September 2011 Archives

100638_Kleinerman_E_01.jpgEugenie Kleinerman, M.D., head of MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital, discusses before Congress what can be done to improve children's access to new agents early on.

Part II of: New Drugs Needed in Battle Against Childhood Cancers

As I said before, we have taken our eye off what I believe to be the goal of "cure" to one of "fear of inducing toxicity." Fear of toxicity governs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and paralyzes the pharmaceutical industry from including children early on in Phase I clinical trials.

Unlike adults, children don't have early access to new agents
Phase I trials gradually establish the maximum tolerated dose and define the side effects of the drug at each dose.

These first-in-human Phase I trials are for patients 18 years and older. Once the dose is found, Phase II and III trials investigate the efficacy in specific diseases, and this data, if positive, is used to support approval by the FDA.

Children are not part of this scenario and thus do not have early access. If the company wishes to investigate drug activity in children, it must start the process of Phase I-III all over again, a time-consuming and expensive process.

Risk vs. Hope: Who has the authority to decide?

Inclusion of patients younger than 18 years old in Phase I trials is blocked because of the fear of side effects. However, just like adults, children who would be eligible for Phase I trials are those with cancer that has not responded or has recurred following the most up-to-date, proven therapy regimens.

Pedidome.jpgOn Sept. 23, the House Childhood Cancer Caucus hosted its Second Annual Childhood Cancer Summit on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The caucus is co-chaired by Congressmen Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

In addition to hosting the summit, McCaul and fellow Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) introduced the "Creating Hope Act of 2011" legislation that would incentivize pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs for rare pediatric diseases such as cancer.

Eugenie Kleinerman, M.D., head of the MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital, was there to speak before the caucus on issues concerning the development of new agents for pediatric cancers and improving patient access.

Excerpts from Kleinerman's remarks before Congress explain the challenges and potential solutions to improving the cure rates for childhood cancer.

Unacceptable treatment
In her words:

"Cancer continues to claim the lives of more children than any other disease. This statistic has not changed in more than 20 years.

Even more disturbing is that the actual cure rates for children with acute myeloid leukemia and solid tumors such as sarcomas, brain tumors and neuroblastoma have not improved.

This is an unacceptable statistic for a disease that claims the lives of so many of this country's youth. It robs us of future talent and tomorrow's leaders, tax payers and contributors.

pinklighting.jpgAs the sun goes down over Sugar Land and Katy, Texas, this Saturday, Oct. 1, the soft pink lights and the live music will come up.

To honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the MD Anderson regional care centers in Sugar Land and Katy will host free, family-friendly events at community venues well known for their great shops and restaurants.

The teams from both regional care centers will be on hand at the events to hand out free pink glow necklaces and other giveaways, greet visitors and answer questions about breast cancer and MD Anderson in the community.

In Sugar Land, the Plaza and fountain in Sugar Land Town Square will be awash in soft pink light while the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra performs a free concert. In the spirit of the evening, the musicians will wear pink and dedicate a special piece of music to honor survivors, patients, caregivers, family members and those who have been lost to breast cancer.

Out west, MD Anderson's Regional Care Center at Katy will light Heritage Square in LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch pink. Austin singer and songwriter Bekah Kelso will give a free performance of her "folk-hop gypsy" music, with the stage and seating area aglow in soft pink.

The events each start about 7:00 p.m., so bring your lawn chairs or blanket to listen to some great live music and then meet the teams from the regional care centers.

MD Anderson's two other regional care centers in Bay Area and The Woodlands will have their pink lighting events later in October. Watch Cancerwise for more information on the events or become a fan of any or all of the Facebook pages for the regional care centers in Bay Area, The Woodlands, Katy or Sugar Land.

treeoflife.jpgWhen more than 300 pairs of tiny hands come together to work on an art project, the result can be huge.

This month, patients and families from the MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital gathered to unveil their year-long, artistic masterpiece -- the Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life stands nearly 8 feet high and is made of a variety of media including strands of multicolored beads, bark made from hand-colored paper and leaves cut from decorated material.

Under the tree rests a garden of flowers, butterflies, birds and more, all created by pediatric patients and their siblings at MD Anderson through the Arts in Medicine Program.

Every handmade piece of the tree represents the unique journey of each patient or sibling.

For some patients, the Tree of Life was a weekly arts activity that got their minds off treatment and introduced them to other patients.

For families, it was an avenue that connected parents with their children for a fun activity, despite the seriousness of their child's disease.

By Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer

A prostate cancer diagnosis has the ability to strike fear in the hearts of many men. The fear is a normal reaction as men diagnosed with the disease consider the potential side effects from treatment and how it may affect their sexual relationships.

Depression, negative body image and performance anxiety are some of the symptoms prostate cancer survivors face that can lead to a lack of intimacy and, ultimately, to sexual dysfunction.
The ability to have a satisfying sexual experience after treatment may vary, depending on the patient and treatment dynamics. The reality is that men are not the only ones affected by the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

Positive future
Leslie Schover, Ph.D. a behavioral scientist at MD Anderson, was lead investigator on the CAREss (Counseling About Regaining Erections and Sexual Satisfaction) trial that focused on determining whether couples counseling after prostate cancer treatment had a positive effect on sexual outcomes.

BannerBuilding.jpgBy Lori Baker, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center opens its doors to patients today, Monday, Sept. 26. The center, located just outside of Phoenix, represents MD Anderson's first full clinical extension outside the Houston area.

"Today's opening is a milestone in our mission to eliminate cancer," says Ronald DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson.

Initially, inpatient services will be provided in 76 beds at Banner Gateway Medical Center, and outpatient services will be offered in a newly constructed, three-story facility that includes:

  • 30 multispecialty clinical exam rooms
  • 12  private infusion therapy rooms and 28 open infusion bays
  • State-of-the-art diagnostic imaging equipment including PET- CT, MRI, and CT modalities
  • Three linear accelerator vaults
  • One high-dose-rate brachytherapy vault
To promote hope and healing, the facility includes a four-story Lantern of Hope, treatment rooms positioned to offer views of the desert landscape and floor-to-ceiling windows throughout that let in lots of natural light.

Putting My Guard Up

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lucy HPV.jpgDeciding to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was a no-brainer for me. I heard about it on the news and when I did my research, I found the benefits far outweighed the risks.

I was 19 years old and finishing my senior year of high school. I remember talking about it with my girlfriends at lunch. To my surprise, not everyone was in favor of the vaccine.

One friend in particular was not shy to voice her negative opinion. She said she'd discussed the vaccine with her parents, and that they'd heard from friends that it caused mental retardation.

"Both my doctor and my parents feel strongly about the vaccine's benefits," I responded.

It was hard for me to imagine this alleged harmful effect when I listened to my parents and physician, and had done a lot of research on my own.

Vaccine benefits
The consensus in the scientific literature was that the vaccine prevents cervical cancer. Each day in America, 30 women are diagnosed with the disease.

The HPV vaccine helps protect against two types of HPV that cause about 75% of cervical cancer cases.

I Will Survive!

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CCHsurvivorsdayfinal1.jpgThey weren't playing that song, but you could tell by the big smiles on every face that they were all celebrating.

Marking September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, almost 300 pediatric cancer survivors and their caregivers gathered to honor the occasion, along with faculty and staff from MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital. The event was held Sept 10 at the John P. McGovern Health and Medical Science Museum in Houston.

Highlighting the evening was a special presentation of medals to the survivors. After an introduction about the Childhood Cancer Survivors Clinic in the Children's Cancer Hospital by Joann Ater, M.D., Child Life Director Kate Shamszad called out the honoree names. Ater gave the medals to  the survivors to much applause from the crowd. Cesar Nunez, M.D., closed the ceremony with some heartfelt words about surviving cancer.

Tree of Life

Another feature of the event was the debut of the Tree of Life, which was created by more than 300 Children's Cancer Hospital patients and their siblings over the course of a year. Ian Cion, artist-in-residence for the hospital, guided the children to make flowers, birds, bugs and grass, as well as the tree itself.

By Jan Peine, Anderson Network volunteer

Jan Peine_AN volunteer.jpgHaving a cancer diagnosis is frightening enough. Having a more rare form of cancer adds a layer of isolation to the mix.

I have neuroendocrine tumors known as carcinoid, which have metastasized from my intestines to my liver. There is no cure at this stage, but it is often slow growing.

While this may sound like a late diagnosis, the discovery of my tumors was early for a carcinoid patient. Most carcinoid tumor patients spend several years with intestinal pains, diarrhea, bloating or facial flushing. They go from doctor to doctor for a diagnosis, or from one incorrect diagnosis (such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease) to another.

Shell shock

In my case, I felt healthy, with good results on my annual check-up. But because I was older than 50, I decided to get a colonoscopy.

When I woke from that procedure the doctor said he found an interesting nodule, which he sampled. The lab performed some special staining on the tissue sample. It was carcinoid cancer.

IMC Exterior.jpgMD Anderson's Integrative Medicine Center, formerly known as Place ... of wellness, has moved back to its renovated space and reopened on Floor 1 of the Main Building, near The Aquarium.

Before the renovation, the center had only three treatment rooms. Now, there are six treatment rooms built for versatility of the different treatment options. Each room has wood laminate floors and beds with wheels, making the rooms easy to rearrange to serve multiple purposes.

"I'm very excited with our newly renovated clinic," says Richard Lee, M.D., medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center. "We can now better meet the needs of patients in a way that enhances the care of every person we touch -- physically, mind-spiritually and socially."

The addition of a vital signs room allows the center's workflow to be streamlined, enhancing patient care and the center's efficiency. The renovation includes a workroom for faculty and clinical employees that features six new workstations, updated fixtures and new furniture.

"Before the renovation, we became very creative in the art of workspace sharing," says Andrea Warren, program manager, Integrative Medicine Center. "In a space big enough for one person, you would often find two or more. Now, we have room and resources for all of our staff."

By Will Fitzgerald, MD Anderson Staff Writer

AimatMelanoma.jpgOn the morning of Sept. 24, runners, walkers and all those interested in supporting melanoma research will congregate at MD Anderson's Mays Clinic for the 2011 AIM for a Cure Melanoma Walk and Fun Run.  The event is an opportunity for patients/survivors, family members and friends to unite against one of the most dangerous and commonly diagnosed forms of skin cancer.

It's co-hosted by MD Anderson and the AIM at Melanoma Foundation, with high hopes of surpassing the more than $80,000 raised last year to support the latest advances occurring in MD Anderson's Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology. Just as critical as supporting innovative research, the run also raises awareness about a disease that more than 70,000 men and women will be diagnosed with this year alone.

Judy Sager, president of AIM at Melanoma's Houston Chapter and event organizer, was personally affected by melanoma after losing her husband Jurgen to the disease at age 48.

"My husband searched the world for any treatment that he thought would save his life," Sager says. He was willing to try anything and practically did, but it didn't save his life. We can do better."

meatandpotatoes.jpgDoes the idea of a juicy steak and fully loaded baked potato make your mouth water and tummy growl? Well, we've got the perfect quiz for you.

Answer the questions below to test your knowledge on the "the meat and potatoes" behind red meat and cancer risk.

1. How much red meat should a person eat?

a. You shouldn't eat any red meat -- no amount is safe.
b. You can eat as much red meat as you like as long as you eat it before 6:00 p.m.
c. You shouldn't eat more than three, six-ounce (cooked) servings of red meat per week.

2. What does eating red meat have to do with cancer?

a. Red meat contains substances that have been linked to colorectal cancer.
b. People who eat red meat every day are less likely to get cancer.
c. There's no connection between red meat and cancer.

3. Are there any healthy red meat or beef options?

emily2.jpgHigh hopes and high fashion strutted their stuff at the recent MD Anderson Children's Art Project 2011 Holiday Collection kickoff celebration at The Galleria in Houston.

It was Simon Fashion Now Week at The Galleria and the Children's Art Project joined in to introduce its new holiday line of cards and gifts.

On this day, however, the designers of the Children's Art Project products took center stage. Thirteen young current and former cancer patients did their part to highlight the Children's Art Project and National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Each designer was introduced by a local media personality before receiving a trophy and then making the traditional walk down the runway to show off their award. The audience learned a little about each designer, whose interests range from playing in the school band, to video games to one young lady who explained that she likes to create fancy fingernail designs and bottle cap bracelets.

Award-winning artists

Emily Freeman sported a fashionable soft green chapeau that she brought back as a souvenir from her Make-A-Wish trip to Paris. Emily, who was presented with the Autumn Wonder Award for her beautiful Autumn Tree design, was eager to express her thanks to the Children's Art Project for its support during her treatment.

By Stephen Reckling, volunteer at MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital

Throughout my life I have spent countless hours at MD Anderson, not only as a volunteer but also as a visitor to friends and family members.

A grandmother and a good friend lost their lives to this disease. Another grandmother beat breast cancer, as did an aunt who learned two weeks ago that she's been diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time.

All of these women have profoundly affected my life, each in their own way.

Enjoy living

When you hear the news of a loved one's diagnosis, it's like a million pounds of bricks land on top of you. Your stomach drops to the floor and you strap in for a long, emotional ride.

One thing that I've learned from my experience is to never give up. The day-to-day struggle and the possibility of losing your life can be daunting. But through each of these people, I have seen an unconditional love for life.

They lived every day as if it were their last.

samsjam copy.jpgBy Riders for the Cure officers

Riders for the Cure was founded in 2006 by Samuel Hassenbusch, M.D., Ph.D., and Patrick Browning, J.D., both MD Anderson employees and avid motorcycle riders. It was to give a voice to employee motorcycle riders, but it was quickly realized that more substantial goals could be achieved.

Today, Riders for the Cure membership comprises more than 150 employees from various departments and roles within MD Anderson. Membership is free and also is open to retirees, former employees and non-employee cancer survivors.

We promote community awareness for different types of cancer and we support research and education initiatives. We strive to promote communication and cooperation within the Texas Medical Center, and assist MD Anderson in raising funds for Making Cancer History ®.

In the past five years, Riders for the Cure has raised more than $60,000 for cancer research and for Anderson Network, MD Anderson's patient and caregiver support program.

We host two organized rides per year: The Ride for Life in June and Sam's Jam in October.  Sam's Jam IV will be on Saturday, Oct. 15. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m.,with kickstands up at 10:30 a.m. The cost is $20 per rider, which includes lunch and musical entertainment by Cross Town Renegades and Electric Blues Crew.

survivorship.jpgTwo women who've attended the Cancer Survivorship Conference -- Kathy Herron, a caregiver to her late husband Tim, and Sarah Oates, a breast cancer survivor -- weigh in on what the annual gathering means to them.

Kathy's story

My husband Tim was diagnosed with brain cancer in December 1988. The following year was a blur of surgeries, treatments, chemotherapy and radiation, all overseen by our wonderful team at MD Anderson.

Then we got an invitation to the September "patient-to-patient" conference.

Hungry for knowledge, we decided to go. We wanted to learn about the latest treatments, hear survival stories, get tips on coping with the effects of treatments and discover how to really live with cancer.

We drove from East Texas to the conference in Houston with wide eyes and eager hearts.

To our surprise and delight, we stepped into a party. It was clear in the decorations, the food, the greeters and the exhibitors. We absorbed it all like sponges.

Our fellow attendees were just like us. Some with slick bald heads, some with obvious evidence of radical surgeries, some pulling IV trees suspended with their bags of chemo.

'Community of Hope'

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By Sarah Oates

Four years ago, I'd just completed my first round of chemo for the treatment of invasive ductal carcinoma, one of the most common forms of breast cancer.

When I remember the summer of 2007, I think about navigating -- the halls of MD Anderson, my feelings, the changes brought about by my illness.

I didn't attend Anderson Network's Cancer Survivorship Conference that year. Too busy just dealing, you know?

But I did make it the next year, and now it's an annual pleasure. There was a lot to absorb at that first conference, but I'll never forget how good it felt to be with and talk to others who had navigated a similar path.

That sense of community refreshed my hope.

Now I'm eager to get to the conference to see old friends and meet new ones. If you asked me what I enjoy most about the conference, I really don't think I could choose one aspect of it over another.

terryarnoldinnyc.jpgTerry Arnold was diagnosed with a right inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) in August 2007 and a left contralateral tumor soon after. She underwent weeks of chemotherapy, radiation treatment and eventually a double mastectomy. She completed treatment in June 2008 and has been an IBC ambassador and advocate since.

The messages tend to start like this:

OK, ladies, it's that time of year again: Breast cancer awareness! We all remember last year's game, wanting you to answer the question, "Where do you leave your purse at night?" as your Facebook status.

Well, this year it's slightly different.

You need to write your shoe size (just the number) followed by the word 'inches' and then a sad face.  

Remember, last year so many people took part that it made national news. The constant updating of status reminded everyone why we're doing this and helped raise awareness!

Do NOT tell any males what the status means; keep them guessing! And, please copy and paste (in a message) this to all your female friends to see if we can make a bigger fuss this year than last year!

ramirez-Bronto1.jpgUterine cancer is the most common gynecologic malignancy in the United States. There are approximately 43,000 women diagnosed with this disease each year in our country and about 8,000 women die from it annually.

So, why is this disease so common in our country?

The biggest risk factor for uterine cancer is obesity. This isn't difficult to understand, particularly when considering that 65% of adults in the United States are overweight. In Texas, it's estimated that the number of overweight or obese adults will grow to 20 million by 2040.

Why is this important to our patients and why is this becoming a major issue, particularly for young women?

It's estimated that up to 15% of women diagnosed with uterine cancer will be in childbearing years. In other words, many young women who have never had children are being diagnosed with uterine cancer. This is a major problem, since the standard treatment for this disease is a hysterectomy. Options to preserve fertility are limited to hormonal therapy.

Kuban.jpgDue to the multiple treatment choices available for men with prostate cancer, MD Anderson physicians in the Genitourinary Cancer Center formed the Multidisciplinary Prostate Cancer Clinic in 2004. Their aim is to help men choose the best treatment options for their cancer.

Deborah Kuban, M.D., professor in MD Anderson's Department of Radiation Oncology, answers questions regarding the clinic and prostate cancer treatment options.

Why was the clinic created?
For prostate cancer, there are many treatment options available. Along with this, physicians can be inherently biased toward the type of treatment they provide.

We wanted patients to get a very well-rounded opinion on all treatment options available to them. This would allow them to be active in the decision-making process.

Recent conclusions from urologists and radiation oncologists -- the two main physicians who treat early prostate cancer -- are that there is no one best treatment option for prostate cancer patients.

michaelaaa.jpgBy Lindsey Garner   

"Sept. 16, 2010, was my day, and I'll never forget it," says Michael Easton, an appeals and trial consultant for the legal profession. "My knees buckled when my urologist told me I had prostate cancer."

At 54, Easton should've been going to his doctor for annual physicals since turning 50, but he'd been putting it off, thinking the visits unnecessary.

His wife of 13 years, Maria changed his opinion. She asked him to take an interest in his health not only for himself, but also for his 12-year-old son, Michael Peter.

What he thought would be a routine doctor's visit was, instead, the beginning of his cancer journey.

An elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level of 7 led Easton to see a urologist for further testing and a biopsy of his prostate.

Ronald DePinho, M.D., begins his presidency of MD Anderson today, Thursday, Sept. 1.

"To eliminate cancer around the world - what could be a more clear and noble mission? Cancer is a daunting foe and too many people still succumb to it. Your many discoveries and extraordinary advances in care have moved the entire field forward over the past 70 years, " DePinho said Thursday in a message to MD Anderson employees. "While much work remains in the lab, the clinic, the classroom, the community and the world, MD Anderson has the people, commitment and resources to conquer this dreaded disease. We will make that happen.

I intend to focus on where the greatest new opportunities lie for us, especially in basic science, in science-driven clinical care, and in education. And I will help you build upon the expertise, compassion and quality of our immense and unmatched clinical operation. I also will not shrink from the task of preparing MD Anderson for continued achievement in a challenging economic climate and era of health care reform."

DePinho is internationally recognized for basic and translational research in cancer, aging and age-associated degenerative disorders. He's the fourth full-time president of MD Anderson.

Learn more about DePinho's background and research.

DePinho succeeds John Mendelsohn, M.D., who remains on MD Anderson faculty, returning to clinical and translational research as co-director of a new Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy.


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