Posts tagged ‘prostate cancer’
Although science and medicine have much in common, their practitioners are immersed in work that often appears to be worlds apart. Developing cures together — that is, translating science into meaningful, effective medical treatment — requires boundless creativity and perseverance.
This journey often starts when City of Hope’s scientists and clinicians share their recent discoveries and challenges in the lab and clinic. This open forum enables them to make new connections and consider possibilities for improving treatment for patients.
One such connection was made when Karen Aboody, M.D., professor of neurosciences and a renowned translational scientist, shared advances using neural stem cells to treat cancer with Jonathan Yamzon, M.D., a urologic oncologist who spends his days treating men in the clinic. Yamzon was intrigued by the potential of this science to target prostate cancer.
As a result, a team of researchers has embraced this promising new approach as a way to cure men. Yamzon and Aboody, along with Jacob Berlin, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular medicine, and Jeremy Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular pharmacology, are now collaborating to bring neural stem cell therapy to men fighting prostate cancer — patients in urgent need of novel therapies for their disease.
Hormone therapy is the standard treatment for prostate cancer. The approach essentially starves cancer of testosterone, which the tumors need to grow and spread. But in many men, the cells mutate to produce testosterone on their own and keep growing, in effect becoming resistant to therapy. At this point, higher doses of chemotherapy may be effective, but would be too toxic to tolerate. This is where targeted neural stem cell therapy could step in. “We’re looking to treat patients who really don’t have any other options,” Yamzon said.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is a U.S.-based organization that ties together oncology health care professionals (doctors, nurses and pharmacists) from around the world. The organization’s annual meeting represents a key forum in which scientific breakthroughs in oncology are unveiled. Attendance is nothing short of spectacular – last year, the meeting drew 34,000 attendees with just over half coming from outside of the U.S.
This year’s meeting begins Thursday in Chicago. After a busy clinic today, I’m going to hop on a red-eye and make my way there. As a medical oncologist focused on prostate, kidney and bladder cancer, I’ll be focused on the following research in particular:
1. “Gene therapy” for bladder cancer: The BOREALIS-1 trial: For years we have longed for new therapies for advanced bladder cancer. It’s been three decades since cisplatin (a standard chemotherapy agent) was introduced for the disease, and since that time, we’ve had virtually no effective drugs developed. This appears to be changing dramatically.
My friend and colleague Przemyslaw Twardowski, M.D., was involved in an international study evaluating a novel drug called apatorsen. Apatorsen represents a sort of “gene therapy” – a short strand of DNA that enters the cancer cell and shuts down its defense mechanisms. At this meeting, we will see data suggesting that when added to chemotherapy, apatorsen led to an impressive improvement in survival.
That data is a real glimmer of hope for patients with advanced bladder cancer. » Continue Reading
Cancer treatments have improved over the years, but one potential source of treatments and cures remains largely untapped: nature.
Blueberries, cinnamon, xinfeng, grape seed (and skin) extract, mushrooms, barberry and pomegranates all contain compounds with the potential to treat or prevent cancer.
Scientists at City of Hope have found tantalizing evidence of this potential and are committed to exploring it to the fullest. They’re researching, testing and developing new therapies made from nature’s bounty — vegetables, fruits and herbs most people take for granted.
A $2.5 million gift from the Panda Charitable Foundation has helped launch City of Hope’s Natural Therapies Program. The funds will be used to encourage researchers to develop products to combat cancer using powerful compounds already present in foods and herbs considered part of a healthy diet. By exploring the power of nature, the Natural Therapies Program hopes to identify treatments that will help heal patients more effectively than current treatments, with fewer side effects.
The Panda Charitable Foundation gift will specifically expedite the testing of promising novel therapies from three researchers, who are investigating natural products’ abilities to treat cancer. » Continue Reading
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.
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
When considering cancer risk, categories like “women’s cancers” and “men’s cancers” may not matter. A complete medical history, especially of first-degree relatives, must be considered when evaluating risk.
A new study drives home that fact. Published in the journal Cancer, the study found a link between a family history of prostate cancer and an increased risk of breast cancer in women. The study, one of the largest efforts to examine the link between these cancers, found that women with a father, brother or son with prostate cancer may have a 14 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women without that family history. Women with a family history of both prostate and breast cancer appear to have a 78 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer, according to the study.
The researchers, from the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit, cautioned that their study found a connection, not a cause-and-effect relationship. Nonetheless, it gives food for thought to how women should think comprehensively when assessing individual cancer risk.
My colleagues in the clinic know I’ve got a soft spot. Last week, a patient of mine offered me a fantastic compliment. “You’re looking younger these days, Dr. Pal!” she said, offering me a big hug as she proceeded out of the clinic room.
Lovely, I thought. The early morning workouts are paying off.
She continued: “Now if you’d just consider using some Rogaine, I think you’d set the dial back about 10 years!”
Ouch. My nurse gave me a somber look, understanding the pain these words had inflicted. I wouldn’t consider myself to be vain by any means, but my hair loss has created increasing conflict between me and my bathroom mirror. With every passing morning, I notice a little less hair up front, and a bit less up top. This pattern, termed frontal and vertex balding respectively, plagues nearly half of American males, albeit to different degrees. Until recently, the major toll of this hair loss for me has been cosmetic, chipping away at my self-image as a youthful oncologist.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, however, suggests a more significant price. The study authors, based at several U.S. institutions, utilized a database of over 39,000 male patients who were involved in a trial to assess cancer screening. These men were asked to recall their pattern of hair loss at the age of 45, characterizing the degree of frontal and vertex balding. » Continue Reading
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
The prostate cancer screening debate, at least as it relates to regular assessment of prostate specific antigen levels, is far from over.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against routine PSA screening for prostate cancer in 2012, maintaining that the routine use of the PSA blood test does more harm than good, threatening men’s quality of life. Many doctors and other medical professionals, however, never accepted this recommendation as prudent. They’ve continued to debate, or argue, the benefits and risks of regular prostate cancer screening.
A new study, led by Timothy E. Schultheiss, Ph.D, professor and chief of radiation physics at City of Hope, will add data fuel to the debate fire. In findings presented this week at the 2015 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in Orlando, Florida, Schultheiss reports that the recommendations against PSA screening for prostate cancer may have led to an increase in higher-risk prostate cancer.
Schultheiss and his colleagues analyzed data on nearly 87,500 men treated for prostate cancer since 2005 and found a 6 percent increase in intermediate and higher-risk cases of the disease between 2011 and 2013. They estimated that the suggested trend could produce an additional 1,400 prostate cancer deaths annually.
For men walking out of the doctor’s office after a diagnosis of cancer, the reality can hit like a ton of bricks. The words echo: “Prostate cancer” … “Aggressive prostate cancer.” The initial feelings of grief, denial and anger are mixed with many thoughts: How much time do I have left? What else do I want to accomplish? What about my family, job and retirement plans?
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men – and the second-leading cause of cancer death – and a diagnosis of aggressive disease is often life-changing. As a urological oncology expert, I see men face the ups and downs of their diagnosis.
Although slow-growing cancers take decades to cause serious problems, fast-growing, or high-risk, cancer has the potential to quickly spread to other parts of the body. These tumors occur in up to 25 percent of men with prostate cancer, encompassing cancers of high Gleason grade, high levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) or extremely abnormal prostates on physical exam.
Even if tests indicate that the cancer is only in the prostate, the prospect of cancer spreading or leading to death is anxiety-provoking and intimidating. Once men are able to reach the acceptance phase, the primary question becomes: What are my treatment options?
At City of Hope, our multidisciplinary team manages aggressive prostate cancer and the circumstances in which men need multiple forms of treatment. We not only have a proven track record in surgery for high-risk cancer, we also provide extended lymph node dissection, which offers extremely accurate assessment of the cancer’s spread. » Continue Reading