Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Sign-up to Learn the Biology of Cancer

biology-cancerHave you ever wondered about the biology behind cancer? If so, join Assistant Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Gregg Orloff, Ph.D, on Tuesday, August 6 at noon for an interactive, live, web chat on the “Biology of Cancer.” He will be available to discuss questions such as:

  • What is cancer?
  • What causes cancer?
  • What can you do to prevent cancer?
  • How is cancer diagnosed and treated?
  • What is the role of infectious organisms like viruses in cancer?
  • Why and how cancer spreads.
  • Why do cancer drugs not always work.

This interesting chat will open your eyes to what cancer is and what you can do to help reduce the chances that you or your family members will be diagnosed with the disease.

Chat Sign Up

Survivor Story: Debbie Church’s Battle with Breast Cancer

Debbie Church

Debbie Church is Coordinator of the Cancer Survivors’ Network and Patient Navigator at Saint Joseph’s Hospital and a 5-year breast cancer survivor. Debbie has shared her story through the journey of survivorship below. We’re lucky to have Debbie and Saint Joseph’s Hospital as part of the Emory Healthcare family and we thank her for sharing her story. We hope our readers and community members are as inspired by her story as we are!

“Dick and I fell in love over 32 years ago and have never quite gotten over it! We have had some interesting moments, but we have made it through each challenge. Love always finds a way. Unexpectedly, our lives changed in an instant when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2008. We knew life would never be the same. Life is like that box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”

Read more of Debbie’s story on the Saint Joseph’s Hospital blog >>

About Debbie Church, BA
Debbie Church, BA in Psychology and History, Salem College, and a M.Div. from Southeastern Seminary Wake Forest and a Certified Cancer Services Navigator has worked in oncology for over 20 years. She is currently employed at St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta as Coordinator of the Cancer Survivors’ Network and Patient Navigator. She has worked also as Director of Support Services and Chaplain at Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers, Atlanta Medical Center and various hospitals in the Southeast. She has spoken at many cancer events including GASCO Conferences here in Atlanta and other hospice and oncology centers in the southeast. She was a contributing author for Thomas Nelson’s Women’s Study Bible as well as publishing a book in 2010 with her husband, Don’t’ Ever Look Down; Surviving Cancer Together.

The Skinny on Neuroendocrine Cancer

Neuroendocrine tumors develop in the cells of the neuroendocrine system, a network of glands throughout the body that produce hormones. Neuroendocrine tumors are rare, typically affecting 1 – 2 people per 100,000 people.

The different types of neuroendocrine tumors depend on the particular cells that are affected.  They usually develop in the digestive system and the lungs.  Approximately 38% of tumors are in the appendix, 23% in the ileum (also known as carcinoids), 13% in the rectum and 11.5% in the bronchi.

Symptoms of Neuroendocrine tumors

Neuroendocrine tumors may be slow growing (low grade or well differentiated) or rapidly growing (high grade or poorly differentiated).  They may be functional (release hormones) or nonfunctional.  When functional neuroendocrine tumors release a variety of hormones including a hormone called serotonin, a condition called carcinoid syndrome may occur. Symptoms most commonly associated with neuroendocrine tumors include flushing, diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain and cramping.   Patients with carcinoid syndrome may also experience cardiac changes, which are caused from fibrotic damage to the heart.  Usually a patient with carcinoid syndrome does not experience these symptoms until the tumor has spread within the body.

Other terms used for neuroendocrine tumors include
• Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors – tumors in the gut or pancreas
• Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors – also known as islet cell cancer, or PNET
• Gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors – tumors that develop in the bowel, stomach or esophagus
• Pheochromocytoma of the adrenal gland
• Carcinoid tumors of the lung or intestinal tract
• Carcinoid Syndrome
• Gastrinoma, Insulinoma, Glucagonoma, VIPoma (vasoactive intestinal peptide tumor)

Treatment of neuroendocrine tumors

Treating neuroendocrine tumors can be a challenge due to the various types, locations in the body, the symptoms they produce and the diverse number of treatment modalities. Treatment is individualized to  each patient but can include surgery, liver directed therapy, medications, and/or radiation.

When treating a rare, challenging cancer such as neuroendocrine cancer, it is important to have a team of healthcare professionals at your side who are experts in the  disease and can collaborate to create a treatment plan individualized to each patient.

At Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, we take this multidisciplinary approach with teams of  expert medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, interventional oncologists, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, endocrinologists, nurses, and dieticians ( just to name a few) to create a care plan unique to each patient.

About Bonnie Josaphs, RN, BSN, OCN

Ms. Josaphs received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware in 2002. She has been practicing within Gastrointestinal (GI) Oncology since 2004.  She specializes in gastrointestinal cancers which include cancers of the esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, pancreas, gallbladder and stomach.

Related Links

More information on neuroendocrine tumors:
Winship Cancer Institute Clinical Trials for Neuroendocrine Tumors
 The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only NCI-designated Cancer Center.

Survivorship Care Plan- Are You Prepared? Take-Aways from Web Chat

Cancer Survivorship SupportRecently, I conducted a chat with Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University on the Effects of Chemo and Radiation on Cancer Survivors. In 1978, as a child, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. I received radiation and chemotherapy at that time that resulted in my development of significant late side effects in my adult life.

The participants asked some great questions. One particular question we did not have time to answer was,

“Did you find a survivorship care plan an effective tool for you or your parents once you moved from active treatment?”

For me, a cancer treatment summary or a survivorship care plan was extremely helpful after my active treatment. Without the knowledge from my parents and their guidance, I would not have been able to properly prepare a care plan.

I recommend that every cancer survivor become well informed and secure a treatment summary and survivorship care plan.  Consider it the first step in accepting responsibility for your personal health and well-being after cancer treatment.

A Cancer Treatment Summary should include the following information at a minimum:

  • Identifiers for you (name, medical record number and birthdate)
  • A description of your cancer diagnosis including pathology and staging information
  • A list of all treatments you have received (surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy, hormonal therapy, and/or radiation therapy)
  • All dates and doses of treatment you received  (i.e. cumulative doses of anthracyclines)
  • Any significant side effects you experienced during treatment
  • Contact name and phone number of a member of your family or close friend
  • Names and Contact information of all providers involved in your care

A Survivorship Care Plan should include the following information at a minimum:

  • A Treatment Summary
  • A plan for long term follow-up including appointments and testing you will need and when you should have them
  • A list of any long term side effects that you need to be aware of and ways to handle them (including physical issues as well as emotional and social issues you may experience)

For more information on how to prepare your survivorship plan and the benefits of having one, check out the chat transcript.

About Stephanie Zimmerman

Stephanie’s personal experience as a child diagnosed and treated for Ewing’s Sarcoma in the late 1970’s led her to become a nurse serving the physical and psychosocial needs of children and their families along the cancer trajectory. In April 2008, Stephanie’s heart failed because of the chest radiation and Doxorubicin used to cure her Ewing’s Sarcoma three decades prior. Unable to return to clinical practice following a heart transplant, yet unwilling to abandon her passion for the survivor population, Stephanie partnered with Judy Bode of Grand Rapids, MI in the founding of myHeart, yourHands, Inc. [MHYH]

Related Resources

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Head and Neck Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 2,300 cases of HPV associated head and neck cancers are diagnosed each year in women and more than 9,000 in men. Although alcohol and tobacco continue to be major risk factors for developing cancer of the mouth, throat or voice box, recent studies by the CDC have shown that approximately 63% of cancers associated with the tonsils and base of tongue are associated with HPV. Join Emory Head and Neck Surgical Oncologist, Mark W. El-Deiry, MD FACS on Thursday, January 24 at 12 noon for an online web chat on HPV and Head & Neck Cancer. He will be available to answer questions regarding HPV and Head and Neck Cancer including:

• What is HPV?
• What are HPV-related head and neck cancers?
• How do you get tested for HPV?
• What are the symptoms of an HPV infection?
• Is there a vaccine for HPV?
• Lesions in the mouth and throat?
• Should I get my head and neck cancer tested for HPV?
• Are there any studies related to HPV and head and neck cancers?
• What is Emory doing to educate and prevent head and neck cancers?

Related Links

Why You Should Consider More than Sticker Price when Shopping for Your Cell Phone

Recent news indicates that cell phones and the radiation they emit may be tied to cancer. What does this mean for you?

Can cell phones cause cancer?

When news broke recently that cell phones could possibly cause cancer, our own cell phones began ringing here at Winship Cancer Institute. Reporters wanted help to put the news in perspective after a panel of the World Health Organization placed cell phones in the same category they have placed coffee, exhaust fumes, the pesticide DDT and pickled vegetables, saying that the devices could possibly cause cancer.

Because cell phones are so pervasive – there are an estimated 5 billion world-wide subscribers  – people were naturally concerned. Previous studies have acquitted the phones, but on May 31 a new review was saying they could be guilty after all.

It was important to me then as it is important to me now to try to help people understand the findings of the WHO panel. I think an important message from this report is that there is a possible risk, and that we need more information. Also, the report highlights just how difficult it can be to untangle cancer’s web, to find its causes and the best therapies.  Just think of cigarette smoking. How many millions of people smoked for decades before tens of thousands of cases of lung cancer began to instruct us of the lethal consequences? Cancer often takes years or even decades to develop, and thus it can be years or decades before patterns of disease become clear.

The WHO panel, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is composed of 31 thoughtful, intelligent scientists from 14 countries who examined several previous studies. They concluded that they cannot rule out the possibility that cell phones can cause cancer. The panel was also careful to say that no known cases of cancer have been linked to cell phone usage.

The radiation that cell phones emit, called nonionizing radiation, is the issue. In general, most scientists have believed that these radio frequency waves were too weak to cause DNA damage that is often the cause of cancer.

That said, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported this year on research from the National Institutes of Health that found that brain activity in the part of the brain closest to the phone antenna can accelerate with less than one hour of cell phone use. That report offered a theoretical explanation – but note, only a theoretical explanation – of how such exposure could possibly cause an inflammatory response in the brain or trigger the formation of free radicals. The inflammatory response, the body’s natural reaction to injury or illness, can and often does go awry, wreaking havoc on a cellular level. Inflammation is now linked to a number of cancers. As for free radicals, this refers to free oxygen radicals within the body. They, too, are bad – thus all the advertisements you see for anti-oxidants that may fight their deleterious effect.

Also, a study last year conducted in 13 countries reported that people considered to be heavy cell phone users had a 40 percent higher risk of gliomas, a type of  brain tumor, such as the tumor  that claimed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

So where does this leave us? Do we need to toss our cell phones? No, but we do need more information. And some of that information needs to be how much radiation a particular cell phone emits. We need to know which phones are potentially safer. There is no reason to panic, but there is reason to begin to ask for information from cell phone manufacturers. There should be more to shopping for a cell phone than price.

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD
Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Associate Vice President, Cancer, Woodruff Health Sciences Center
Chair of Radiation Oncology

Why a Pap Smear Might Not Catch All Cervical Cancers

Most women are familiar with the Pap smear, also known as the pap test. Most of us are also aware that the main goal of the Pap smear is to identify cancerous or abnormal cells that may turn into cancer after collecting them from the lining of the cervix. However, based on findings recently published in the International Journal of Cancer, Pap smears may not be the most reliable way to pinpoint cancer types that can often be harder to detect.

According to Kevin Ault, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory’s School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute, the Pap smear is not always effective in the diagnosis of adenocarcinoma. Ault came to this conclusion after conducting a post-hoc analysis of Gardasil vaccine trials. Adenocarcinoma is a type of cervical cancer that begins significantly far up the cervical canal, an area that often is not sampled when a Pap smear is conducted.

Andenocarcinoma is the second most common type of cervical cancer, accounting for about 20 percent of all cervical cancer cases. While the overall incidence rate of cervical cancer is on the decline, Ault reports the proportion of andenocarcinoma cervical cancer is rising.

As the 8th most common type of cancer in American women, more than 12,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. Scientists believe that pre-invasive cervical cancer may develop over a period of months or years after the cervix is infected with the sexually transmitted HPV.

A leading expert and pioneer in the field of human papilloma virus (HPV), Ault suggests women might seek an HPV and Pap test at the same time. Why? A positive HPV test may be an indicator for early stages of adenocarcinoma cervical cancer that can’t be determined via a standard Pap test.

Can Fruits and Vegetables Really Fight Cancer?

Just one more reason why healthy eating should be one of your resolutions this year!

fruit vegetables cancer preventionDid you know that…

  • Broccoli has preventative properties related to prostate and breast cancer?
  • Lycopene found in tomatoes, guava and even watermelon can help fight cancer?
  • Compounds found in soy and legumes are known for their anti-cancer power?

While the power of food related to cancer has only been evaluated over the past few decades, the knowledge of the medicinal properties of food date back 6,000 years when Chinese emperors used soy for its curative power.

Back in the 1980s, when only a handful of researchers were exploring how specific foods may prevent cancer, Omer Kucuk, MD, was one of those researchers. Today a professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory Winship, Kucuk focuses on food’s effect on cancer prevention and treatment, as well as its effect on other diseases such as osteoporosis.

Many foods, particularly fruits, vegetables and legumes, contain bioactive compounds that display potent anticancer activities, says Kucuk. For example, evidence exists that specific food compounds such as soy isoflavones and curcumin can increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in patients with advanced prostate cancer.

What’s more, many nutritional compounds used for therapy or disease prevention can be taken as part of a routine diet and have little if any side effects, explains Kucuk. “The tomato carotenoid lycopene has cancer-preventing properties. People can get enough lycopene by eating tomato paste and tomato sauce, which is very rich in lycopene. So, if people ate a couple of ounces of tomato paste a day as part of a regular diet, they would eat enough to get all the benefits,” Kucuk says.

To hear Kucuk’s own words about these food compounds, listen to his podcast on the topic. Subscribe to Emory’s Sound Science for more podcasts from our Emory doctors.

New Blood Test Aids in Early Cancer Detection

Winship at Emory’s Dr. Suresh Ramalingam explains the test and what it means for cancer detection and treatment.

Suresh Ramalingam, MDYou may have heard in news headlines this week about the ability to detect a single cancer cell among billions of healthy cells. This may be possible via a new blood test (under development) that may someday help detect cancer earlier.

For tumors located in organs such as the lung, prostate, colon and breast, access to tumor tissue is only possible with a biopsy. This requires an invasive procedure, which in certain situations involves surgical intervention. It has been known for sometime that tumors shed their cancer cells that can be found in the circulating blood stream. However, the tumor cells are a significant minority in number compared to normal blood cells. Identifying the tumor cells among billions of normal cells has been a major challenge. Currently, it is possible with sophisticated techniques to identify such cells and count them. The number of circulating tumor cells has been linked to survival outcomes in some studies. Now researchers are trying to not only count, but collect these tumor cells and then conduct molecular testing.

Such an advance would have tremendous implications for cancer research and treatment. First of all, it may not be necessary to obtain tumor biopsies if adequate number of cells can be identified in the peripheral blood. It will be possible then, to administer this test during the course of a patient’s treatment to learn how a tumor is changing, because they do change as treatment progresses. It would also be possible to diagnose cancer early as part of screening strategies for patients at risk for developing certain cancers.

So how does this test work and what does it do? The test uses a microchip resembling a lab slide covered in 78,000 tiny posts. Those posts are coated with antibodies that attract and bind to tumor cells like glue. A patient’s blood sample, about a teaspoon full, is forced across the chip. The cancer cells stick, and a stain makes them glow so researchers can capture them for study.

For patients, care-givers and researchers this is very exciting news. However, this technology is just entering the early stages of testing and will have to go through several studies before it can be applied in routine practice. A number of important research questions will still have to be answered regarding the utility of circulating tumor cells, even if the test proves to be successful.

It is important to emphasize that while the new technology is exciting, it is possibly years away from practical application. If you have questions on this new blood test, please leave them in the comments below.

Could Space Travel Cause Lung Cancer in Astronauts?

Researchers are launching a new cancer research initiative – literally. NASA partners with Emory & MCG

NASA has awarded a team of investigators from both the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and the Medical College of Georgia $7.6 million over five years to study how a component of space radiation may induce lung cancer.

The award establishes a NASA Specialized Center of Research (NSCOR), consisting of a team of scientists with complementary skills who work closely together to solve a set of research questions. Ya Wang, PhD, professor of radiation oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute, is director of the NSCOR at Emory.

Interplanetary space travel could expose astronauts to conditions where they are chronically subject to types of radiation not normally encountered on earth. One of these radiation types is high energy charged particles (HZE), which results in complex damage to DNA and a broader stress response by the affected cells and tissues.

There is no epidemiological data for human exposure to HZE particles, although some estimates have been made studying uranium miners and Japanese atomic bomb survivors. Animal experiments show that HZE particle exposure induces more tumors than other forms of radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays.

Because it is a leading form of cancer, lung cancer can be expected to be prominent among increased risks from radiation even though astronauts do not smoke. However, the risk for astronauts remains unclear because the dose of HZE astronauts are expected to receive is very low.

The Emory-MCG researchers will probe whether the broader stress response induced by HZE particles amplifies cancer risk. Investigators will collaborate with physicists at Brookhaven National Laboratory to gather information on HZE’s effects. Individual projects include the study of how cells repair DNA damage induced by HZE particles, how HZE particles generate oxidative stress, and how they trigger regulatory changes in DNA known as methylation.

“The information generated by this project will be critical for estimating risks and establishing countermeasures for cancers associated with long term space travel. In addition, new insights into cancer resulting from all types of radiation exposure, including those found on earth, are likely to emerge from this project,” concludes Dr. Paul Doetsch, PhD, professor of radiation oncology and biochemistry, and associate director of Emory’s NSCOR.