TAG: "Cancer"

Awards guide promising early-stage research toward patient benefit


UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science institute funds Catalyst Awards.

Mary Nakamura, UC San Francisco

An innovative project to develop a potential therapy to treat a wide range of cancers has won a major UC San Francisco award that aims to drive promising early-stage research through the complex process of translating ideas into patient benefit.

The Catalyst Awards, which combine funding with customized expert feedback and advice, announced winners for its fall 2012 cycle. Funded by UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the awards focus on the development of four areas: therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and now also digital health.

This cycle’s top, $100,000 award went to Mary Nakamura, M.D., an associate professor in residence in the UCSF School of Medicine. Funding for her proposal – “A Recombinant Fusion Protein that redirects VEGF to actively kill cancer cells: R1FasL” – will support additional research to test the efficacy and safety of using an artificial protein, known as R1FasL, in cancer treatment.

“I think [the Catalyst Award program] creates a target for people who have innovative ideas to help move their work forward. That just hasn’t existed in academia before,” said Keith Yamamoto, Ph.D., vice chancellor for research at UCSF and one of several UCSF leaders on hand for presentations by the 20 Catalyst Award finalists.

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UC Davis research advances efforts to prevent dangerous blood clots


Study will help physicians calculate risk of post-surgical venous thromboembolisms.

Robert Canter, UC Davis

New research from the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, published in the Journal of Surgical Research, may help clinicians determine which patients are at highest risk for post-surgical blood clots in the legs or lungs.

A team led by Robert Canter, UC Davis associate professor of surgery, studied the medical histories of more than 470,000 surgical patients to determine which factors increased their risk of blood clots, also called venous thromboembolism (VTE). The team then created a nomogram, a type of calculator, which can help clinicians predict an individual’s 30-day VTE risk. The results could change clinical practice by providing a more rational approach to preventing dangerous blood clots.

Blood clots are a critical safety and quality challenge for hospitals around the nation. While they can be prevented by administering blood thinners, such as heparin, these measures increase the risk of bleeding. To complicate matters, clinicians have had no way of determining which patients are at higher risk for blood clots, forcing them to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to prevention.

“The standard preventive measure is heparin,” said Canter. “However, there are many questions surrounding its use: What type of heparin should be administered? What dosage? Should we give it to patients before or after surgery? By identifying patients who are at higher risk for VTE, we attempt to answer many of these questions and help to personalize treatment.”

Blood clots of the legs or lungs are a serious surgical complication, which can cause shortness of breath, longer hospital stays and, in rare cases, death. Successful treatment often requires patients to take the blood thinner Coumadin for three to six months after discharge.

The researchers combed through the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement (ACS-NSQIP) database to identify 471,000 patients who underwent abdominal or thoracic surgeries between 2005 and 2010. Their goal was to identify VTE events within 30 days of surgery, both in the hospital and after discharge (VTEDC). VTE includes deep vein thrombosis (clots in the legs) or pulmonary embolism (clots in the lungs).

The team considered many patient factors: age, body mass index (BMI), gender, race, pre-existing conditions, medical history, smoking and others. The group also factored in different approaches to surgery—abdominal, thoracic, laparoscopic, etc. — as well as the specific procedure type such as gastrointestinal, hernia, bariatric, splenectomy or lung. They also looked at post-operative complications, as these could affect both the length of stay and blood clot prevention efforts.

“There are a multitude of factors that go into whether a patient is at risk for VTE, as well as how to prevent it,” said Canter. “Prior to this study, no one had ever looked at so many of these factors so comprehensively.”

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Innovation Profile: Greg Maynard: Stopping blood clots, saving lives

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UC medical centers honored for oncology programs


Four UC med centers among 100 singled out by Becker’s Hospital Review.

UC Davis Medical Center buildingMedical centers at UC Davis, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC San Francisco have been named among “100 Hospitals and Health Systems with Great Oncology Programs” by Becker’s Hospital Review, a national publication geared to hospital and health system leaders.

The Becker’s Hospital Review editorial team selected the hospitals based on clinical accolades, quality care and contributions to the field of oncology. The ranking recognizes hospitals that are “on the cutting edge of cancer treatment, prevention and research,” according to the publication.

The editorial board considers the ratings of reputable health-care resources including U.S. News & World Report, the National Cancer Institute, the American College of Surgeons and other credentialing organizations when making selections.

“Each organization has demonstrated a focus on patient-centered cancer care and emphasis on continual innovation in treatments and services,” according to the publication’s press release. “Many of these organizations also have a place in the history of cancer prevention and research, as they‘ve driven groundbreaking discoveries and made clinical milestones.”

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UC San Diego joins national cancer care network


Moores Cancer Center is only San Diego-based institution member.

UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center

On March 19, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) announced the election of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center as the first and only San Diego-based NCCN Member Institution dedicated to improving the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of care provided to patients with cancer.

“We are proud to join this prestigious alliance of the world’s leading cancer centers,” said Paul Viviano, CEO of UC San Diego Health System. “The physicians, scientists and clinicians of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and NCCN, share a vision of creating a healthier world, one life at a time, through new science, new medicine and new cures.”

As a NCCN Member Institution, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center will be part of a national network that develops the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology used as the standard for clinical policy in oncology, incorporating expert medical judgment and recommendations of multidisciplinary panels from NCCN Member Institutions.

“The National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the UC San Diego Health System are bringing the most effective therapeutic and prevention strategies to cancer patients,” said Scott M. Lippman, M.D., director of the Moores Cancer Center. “We look forward to working with fellow premier NCCN institutions to impact the outcomes of cancer care and to influence the direction of the cancer field.”

Joining 22 other institution members of NCCN, Moores Cancer Center was selected because of its role in transforming cancer care and providing exceptional care to cancer patients. Moores Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the San Diego region. Its multidisciplinary team approach includes translating the basic scientific discoveries of its research faculty into new treatments for cancer patients in the clinic.

“We are extremely pleased that UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center has been elected to institutional membership in the NCCN,” said Robert Carlson, M.D., CEO of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. “Moores Cancer Center adds substantial strength and expertise to the excellence of cancer care, research and education characteristic of the other world-class member institutions.”

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Nurses can play key role in reducing deaths from diseases


UCLA nursing professor co-authors World Health Organization report.

Linda Sarna, UCLA

Nurses and midwives can play a critical role in lessening people’s risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes, according to a groundbreaking new report issued by the World Health Organization and co-authored by a UCLA nursing professor.

These four non-communicable disease types account for a combined 60 percent of all deaths worldwide.

“The global burden of non-communicable diseases is already high and continues to grow in all regions of the world,” said Linda Sarna, a professor at the UCLA School of Nursing and co-author of the report. “Nurses and midwives have the expertise to help individuals and communities improve health outcomes.”

Sarna points out that since nurses and midwives make up more than 50 percent of all health care providers in most countries, they are the logical candidates to affect lifestyle changes among patients and increase health awareness. Worldwide, there are more than 19 million nurses and midwives, she said.

The 38-page report issued by the WHO highlights evidence-based, value-added nursing interventions that have been shown to reduce such risk factors as tobacco use, alcohol dependence, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.

“The examples contained in the report are proven activities that nurses can start doing today to make a meaningful impact with their patients and in their community,” Sarna said. “Many of the interventions have been proven to reduce costs and improve the quality of care.”

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New program teaches empowering ‘anti-cancer’ approaches


UC San Diego Integrative Oncology 2013 conference will be April 6-7.

From Saturday, April 6, to Sunday, April 7, the Center for Integrative Medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine is hosting a landmark conference on integrative oncology. Participants will learn what can be done to foster an “anti-cancer” diet and lifestyle to help rectify health imbalances and reduce the drivers of cancer. Integrative oncology addresses all aspects of cancer care, using evidence from cancer epidemiology, basic science, and clinical research – together with ancient knowledge of natural healing systems such as Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine native to India.

“This will be a ‘first-of-its-kind’ conference for the field of oncology,” said Gordon Saxe, M.D., Ph.D., preventive medicine physician and research director, UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine. “There will always be a critical need for proven, life-saving treatments targeted at eradicating or controlling the spread of cancer. However, there is also a need for empowering approaches that encourage active patient self-care in support of whole-person health. There is a growing awareness that these approaches must be part of optimal cancer care.”

The weekend course is designed to introduce participants to the concept of integrative oncology.  Conference presenters will discuss the complex relationship between tumor and host, and dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors. The aim of the conference is to provide participants with an understanding of the research behind integrative oncology as well as the tools to apply new and empowering approaches to improve patient care and to translate their knowledge into actionable wellness plans.

“This course is ideal for anyone working in the field of cancer, or those who have otherwise been affected by cancer personally,” said Lauray MacElhern, conference organizer and managing director of the UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine.

Offered on the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla, the conference will feature national speakers who focus on three core areas: diet and lifestyle for cancer prevention; evidence-based integrative therapies; and integrative modalities that improve symptoms and enhance the quality of life of cancer patients. Topics include: optimal nutrition, physical activity, massage, manual therapies, acupuncture, herbs, biofeedback, meditation, guided imagery, integrative psychiatry, biofield therapies, expressive arts, yoga and tai chi.

General registration is $219. Discounts are available to students, residents and faculty of UC San Diego, Bastyr University California and Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Full scholarships are also available. Breakfast on both days, lunch on Saturday, and parking are included in the fees. Twelve hours of medical education credits are offered with the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association. The course is from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. on Sunday on the UC San Diego campus at the Medical Education and Telemedicine (MET) Building.

More information about integrative medicine at UC San Diego can be found at http://cim.ucsd.edu.

To learn more or to register for this conference, call (858) 334-4631 or visit: http://cim.ucsd.edu/io2013.

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Biennial mammograms best after 50, even for women with dense breasts


Some younger women see both benefit and harm from annual exams, study finds.

Screening for breast cancer every two years appears just as beneficial as yearly mammograms for women ages 50 to 74, with significantly fewer “false positives” – even for women whose breasts are dense or who use hormone therapy for menopause.

That is the finding of a new national study involving more than 900,000 women that was published today (March 18) in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The same team of researchers from UC San Francisco and Seattle-based Group Health Research Institute recently reported similar results for older women ages 66 to 89.

By contrast, women in their 40s with extremely dense breasts who undergo biennial mammography are more likely to have advanced-stage and large tumors than women who undergo annual mammography – but annual mammograms also resulted in more false positives, according to the new study from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC), the largest available screening mammography dataset in the United States. Having dense breasts means it is difficult for X-rays to pass through the breast tissue.

“Increasing age and high breast density are among the strongest risk factors for the disease,” said senior author Karla Kerlikowske, M.D., a professor of medicine at UCSF and a physician at the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco VA Medical Center.

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American Cancer Society to honor UCSF breast cancer specialist


Surgeon Laura Esserman to receive tribute from nationwide organization.

Laura Esserman, UC San Francisco

The American Cancer Society will pay tribute to Laura Esserman, M.D., M.B.A., an internationally known leader in the field of breast cancer care and research.

A surgeon and 20-year member of the faculty at UC San Francisco, Esserman is leading an effort to change the delivery of breast cancer services and the information systems used to support both research and patient care.

She will be honored Tuesday (March 19) at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. Established in 1913, the American Cancer Society is a nationwide voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer.

As a professor of surgery and radiology, Esserman co-leads the Breast Oncology Program and serves as associate director of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

She is a member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Working Group on Advancing Innovation in Drug Development and Evaluation, which is studying how the federal government can best support science-based innovation in the process of drug development and regulatory evaluation.

Esserman has worked at UCSF to develop interdisciplinary teams of clinicians and researchers to bring the best care to patients and find the best platform to integrate translational research and improve the delivery of breast cancer care.

Director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at UCSF, she is founder and faculty leader of the program in Translational Informatics spanning the disciplines of bioinformatics, medical and clinical informatics, systems integration, and clinical care delivery.

Esserman is the principle investigator of the I-SPY TRIAL program, a multisite neoadjuvant clinical trial that has evolved into a model for translational research and innovation in clinical trial design. I-SPY combines personalized medicine with a novel investigational design to identify women at high risk of early breast cancer recurrence. It is under way at 19 major cancer centers around the country.

Esserman has recently launched a University of California-wide breast cancer initiative called the Athena Breast Health Network, a groundbreaking project designed to follow 150,000 women from screening through treatment and outcomes, incorporating the latest in molecular testing and Web-based tools into the course of care.

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Cancer database wins Innovation in Networking award


Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California honors UC Santa Cruz’s CGHub.

David Haussler, UC Santa Cruz

David Haussler, UC Santa Cruz

The UC Santa Cruz Cancer Genomics Hub (CGHub) has been honored by the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) as the recipient of the 2013 Innovations in Networking Award for High-Performance Research Applications.

UCSC has built CGHub, a 5-petabyte database, to store tumor genomes sequenced through National Cancer Institute (NCI) projects. Through this effort, CGHub is tackling the significant computational challenges posed by storing, serving, and interpreting cancer genomics data.

The CGHub mission is to facilitate the work of scientific researchers. It is designed to be a fully automated resource, appearing to the user as an extension of the user’s home institute computing system. Making such vast amounts of data accessible to collaborating researchers nationally and internationally requires advanced networking to allow the research to be carried out as seamlessly as possible.

The project is led by UC Santa Cruz bioinformatics expert David Haussler. Haussler is a distinguished professor of biomolecular engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering at UCSC and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “By providing researchers with comprehensive catalogs of the key genomic changes in many major types and subtypes of cancer, these efforts will support the development of more effective ways to diagnose and treat cancer,” Haussler said.

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Gene probing tool advances disease knowledge


UCSF scientists find more precise way to “turn off” genes.

Wendell Lim, UC San Francisco

Wendell Lim, UC San Francisco

Scientists at UC San Francisco have found a more precise way to turn off genes, a finding that will speed research discoveries and biotech advances and may eventually prove useful in reprogramming cells to regenerate organs and tissues.

The strategy borrows from the molecular toolbox of bacteria, using a protein employed by microbes to fight off viruses, according to the researchers, who describe the technique in the current issue of Cell.

Turning off genes is a major goal of treatments that target cancer and other diseases. In addition, the ability to turn genes off to learn more about how cells work is a key to unlocking the mysteries of biochemical pathways and interactions that drive normal development as well as disease progression.

“We’ve spent energy and effort to map the human genome, but we don’t yet understand how the genetic blueprint leads to a human being, and how we can manipulate the genome to better understand and treat disease,” said Wendell Lim, Ph.D., a senior author of the study. Lim is director of the UCSF Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology.

The new technology developed by the team of UCSF and UC Berkeley researchers is called CRISPR interference – not to be confused with RNA interference, an already popular strategy for turning off protein production.

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New cancer council combines local centers’ strengths


UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and Salk, Sanford-Burnham institutes collaborate.

Scott Lippman, UC San Diego

San Diego is a powerhouse for cancer research, home to the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center – the region’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center – and two NCI-designated centers for basic research: the Salk Institute Cancer Center and the Cancer Center at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.

These singular enterprises have now formed a novel collaboration – the San Diego National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers Council, or C3 – to leverage their distinct and combined resources and talents.

The NCI designation means these three cancer centers are already among the best in the nation. They are moving forward with a formalized structure to facilitate collaborations in key areas. This new partnership will allow San Diego’s cancer researchers to accelerate the understanding of and innovative treatments for cancer, the nation’s second leading cause of death.

“San Diego’s cancer centers are rapidly unlocking the genetic and molecular mechanisms involved in cancer and are in the vanguard of a new era in cancer science,” said Tony Hunter, Ph.D., director of the Salk Institute Cancer Center and American Cancer Society professor. “The C3 partnership will allow us to build on the city’s foundation of groundbreaking cancer research and harness our collective strengths to produce the next generation of therapies.”

“The mission of C3 is to both exploit and create collaborative opportunities that can only happen in a place like San Diego, with so many exceptional cancer scientists and physicians,” said Scott Lippman, M.D., director of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and Chugai Pharmaceutical Chair in Cancer Research. “Our goal is to build a structure for increased interaction among the cancer center faculties, leading to a deeper understanding of cancer and, ultimately, more and better treatments.”

“We are in the midst of a transformative decade in cancer research – one in which we have tools like whole-genome sequencing, high-throughput drug screening and nanotechnology to personalize cancer treatments, delivering medicines where they’ll do the most good and the least harm. This new partnership will better position all San Diego cancer researchers to get there faster,” said Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., Sanford-Burnham’s president, interim CEO and Cancer Center director.

Among C3’s goals:

  • Greater interaction between the cancer centers — clinical, translational, basic science and educational — with increased joint faculty appointments.
  • Enhanced collaborative research efforts, with members sharing resources in such areas as bioinformatics, genomics, clinical trials (at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center) and data storage.
  • Organized initiatives, such as symposia, conferences and forums, that expand and deepen scientific and public understanding of cancer and advance the field.

Voting members of C3 are:

  • Scott Lippman, M.D., director and Chugai Pharmaceutical Chair, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center; senior associate dean and assistant vice chancellor for cancer research and care, UC San Diego
  • Tony Hunter, Ph.D., director, Salk Institute Cancer Center, American Cancer Society professor, Renato Dulbecco Chair
  • Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., president and interim chief executive officer, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute; professor and director, NCI-designated Cancer Center
  • Barbara Parker, M.D., professor of clinical medicine, UCSD School of Medicine; deputy director for clinical affairs, UCSD Moores Cancer Center
  • David Cheresh, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Pathology, UCSD School of Medicine; associate director for innovation and industry relations, UCSD Moores Cancer Center
  • Geoffrey Wahl, Ph.D., professor and Daniel and Martina Lewis Chair, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
  • Ze’ev Ronai, Ph.D., professor and associate director, NCI-designated Cancer Center, scientific director at La Jolla, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

C3 will host regular meetings, with council chairmanship rotating every two years among the three cancer centers. Two previously established symposia — the Mahajani Symposium and the Preuss Foundation Seminar — will be sponsored by C3, as well as an annual retreat and an awards program to honor the best in local cancer science.

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Affordable care not enough to help Latinos overcome cancer care barriers


An array of obstacles compromise access.

Sally Maliski, UCLA

A combination of financial, cultural and communication barriers plays a role in preventing underserved Latino men with prostate cancer from accessing the care and treatment they need, according to a new study by researchers at the UCLA School of Nursing.

The study, “Barriers to Prostate Cancer Care: Affordable Care Is Not Enough,” is published in the March issue of the peer-reviewed journal Qualitative Health Research.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Latino men. Additionally, Latino men are more likely to be diagnosed with later-stage disease than non-Hispanic white men.

“We found that an array of obstacles compromise access and frequently result in negative outcomes,” said Sally L. Maliski, associate dean of academic affairs at the UCLA School of Nursing and senior author of the study. “Sadly, these obstacles disproportionately affect underserved individuals and require a new focus on not only adequate health care coverage but also on the array of hurdles that limit patient access.”

The UCLA study looked at Latino men who were enrolled in Improving Access, Counseling and Treatment for Californians With Prostate Cancer (IMPACT), a state-funded public assistance program. The analysis revealed barriers throughout the entire prostate cancer–care process, including screening, treatment and follow-up care.

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