” said Jill Kendall, program director for Be the Match at City of Hope. “It’s important to increase the number of people on the bone marrow registry and add diversity. There’s an increased need for people of mixed ethnic background and minorities to join the registry as they are underrepresented.”

More than 6,500 bone marrow, stem cell or cord blood recipients, their families, caregivers and donors are poised to convene at the Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion on May 9, City of Hope’s 38th celebration of these patients and the people who gave them a lifesaving gift.

Be the Match offers the following guidelines and information for people interested in potentially becoming hematopoietic cell donors.

What’s the first step?

The first step to becoming a bone marrow donor is to join the Be the Match Registry, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis that operates the largest and most diverse registry of volunteer hematopoietic cell donors and umbilical cord blood units in the U.S. Potential donors provide a swab of cheek cells using a kit either at an in-person drive or through the mail if you join online at

What’s the commitment?

Donating is always voluntary. As a member of the registry, you are asked to keep your contact information updated, inform the registry if you have significant health changes or if you change your mind. In addition, please respond quickly if you are contacted as a potential match. Agree to donate to any searching patient who matches you, and stay on the registry until your 61st birthday – or until you ask to be removed. Respond immediately if you do not wish to donate, so the search for another donor can continue without dangerous delays for the patient. » Continue Reading

College student with lymphoma advises: Don’t let cancer define you

April 9, 2014 | by

Young adults and adolescents with cancer face unique challenges both during their treatment and afterward. Not only are therapies for children and older adults not always appropriate for them, they also must come to terms with the disease and treatment’s impact on their relationships, finances, school or career, and fertility.

All of these challenges point to the need for more research to improve care and follow-up for this age group. Here, one of those patients –  20-year-old Monica Curiel – shares her experience with lymphoma and also her advice for others in her position.


By Monica Curiel

Monica Curiel strikes a pose with actress Anna Kendrick at a recent Lipstick Angels beauty event for patients at City of Hope. Activities like this that are dedicated to boosting confidence and feeling beautiful again are important for young female cancer survivors.

Lymphoma patient Monica Curiel,  20, right, strikes a pose with actress Anna Kendrick at a recent Lipstick Angels beauty event for patients at City of Hope. Photo credit: City of Hope

My story began April 10, 2013. I was diagnosed with lymphoma (stage 2) cancer on that day. The cancer was found after I blacked out in a car accident while driving on the highway.

At first, the doctors could not figure out if I had an infection or if it was cancer. I spent weeks in and out of hospital visits, trying to figure out a diagnosis. After many pokes from needles, biopsies and consultations from teams of oncologists, physicians and various types of specialists, it was concluded I had cancer.

At first, I really did not believe it. I was a 19-year-old freshman at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles.  Having grown up in a rural town on the outskirts of Dallas, I was far from home. I was trying to pursue a career and establish friendships, essentially beginning a new chapter in my life, like millions of other 19-year-olds do at this point in their lives.

As the doctors began to explain my type of cancer and the stages, the next steps and treatments, my first thought was: “This is a mistake, other people get cancer, not me…. I am not strong enough for this; strong people can take on the disease. I am too young, I have so much to learn before I can fight cancer, so much to do.”  » Continue Reading