Posts Tagged ‘news’

A Year of Momentum in Raising Breast Cancer Awareness… & We’re Not Done Yet!

Breast Cancer Awareness Year RoundIn November of last year, right after Breast Cancer Awareness Month wrapped up in October, we pledged to keep pushing for breast cancer awareness year-round. It’s been almost a year since that date, and we’ve made some great strides in raising community awareness and action around breast cancer.

September 2010 – Emory Healthcare launched an overhauled breast health microsite to provide educational resources on breast health and breast cancer to web users. Website release is followed by launch of Emory Healthcare and Winship at Emory cancer blog.

November 2010Pledged to keep breast cancer awareness going throughout the year. Started by asking for feedback from the community. Those who provided feedback, tips & stories were entered to win tickets to the GA Tech v. UConn women’s basketball game.

Feburary 2011 – The Emory Breast Center and Winship Cancer Institute partnered with Georgia Tech women’s basketball again, this time for their “PINK” game. Breast cancer survivors joined together to form the tunnel the Lady Yellow Jackets ran through to enter the game.

March 2011 – The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University received a high impact donation from the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation in the amount of $5 million. The donation contributes to supporting breast cancer patient care, research, education and community outreach.

October 2011 – The Winship Cancer Institute and Emory Breast Center kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month by hosting a live online web chat with breast surgeon and surgical oncologist, Dr. Toncred Styblo. The well-attended chat provided a free opportunity for the community to ask questions about breast cancer risk, prevention, screening and more.

October 2011Emory Healthcare and the Winship Cancer Institute partner with 11 Alive News for an hour-long community education special on beating breast and prostate cancer that is aired across the Atlanta area and various cities across the nation.

And we’re not done yet! The Emory Breast Center has a number of events lined up in the month of October to keep momentum going.

All of our team members from Emory Healthcare, the Winship Cancer Institute and the Emory Breast Center would like to thank our community for helping us make this an awesome year for breast cancer prevention awareness. We have lots more to do to keep the momentum going!

In the comments below, we’d love it if you’d share with us an example of something you’ve done over the last year to help promote breast cancer awareness.

Beating Breast & Prostate Cancer with the Help of 11 Alive News

There are over 5 million people in the U.S. battling breast and prostate cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting American women. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men in the U.S. So how can we take action to help the 5 million+ already fighting a battle against breast or prostate cancer, and how do we increase awareness and healthy habits to help lower incidence rates in the future?

One of the most important steps we can take in the fight against cancer is education. That’s why we’re partnering with 11 Alive News to bring our community an informative special covering both breast and prostate cancer, including insights from our team at the Winship Cancer Institute on cancer screening, prevention, risk, diagnosis, treatment options, and survivorship.

Cutting Edge Cancer Treatment SpecialIf you didn’t already know it, as an Atlanta resident, you have Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute designated cancer center in your back yard. As such, the  And did you also know that the cancer research that’s produced at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is used not only to advance technology and treatment options for cancer patients, but also to serve as an educational foundation to help our community make smart decisions when it comes to their health? As a leading cancer institute its our goal to raise community awareness around cancer through education.

11 Alive will feature their special on beating breast and prostate cancer on Saturday, October 8th at 8:00pm EST. If you’re able to, we highly encourage you to check it out. We’ll be tweeting live during the special, so if you’re watching it, you can join the discussion with us and the 11 Alive crew as well! Simply use the hashtag #cuttingedgemed If there are any questions we can’t answer for you, we’ll get you answers from our doctors. If you have questions now, you’re more than welcome to leave them in the comments below, and we’ll get in touch with our doctors to get you answers. Hope to see you on Twitter on the 8th!

HPV16 Vaccine Safe and Effective

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Some cancers remain stubborn to treat. Pancreatic cancer, small cell lung cancer, late stage breast cancer and ovarian cancer are just a few of them. So when researchers find treatments – and even better, ways to prevent cancer – we celebrate.

Scientists at Winship Cancer Institute and many other research centers were therefore concerned about a recent statement that a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer causes mental illness. The statement is not accurate. The vaccine is safe. It is also effective. It is a great example of the medical advances that cancer researchers and clinicians can point to in the struggle against cancer.

The vaccine, which prevents the spread of Human Papilloma Virus-16 or HPV-16, has been approved by the FDA for use in girls who are not yet sexually active.  The vaccine is also under consideration for approval in boys to help prevent the spread of HPV16-related head and neck cancers caused by the same virus. Many researchers and clinicians consider HPV16-related head and neck cancers to be at epidemic levels.

“We don’t need to wait until all these molecular events are understood,” said Dong Moon Shin, M.D., director of Winship Cancer Institute’s head and neck cancer prevention program.  “This vaccine is successful in preventing cervical cancer, and we are hoping the vaccine provide similar preventive properties in head and neck cancer. We are very hopeful.”

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

Cancer Patient Rescues Dog and Is Rescued in Return

Carol Witcher & Floyd Henry

Carol Witcher, breast cancer patient & her dog Floyd

Carol Witcher rescued her dog when he was seven months old, but never imagined that he would rescue her in return. Over two years ago, her dog, Floyd Henry displayed some curious behavior that made Carol worry that something may be seriously wrong.

“When he sniffed me, he kind of turned back and really pushed into my right breast, real hard,” Carol recalls. “He started sniffing, sniffing, sniffing.” Carol adds, “He pushed real hard for one shot…Then he looked at me straight in the face, and began to paw my right breast. And I thought, ‘This is not good.’” After four days of continuous sniffing, nudging and pawing from her 8-year-old boxer, Carol made plans to see a doctor at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

It turned out that Carol did in fact have breast cancer that would require treatment with chemotherapy, surgery and then radiation. According to breast surgical oncologist at Winship, Dr. Sheryl Gabram, “Her type of cancer presented as an indistinct  asymmetry in her breast…I absolutely believe the dog saved Miss Witcher’s life.”

Dr. Gabram and Charlene Bayer PhD, a chemist at Georgia Institute of Technology, are no strangers to this type of phenomena. They have been  investigating  cancer patients’ breath in a pilot study involving 20 volunteers with normal mammograms compared to 20 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. They have found that cancer causes the body to release certain organic compounds and the patterns of these compounds can be detected with mass spectrometry, a device that separates out compounds for analysis. It is possible that dogs can smell these compounds but people cannot. Ultimately, Drs. Gabram and Bayer hope that this simple breath test could lead to a means to alert physicians in the office that a patient may have an underlying breast cancer. And in Carol Witcher’s case, quite possibly it did.

As Gabram notes, in the study that Miss Witcher was involved in prior to her treatment, “Our model predicted  more than 75 percent of the time correctly which patients did have breast cancer and which ones did not.” This study will be published in early June in the American Surgeon.

ABC News recently covered Carol’s story and discussed previous situations in which the combination of a person’s breath and a dog’s sense of smell led to accurate cancer diagnoses. According to the ABC News story, “In January, a study published in the British journal Gut said that a specially-trained 8-year-old black Labrador retriever named Marine had detected colorectal cancer 91 percent of the time when sniffing patients’ breath, and 97 percent of the time when sniffing stool.” They add that “Dogs have also reportedly sniffed out skin, bladder, lung and ovarian cancers.”
While they might not be able to pinpoint or vocalize what are wrong, canines have demonstrated that they are able to determine that something is wrong.

We will keep you posted on the latest developments in the breath diagnostic work of the team at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Georgia’s only NCI-designated cancer center, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.  In the meantime, you can learn more about Carol’s story by checking out the ABC News video here.

Full Court Press Against Breast Cancer

PINK gameEvery year, Georgia Tech’s women’s basketball team hosts a PINK game to raise awareness for breast cancer. This year, Tech is teaming up with the Emory Breast Center and Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University to honor breast cancer survivors at the game.

This year’s PINK game is a home game match-up between Georgia Tech (25) and NC State. Tip-off will take place at 5pm on Sunday, February 13, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2. To keep breast cancer awareness top of mind, Tech’s Ramblin’ Wreck women basketball players will wear pink jerseys for the game and will enter the arena by running through a typical tunnel, made up of not-so-typical participants*. Breast cancer survivors from around Georgia will form the tunnel to welcome the team to their home stadium.

So why should you care? One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. That’s why we ask that you join Emory and Georgia Tech as we wage a “full court press” against the disease and raise awareness about the importance of screening mammography and understanding breast cancer risk.

*We are still recruiting breast cancer survivors to form the team’s tunnel! As an honoree, survivors will receive a free ticket to the game and a pink Emory Breast Center t-shirt to wear on game day. It is not a requirement that participating survivors have been treated at Winship at Emory.

Please join us for this special event. You can register by calling 404-778-7777 or visit for more information.

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.