Recent Research Breakthroughs
A one-two punch against leukemia
The drug Gleevec can keep chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, at bay for as long as the patient takes the drug. However, leukemia stem cells lurk in the patient’s marrow waiting to develop into cancer. Gleevec has no effect on these stem cells. And while leukemia stem cells lie in wait, they can become resistant to Gleevec. When they grow into adult cells, the patient develops leukemia again. City of Hope researchers are conducting a clinical trial of a new drug called LBH589 that, in combination with Gleevec, could help eliminate CML altogether. In preclinical studies, researchers found that the drug combined with Gleevec is very effective at eliminating CML cells, including leukemia stem cells. The researchers are hopeful it will end the threat of relapse for CML patients taking Gleevec.
 
Identifying drug-resistant cells in lung cancer
City of Hope researchers have identified a rare population of cells within small cell lung cancer (SCLC) tumors that may help establish critical targets for more effective anticancer therapies. These cells express high levels of urokinase plasminogen activator receptor, or uPAR, which is linked to poor prognosis and outcomes. More than 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer annually, and approximately 13 percent of those cases are SCLC, one of the most aggressive types of lung cancer. City of Hope researchers are investigating whether the cells within SCLC tumors might be the underlying cause of recurrence after treatment.
 
Improving treatments for advanced breast cancer
City of Hope is conducting clinical trials of the drug Vorinostat. In early testing it stabilized cancer growth in a group of women with stage 4 breast cancer. Stage 4 is the most advanced form of breast cancer and involves cancer spreading to other organs. Vorinostat is the first Food and Drug Administration-approved oral anticancer agent that inhibits an enzyme that is closely associated with DNA in cells. By inhibiting the enzyme, Vorinostat alters the expression of several important genes and proteins, resulting in tumor cell death. City of Hope investigators believe that, in combination with other drugs, Vorinostat may be part of an effective treatment for women with advanced breast cancer.
 
Using the immune system to fight brain cancer
Researchers at City of Hope are genetically reprogramming disease-fighting immune cells to treat malignant glioma, an aggressive and often lethal form of brain cancer. Gliomas are able to hide from the immune system and their location in sensitive brain tissue makes them very difficult to treat. Life expectancy following the diagnosis of glioma is typically less than one year. Genetic reprogramming is a novel approach to treating these cancers, in which T cells are engineered to reboot the immune system to recognize and attack tumor cells, leaving the normal brain cells in the vicinity unharmed. Researchers are also exploring the use of nanotubes, tiny molecules built out of carbon atoms, and neural stem cells as vehicles to deliver these immune stimulating therapies directly to the tumor cells.
 
Survivorship and support
Over the past two decades, new techniques to diagnose prostate cancer early have boosted the survival rate for men with all stages of prostate cancer. Addressing the unique needs of these survivors, City of Hope’s Prostate Cancer Survivorship Program provides comprehensive, long-term follow-up care to improve the overall quality of life. Patients receive personalized health plans based on their treatment history and comprehensive monitoring for possible cancer recurrence. They also have the opportunity to discuss their treatment, its impact on their health and ways to stay healthy. The program, part of City of Hope’s Center for Cancer Survivorship, is unique nationally, as it combines both multidisciplinary follow-up care and clinical research to help improve the overall quality of life and long-term survival of prostate cancer patients.