An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By Leticia Marquez | April 19, 2018
City of Hope scientists and doctors presented their latest cancer research at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) at Chicago’s McCormick Place, which took place April 14 to 18.

The AACR meeting, which hosted an anticipated 22,000 representatives from academia, industry, government and advocacy organizations from around the globe, highlighted the best cancer science and medicine from institutions all over the world.

“The AACR meeting drew physicians, scientists, nurses, patients, advocates and others in the field of cancer research together to discuss the most promising breakthroughs in cancer diagnosis, prevention and treatment,” said Michael A. Caligiuri, M.D., president, City of Hope National Medical Center, Deana and Steve Campbell Physician-in-Chief Distinguished Chair and AACR president. “City of Hope physicians and scientists shared their discoveries and expertise with colleagues in the cancer field, who share a passion for finding better cures for cancer patients.”

Among City of Hope research highlights presented at the AACR conference were:
Black women’s knowledge of breast cancer and hair product-related risk
Dede Teteh, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in City of Hope’s Division of Health Equities, presented research on the Cost of Beauty project, a community-based participatory research study led by co-principal investigators Phyllis Clark, Eudora Mitchell and Susanne Montgomery, Ph.D.

The study examined the potential role of hair products in breast cancer etiology in African-American, African and Caribbean black women. Hair products were collected from locations frequented by black women and hair stylists, and the Environmental Working Group’s Skindeep database was used to evaluate ingredient toxicity. Key informant interviews, focus groups and a survey were then used to assess participants’ knowledge about breast cancer and hair product-related risks.

The study found that all 54 products evaluated from local hair salons contained hazardous ingredients. Fourteen of the ingredients had an overall high hazard rating between 7-10 (with 10 indicating very high levels of toxicity). The potential harmful effects of these chemicals include cancer and endocrine disruption, while some act as reproductive system toxicants. The study included 211 women, most of whom had a college or graduate degree, who were more knowledgeable about the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer (46 percent) than about hair product-related risk (40 percent).  

“This study is adding to the dialogue on the impact of personal care products on black women’s health,” Teteh said. “We encourage our participants to read their product labels, know what is in the products they use and promote the manufacture of kitchen products using safe ingredients.”  
Exercise alleviates inflammation-related biomarkers in breast cancer survivors
According to the most current U.S. census, there are about 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. Although advances in breast cancer therapy have greatly improved survival, successful treatment often comes at a cost, including metabolic disease. Survivors also experience an increase in inflammatory conditions, which cause chronic pain, swelling and other health problems. Research has shown exercise may help combat these and other health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer recurrence. 

Jessica Clague DeHart, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the Division of Biomarkers of Early Detection and Prevention in City of Hope's Department of Population Sciences, initiated a feasibility study of a community-based exercise intervention among breast cancer survivors to look at the change in inflammatory biomarkers.

Aditi Vyas, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow on her team, analyzed their gene expression profiles, before and after exercise, to help identify adverse molecular events that can be potentially reversed through exercise. The team recruited 50 sedentary, postmenopausal estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer survivors, and randomized them into exercise and control groups. Participants in the exercise group were enrolled into an exercise intervention program (Curves), which involved 30-minute circuit-centered exercises performed under trained supervision, three times a week, for 16 weeks. Participants’ body measurements were recorded and blood samples were taken for molecular analysis from all participants, before and after the study.

The results showed that seven of the 10 measured inflammatory markers that can cause health problems decreased in the exercise group compared to the control group. For example, on average, C-reactive protein as well as Interleukin-6 were found to be 30 percent and 21 percent lower, respectively, in the postintervention samples from the exercise group, when compared to the control group. Moreover, a greater number of women in the exercise group showed an overall decrease in proinflammatory markers such as IL-6, CRP and IL-8 when compared to the control group. For instance, 71 percent of the women who exercised had reduced levels of IL-8 after intervention when compared to 36 percent of women in the control group.

The gene expression profiling results for the exercise group showed 197 differentially expressed genes postintervention when compared to the gene expression at the start of the study. Genes involved in inflammatory response such as IF127, CD177 and others were inhibited in response to the exercise intervention.

“In summary, our results indicate that moderate levels of exercise could potentially be useful in alleviating inflammation and stress-related biomarkers in breast cancer survivors,” Vyas said. 
A citrus ingredient slows the growth of breast cancer cells
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the U.S. Unfortunately, only a few therapeutic strategies are effective in breast cancer treatment, and they are often toxic to healthy cell types. Therefore, there is a need to identify newer strategies that can supplement the existing ones. Studies have shown that phytochemicals, which are plant-derived bioactive components, have anti-cancer properties and exhibit minimal toxicity to healthy tissue.

Sharad S. Singhal, Ph.D., a research professor in City of Hope’s Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research and Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, and his team used 2'-Hydroxyflavanone (2HF), a constituent of citrus fruits, and breast cancer cell lines to conduct experiments in vitro. Initial studies demonstrated that 2HF effectively suppressed the growth of breast cancer cells, and researchers decided to investigate the anti-cancer effects of 2HF in animal models.

“The study showed that 2HF significantly slowed the growth of breast cancer cells by initiating cell death and at the same does not affect growth of normal cells,” Singhal said.

Next steps for the research include studying the molecular mechanisms that are involved in 2HF’s stopping breast cancer cells from multiplying, as well as combining 2HF with chemotherapeutic agents currently used for breast cancer treatment to measure their effectiveness.

“There is a critical need to identify potent compounds that can kill cancer cells and/or enhance the efficacy of chemotherapies,” Singhal said. “Therefore, the long-term goal of the lab is to develop clinically effective adjuvant for treatment of breast cancer.”

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