Katie Couric quoteThis quote from Katie Couric's keynote speech at A Woman's Journey sums up the hard work of cancer scientists, clinicians, patients, families and friends.

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Katie Couric

When TV host Katie Couric underwent a colonoscopy procedure on-air during the Today Show, she changed the way health and medicine is covered in the news today. Couric continues her mission of education and advocacy by compelling all of us to support cancer research. On Saturday, Couric was the keynote speaker at A Woman's Journey in Baltimore, which is coordinated by Johns Hopkins. Health education was the theme of this weekend's event, and we've seen how Couric has been able to transform public knowledge. Let's take Couric's advice and encourage friends and family to get educated about cancer and support research to cure and prevent it. Read more in the Baltimore Sun's story about the event.

 

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**A continuation of our series on breast cancer and nutrition.

Many breast cancer patients assume they will need to take supplements to boost their nutrition during treatment, says Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center nutritionist Mary Eve Brown, and many people think that adding nutritional supplements to their diet will reduce their chances of getting cancer. However, no supplement has been proven to prevent cancer. But in most cases, a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods is the best way to ensure you’re getting the right nutrition, she says.

It’s important to note that supplements are not always safe when taken in combination with other drugs, and that they have side effects of their own that may put you at risk. Brown urges you to share everything you are taking with your health care team, whether supplements, prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs to find out whether they all fit into your treatment program.

Two important nutrients to check on in your diet are calcium and Vitamin D. Brown reccomends getting 3 servings of high calcium foods daily, such as milk, yogurt, cheese or leafy greens. For men who are between ages 19 and 70, that comes to 1000mg per day, increasing to 1200 mg per day for men over 71. For women age 19 to 50, your three servings should include 1000mg per day, increasing to 1200 mg earlier, at age 51 and older. If you’re not getting the recommended amount, you may want to talk to your health care team about taking a supplement. Calcium citrate is very easily digested, Brown notes.

Your physician can check the level of Vitamin D in your blood. Brown notes that, even with adequate Vitamin D in your diet, you still may benefit from a supplement if the test shows that you are deficient. Certain cancers are linked to Vitamin D deficiency, so this is an important issue to discuss with your doctor.

You can find out more about nutrition and your breast cancer journey in Brown’s recent free webinar, What’s Food Got to Do With It? Eating Well Before, During and After Treatment.

Videos from Mary Eve Brown:
Colon Cancer and Nutrition

Pancreatic Cancer and Nutrition

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**A continuation of our series on breast cancer and nutrition.

Creating a prevention diet is an important part of your transition from breast cancer treatment to an after-therapy life, says Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center nutritionist Mary Eve Brown.  She notes five hallmarks of a smart prevention diet: 

  • Unprocessed, plant-based foods
  • High-fiber foods with whole grains, like brown rice and quinoa
  • Foods low in saturated fat, since saturated fat can be a trigger for some tumors
  • Plenty of vegetables, in an array of colors, aiming for 2 cups per day
  • Mindful amounts and sources of animal protein, using the leanest cuts possible with the fat trimmed, and avoiding processed meats. Prefer white meat poultry or fish to red meat, and make sure your portion looks about the size of a deck of cards.

What does that look like on a plate? Brown suggests these menu items for your meals throughout a typical day:

  • At breakfast, reach for steel-cut oatmeal for fiber, with dried cranberries for fruit and fiber, walnuts for a healthy fat, and skim milk for a low-fat start to the day.
  • At lunch, fortify yourself with lean protein, like a tuna fish salad on a 100% whole wheat roll, accompanied by fruits and vegetables like lettuce, tomato, and fresh strawberries. Finish with a non-fat yogurt, and have some water to stay hydrated.
  • At dinner, try a plant-based protein like bean chili, accompanied by cornbread for fiber, a spinach salad loaded with colorful vegetables with homemade vinaigrette, and hot green tea. You’ll get more phytochemicals if you brew loose green tea rather than the kind that comes in tea bags. Having some vegetarian meals during the week helps to cut down on the amount of animal protein you’re consuming.

You can find out more about nutrition and your breast cancer journey in Brown’s recent free webinar, What’s Food Got to Do With It? Eating Well Before, During and After Treatment.

Videos from Mary Eve Brown:
Colon Cancer and Nutrition

Pancreatic Cancer and Nutrition

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--This post is written by Kerri Kaplan, executive director of The Lustgarten Foundation

I’m often asked about new developments in the research landscape of pancreatic cancer, the nation’s most lethal cancer. As executive director of The Lustgarten Foundation, the nation’s largest non-profit foundation dedicated to funding pancreatic cancer research, I have seen tremendous progress made in the fight against this disease. The most encouraging transformation I have witnessed in my seven years at the Foundation is the rapid growth of collaboration among our highly motivated researchers and scientists, working together to find a cure.

When The Lustgarten Foundation was first formed in 1998, it was surprisingly difficult to attract researchers interested in studying pancreatic cancer since only a handful worked on studies related to the disease. A lack of funding and a lack of knowledge were also contributing factors. Thankfully that has changed, and today, there are more than 1,000 researchers who dedicate their careers to pancreatic cancer research. 

Collaboration has always been part of the Foundation’s mandate, and we work to ensure that these researchers no longer operate in ‘silos,’ separate and alone.  We recognize that in order to advance our understanding of pancreatic cancer, cooperating on research is essential.

Our partnerships with many leading organizations, foundations and institutions have helped to accelerate the rate of research discovery. In 2010, we established the Pancreatic Cancer Research Consortium, which comprises six world-renowned medical institutions (including Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), and is designed to advance the most promising research initiatives aimed at ultimately finding a cure. Another consortium member is Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), with which we partnered again last year to establish The Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory. The laboratory focuses exclusively on pancreatic cancer research, with initial studies centered on early detection, drug development and drug delivery. The Consortium and dedicated pancreatic cancer research lab represent two significant steps forward in collaborative research.

We also are witnessing encouraging results through other collaborative efforts. For example, our long-term partnership with the National Cancer Institute and Johns Hopkins’s Cancer of the Pancreas Screening program [CAPS] led by Dr. Marcia Canto, resulted in important findings in the area of early detection. This multi-year collaboration of medical centers provided patients who have an inherited predisposition for pancreatic cancer with greater access to screenings. Many more researchers were able to tap into the data from this national study and they learned that monitoring in high-risk families using endoscopic ultrasound was one of the best options available to test for this disease and it could save lives. 

We also look forward to the results of our collaboration with the Cancer Research Institute, to co-sponsor a new clinical trial led by Dr. Carl June and Dr. Gregory Beatty at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The trial focuses on a new way to treat pancreatic cancer by altering and training a patient's immune system to target and eliminate cancer cells. A first in the pancreatic cancer research world, this trial would not have happened without shared funding and scientific expertise.

Similarly, we are now collaborating with Stand Up to Cancer, so its Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team can extend important research initiatives into clinical trials, which will include investigating a variety of drug combinations for pancreatic cancer patients to improve treatment options.

Research offers hope that, one day, early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer will require nothing more than a routine blood test, and that better treatments can be found, eventually leading to a cure. Working together, we move closer to realizing that goal every day.

Kerri Kaplan is executive director of The Lustgarten Foundation, the nation’s largest non-profit foundation dedicated to funding pancreatic cancer research. The Foundation has played a critical role in the evolution of pancreatic cancer research since its inception in 1998, contributing more than $65 million to more than 175 research projects at more than 50 medical and research centers worldwide. Every dollar donated to The Lustgarten Foundation goes directly to pancreatic cancer research because Cablevision, a leading media and telecommunications company, underwrites all of the Foundation’s administrative costs.  The Lustgarten Foundation and Cablevision are also partners in the curePC public awareness campaign. For more information, visit www.curePC.org

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***This blog post was written by Dena Battle.

My husband Chris was on a gurney in the hallway when I got to the emergency room at our local hospital.  Balking on drinking the contrast.  Sometimes a doctor or a nurse would drop by.  They’d ask him if his pain was managed.  He more or less nodded.  The pain was in his abdomen.  On the right side.  Had to be appendicitis.

But, the CT didn’t show appendicitis.  “It’s not your appendix.” said Dr. Brown.

Dr. Brown was as plain and non-descript as his name.  Balding.  If you asked me now how old he was, I couldn’t narrow it down to a decade.  He was nice, even friendly.  But, he didn’t mince words when he told us the results. 

“You have a large mass on your kidney.  We believe it’s renal cell carcinoma.”

He said some other things too, but I only remember hearing “carcinoma.”  Because “carcinoma” sounds like cancer.  Like something you get from smoking or being doused with agent orange.  Carcinogen has been burned into our brains with anti-smoking campaigns for long enough – I knew that carcinoma was bad like a pack of cigarettes.

“We’re going to get you into a room and get you comfortable.  Then we’ll get an x-ray, do a brain scan.  I’ll talk to the surgeon – we need to get that kidney out.” 

We didn’t ask questions, we just nodded in agreement.  The next few days were a blur.

Chris had been home from the hospital recovering from surgery for about a week when he called me at work.  “I need a fax number – the doctor has my pathology report.”

What happened next was what I would call a panic attack.  One of my friends though is always quick to point out that he thinks it’s probably a normal reaction to a spouse being diagnosed with cancer.  I started to sweat profusely and my speech was sort of garbled.

“You want to fax it here?  I don’t know if I really have a fax.  Who uses faxes anymore?”  My heart was pounding out of my chest.  I had been worried about what the pathology report would say and now I was going to have it, delivered to me, alone at my office. 

“Dena?  I really need the fax number.”

Not aware that I was melting into my chair, Chris was becoming slightly impatient – not angry, but sort of frustrated at my inability to give him a number.  I finally relented.

I was on the floor beneath my desk when Chris called me to discuss the results.

The pathology report wasn’t good.  I had tried to avoid reading what I could about Chris’s cancer, but I’m a researcher by nature and I knew enough to know that it was bad.  The tumor was big – 11 cm.  The designation for a stage 2 tumor is 7 cm.  Chris’s was almost double.

The Fuhrman grade tells you how aggressive the cancer is.  On a scale of 1 to 4, 1 is the least aggressive and 4 is the most aggressive.  Chris’s tumor was a grade 3 out of 4. 

Chris was methodical.  Analyzing each detail.  I was a babbling mess.  He talked through the results, I cried.

“This isn’t great – it’s grade 3. I really was hoping it was grade 1.”  Like he’d gotten a B+ instead of an A on an exam.

“I’m sure that if it was really bad, the doctor would have called us, right?”  But, I knew in my heart that it wasn’t right.  I knew that our doctor wasn’t the expert we needed.  I wanted so badly for everything he said to be true. 

“You’re cured!” Those were his words after the surgery.  He was so confident.  “I got it all!” 

Over the next few weeks, we processed differently.  Chris poured through medical journals, looking at survival algorithms, studying necrosis and hemorrhaging of tumor tissue. 

I cried.  I went through our refrigerator and threw away everything that had been bought before cancer.  I cried some more.

After a few weeks of this, Chris sat down with me and showed me a chart he had made.  “We’re smart people, Dena.  We both have good research skills.  I’ve divided up areas that each of us will focus on.”  And he had.  There were two columns – his and mine.  I was assigned treatment analysis, he was going to research lifestyle changes.

The day before Easter, I sat down at the computer to begin my research.  After a few searches, I found a group called SmartPatients.  Suddenly, I was “meeting” patients from all over the world who were dealing with kidney cancer.

Everyone said the same thing: “A chest x-ray isn’t sufficient, you need a CT scan – with contrast.  You need a different doctor.  You need an oncologist, preferably a specialist in kidney cancer.”  They also said things like this: “You will survive. You’re strong.  Chris will fight.  We will help you.”

The doctor who had performed Chris’s surgery was recommending that Chris come back for an x-ray in six months.  He didn’t want to do any other testing and he was mostly focused on Chris’s remaining kidney.

Four doctors later, we finally found an oncologist who would perform a CT scan with contrast.  The results showed that Chris had metastatic disease in both lungs. 

My heart dropped when I heard the words.  The numbness that I’d felt at the original diagnosis crept back in.  But, then the doctor said something else, “We need to get you set up on chemotherapy.”

That numbness faded and anger seared behind my eyes.  This was our fourth doctor – the one who finally had given us the scan that we needed.  And one thing I knew for certain was that kidney cancer did not respond to chemotherapy.  Armed with new information, I was no longer a frightened caregiver, one that would simply nod at a doctor’s suggestions. 

I didn’t even look at Chris.  I just said, “No. I don’t think so.  This cancer doesn’t respond to chemotherapy.”

We left the office in the same way we had left the offices of the doctors who only wanted to do an x-ray.  We just walked out, washing our hands of bad advice.  My eyes were red and swollen and I had a headache.  But, I wasn’t panicked and I didn’t crawl under my desk this time.

That day, I told Chris a theory that I had – kidney cancer is just common enough that every doctor thinks he knows how to treat it and just rare enough that only a specialist does. That day we began a quest for a doctor and a place that would fight this battle with us – not for us.  That’s the search that led us to Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.

Chris Battle ultimately lost his fight with kidney cancer.  However, his wife Dena maintains the blog they founded together and still advocates for other kidney cancer patients.  For more on their journey go to: http://kidneycancerchronicles.com/ 

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**A continuation of our series on breast cancer and nutrition.

If weight loss is among your side effects during breast cancer treatment, you can use good nutrition principles to create a plan to manage your weight loss, says Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center nutritionist Mary Eve Brown.  Weight loss can occur due to the tumor itself, from side effects, and because your body is burning more calories and needs more protein to replace what you’re losing during treatment, she notes.

Beverages can be an important way to add calories if you drink nourishing liquids instead of just water, Brown says. It’s important to stay hydrated, but when weight loss is an issue, make sure you are preferring fruit or vegetable juice, instant breakfast or protein drinks, yogurt-based smoothies and even milkshakes. An easy way to boost nourishment from liquids is to fortify liquid milk by mixing ¼ cup dry milk into 1 cup of liquid milk. You can drink the fortified milk and use it in your cooking and smoothies as well.

Snacks, chosen wisely, also can help you maintain a healthy weight if weight loss is one of your side effects. Snack between meals and at night, and choose nuts, dried fruit, cheese, nut butters, fruit muffins or bread. Try mixing nuts and dried fruits together for a nutritionally dense trail mix.

Healthy oils also are a smart way to add calories when you are combating weight loss. Think about olive oil when you’re cooking or add some to your next smoothie—you’ll gain 100 calories per tablespoon. Avocado oil is also a healthy way to add calories.

You can find out more about nutrition and your breast cancer journey in Brown’s recent free webinar, What’s Food Got to Do With It? Eating Well Before, During and After Treatment.

Videos from Mary Eve Brown:
Colon Cancer and Nutrition

Pancreatic Cancer and Nutrition

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It’s not just a swim. It’s not just a fundraising event. It’s a window into people’s lives. People who are young and not-so-young brave and fighting hard against cancer, inspiring even more people – people who are swimming, people who are giving: their time, talents and resources; people who are doing research in a lab and in a hospital; people who are watching and waiting, people who are hopeful. 

The fourth annual Swim Across America - Baltimore pool and open water events raised more than $425,000, all going to support cancer research in the Swim Across America laboratory at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Despite the impending rain and eventual downpour during the pool program at Meadowbrook Aquatic Center, spirits were high and celebrating extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. Like Karen Kruger. Karen marked the one year anniversary of having a bone marrow transplant by swimming a mile in an Olympic-size pool side-by-side with Lucas Townsend. Lucas, a competitive swimmer, flew in from Michigan to swim at Karen’s side for her first mile swim. Swim Across America has many “swim angels,” seasoned swimmers who pair up with newbies. But, Lucas has an even deeper connection with Karen. He was her bone marrow donor. Because of Josh’s selfless act, Karen was given a chance to live a life free of cancer. Extraordinary people doing extraordinary things.

The open water event, held the next day at the beautiful High Tide Farm on the Magothy River in Pasadena, Md., brought together Olympic swimmers and 300 others  to complete a one and three mile course. The day was crisp and beautiful and the sun shone brightly as Baltimore Opera singer Jarrod Lee sang the National Anthem. At the end of the day, donations to the swim as well as jelly fish stings were tallied. But most memorable were the inspiring words of a pancreas cancer survivor who spoke to the crowd about her remarkable cancer journey including participating in a clinical trial developed by Hopkins’ physician-scientist and made possible with Swim Across America funding. Extraordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Read more about Karen and Josh’s amazing story.

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**A continuation of our series on breast cancer and nutrition.

Constipation’s another breast cancer treatment side effect that most people don’t want to discuss. Some chemotherapy drugs can result in constipation, particularly the anti-nausea treatments. But Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center nutritionist Mary Eve Brown has useful ways to cope with constipation, using smart nutrition tactics: 

  1. Hydration is vital to fighting constipation. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water daily; to find out how much you need, divide your weight by 2.2 to determine the number of ounces of water you need to consume daily.
  2. Physical activity is an easy way to combat constipation. Even walking every day can help.
  3. Particular foods and drinks can help ease constipation. Drink warm prune juice, a natural stimulant for the gut, or eat foods that are high in magnesium, like pumpkin seeds, bran cereal, halibut or spinach. Or, make your own laxative, combining 1/3 cup each of baby-food prunes, applesauce, and unprocessed bran. Mix well and store in the refrigerator. Take 1-2 tablespoons at night with 8  ounces of water.

You can find out more about nutrition and your breast cancer journey in Brown’s recent free webinar, What’s Food Got to Do With It? Eating Well Before, During and After Treatment.

Videos from Mary Eve Brown:
Colon Cancer and Nutrition

Pancreatic Cancer and Nutrition

 

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**A continuation of our series on breast cancer and nutrition.

You may not want to think about diarrhea as a side effect of your breast cancer treatment, but Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center nutritionist Mary Eve Brown recommends you get ahead of it with a management game plan include these steps:

  •  Plan to eat foods that are easy to digest, like baked potatoes without the skin, baked chicken, applesauce, bananas, cooked vegetables like carrots or green beans, or Cream of Wheat.
  • Stay hydrated with your own rehydration drink, made with a ½ cup of orange juice for potassium, 2 quarts of water, ½ cup of sugar, and a ½ teaspoon of salt for sodium and chloride. This is important because diarrhea can easily dehydrate you, so you may need more than your basic amount of nutrition. Why add sugar? It helps the hydration get into your cells faster, Brown says.
  • Avoid fiber, fat and spicy foods. Foods that are easier to digest and on the bland side will help keep diarrhea at bay. Many people think they need more fiber, but in fact, a high-fiber diet can make diarrhea more likely.
  • Eat small meals frequently, rather than a few big meals, to make it easier for your body to digest the food.

You can find out more about nutrition and your breast cancer journey in Brown’s recent free webinar, What’s Food Got to Do With It? Eating Well Before, During and After Treatment.

Videos from Mary Eve Brown:
Colon Cancer and Nutrition

Pancreatic Cancer and Nutrition

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