About ten years ago, researcher Bert Vogelstein appeared with Katie Couric on the Today Show to announce new research on a stool test for colon cancer.  Since then, he's mapped scores of cancer genomes to boost knowledge about cancer-related genes, and the Brupbacher Foundation in Zurich has now awarded Vogelstein a prize for his research on the fundamentals of colon cancer development. Vogelstein also has been tapped to serve as one of 17 inaugural Gilman scholars for the Johns Hopkins University.  The designation honors leading faculty and staff members across the University.  Bravo!

Couric, of course, now anchors CBS Evening News, and recently, her medical reporting team aired a story featuring Johns Hopkins head and neck cancer expert Sara Pai, M.D., discussing HPV as a major cause of head and neck cancer.

Pai was recently promoted to Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins.  I interviewed her recently for a Q&A on HPV and head and neck cancer.

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Evan Lipson

Evan Lipson, M.D.

As an oncologist, I am privileged to care for people who are fighting cancer.  I'm also fortunate to see the interesting and meaningful ways my patients bring joy and satisfaction into their lives.   Some people strengthen relationships with loved ones, becoming ever closer with family and friends.  One man with lung cancer I spoke with is back in touch with his children after having been estranged for many years.  Other people concentrate on activism – starting foundations or fundraising.  Many derive fulfillment by creating something – art, poetry or music, perhaps.  I have started to collect stories from people who are living with cancer about the ways they "add life to their days."

One of my patients, Chris, is a three-time cancer survivor. He and his wife Jenny founded “Romance for a Cure,” an organization that raises money for cancer research by selling cookies, cakes and other treats every Valentine's Day. Or, as Chris calls it, “a bake sale on steroids.”

Click on the arrow below to hear more.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) issued a report today estimating the number of cancer survivors at nearly 12 million people. This is more than double the number of cancer survivors from 10 years ago. Cancer centers nationwide are leading efforts to understand the unique needs of survivors, including follow-up care, employment, family issues, and create programs that ensure those needs are being met. It's a sure bet that we'll see the ranks of survivors rise to even greater levels.

Read Elissa Bantug's series on Survivorship, and watch the ABC World News story below.

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Dr. Bill Nelson discusses recent breast cancer studies and new recommendations on end of life care from American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Listen to these topics discussed in the most recent Cancer News Podcast.

First, Nelson reviews recent findings from the New England Journal of Medicine on lymphedema and exercise. Removing lymph nodes during breast cancer surgery is part of staging and is used to find out the extent cancer spread.  Lymphedema is a side effect from lymph node removal.  Lymphedema can occur when drainage of tissue fluid in the breast becomes backed up due to the removal of the lymph nodes. Painful arm swelling may occur. Previously, women had been advised to avoid exercise when their lymph nodes have been removed, but this recent study suggests women can exercise without the worry of lymphedema.

The second study takes a look at sentinel lymph node biopsy (only removing lymph nodes cancer spreads to first) verses axillary lymph node dissection (removing all lymph node). Each study looked at overall outcomes.  The results found both procedures appearing to be more or less equivalent among certain types of patients. Nelson explains what makes a patient a good candidate for each procedure and why.

Finally, Nelson discusses the recent recommendations from the American Society of Clinical Oncology on terminating treatment and end-of-life care.  The recommendations explain that physicians need to talk to patients earlier regarding when to end cancer treatment and palliative care.  Nelson adds that physicians should have clear and informative discussions with patients on specific treatment options.  Patients should know the potential benefits of anti-cancer treatments, and other palliative treatments to improve quality of life.   It’s important to make sure patients’ informed preferences really drive their cancer care.

Play the Podcast

Program Notes
0:34 – New England Journal of Medicine’s study on Lymphedema and exercise
1:10 – What is a lymph node and why it needs biopsied
1:30 – Removing all lymph nodes (axillary lymph node dissection)
2:15 – Side effect of removing all lymph nodes – Lymphedema
2:40 – Study finding – Exercise is okay among women who have had lymph nodes removed
3:10 – Difference between sentinel lymph node and axillary lymph node dissection
3:20 – Sentinel lymph node biopsy, using color dye and scans to find cancer lymph nodes
4:10 – Overall outcomes of sentinel lymph node biopsy vs. axillary lymph node dissection
4:23 – Who’s a good candidate for sentinel lymph node biopsy vs. axillary lymph node dissection
5:36 – Recommendations by ASCO about terminating treatment and end of life care
7:43 – Experimental treatment near end of life care, when to have discussion with your physician
8:35 - END

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Amy Sales

Amy Sales, MSW, LCSW-C

Consider this blog to be a "pep talk" of sorts to those of you who are working so hard on a regular basis to support and help those living with cancer.  All great coaches and teachers lead by example.  You owe it to your patients, family, and most importantly yourself to exercise and eat right.

We work in a busy environment where time often moves at the speed of light.  Therefore, one may make the argument that there isn't enough time to dedicate to your health and well-being.  I am here today to challenge you on that notion.  There are 24 hours in a day and you CAN find 30 to 60 minutes to move.  I know, because I do it.  I am not going to mislead you, "making the time" can be difficult and the list of excuses are plenty.  But, the benefits far exceed the excuses .

Continue reading ““My message to fellow health care professionals: Make the time …”” »

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Ben is a fun-loving 13 year-old who enjoys skateboarding and playing the drums. In January of 2006, Ben was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare cancer that is found in bones and soft tissue.  He was 8 years old.  Doctors diagnosed the disease after he started experiencing hip pain, which is unusual for a child his age.  Ben’s mother, Sue, brought him to his pediatrician where he took x-rays of Ben’s hip and found a tumor in his hip joint. The pediatrician then referred him to Johns Hopkins. Ben underwent surgery to have his hip joint and a large part of his bone removed. After surgery, Ben underwent a year of chemotherapy. Because of the amount of bone that had to be removed, Ben had to wear a body cast that stretched from under his arms to below his knees for six weeks.

Four and a half years later, Ben is now cancer free. “Ben’s cancer is a part of our history. It will always be a part of who we are,” explains Sue, “but it’s just that…it’s not the black cloud you think it will be.”

Watch Ben’s Story

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When most people think about breast cancer, they don’t often think about the small, pea-sized structures that dot the body and help fight infections and other foreign substances.  But it’s top-of- mind for many patients who undergo surgery for breast cancer.

Lymph nodes are sites for cancer spread, and certain nodes are removed during surgery depending on a number of factors.  Data published originally in the Annals of Surgery in September 2010 and today in the Journal of the American Medical Association show that certain nodes in select patients may not need to be removed.

Continue reading “Breast Cancer Patients: Lymph Nodes – Leave Them Alone?” »

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Whether it’s making a sticky, rubbery substance like Flubber, turning a clear solution blue, or figuring out how a normal cell turns into a cancer cell, it’s all science.

Those of us at the Kimmel Cancer Center think science is cool, and we’re hoping, with the right introduction, young students will begin to think so too; or a least become inspired to think about it a little more. 

To help in this cause, each year, our doctors, researchers, and nurses host fifth graders from the East Baltimore Community School to give them a hands-on glimpse of what it’s like to be a scientist. The children conduct experiments and play games to learn about the kind of work researchers do. 

Continue reading “Science is Cool!” »

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Cancer is now the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.  It crosses all boundaries, gender, ages, ethnicities and strikes both the wealthy and poor.  Thus, it will take a global effort to reduce the burden of cancer on our societies. 

Stand Up to Cancer released the video below to ask each of us to stand together on this World Cancer Day and pledge our support to fight cancer.  Our Stand Up to Cancer-funded researchers live this battle each day in their work to find better treatments.  Each of us can join the effort too.  Find your individual way to battle cancer, like quit smoking, eat more fruits and veggies, get screened, or donate to research organizations or advocacy groups.  Add them all up, and we may find our group effort can have a big impact.

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This month's Cancer News Review podcast with Kimmel Cancer Center director Bill Nelson begins with updates on the field of head and neck cancer in light of the encouraging news that actor Michael Douglas' cancer is in remission. Nelson says that there is an emerging story in oropharyngeal cancers (those that are in the back of the throat, tongue, soft palate and tonsils).  An increasing number of these cancers are associated with certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), the same virus that causes cervical cancer.  Patients with HPV-associated head and neck cancers fare better than patients whose cancers are causes by alcohol or tobacco use.  He says the molecular details of why this infection causes cancers and why these patients fare better is still not understood. 

Continue reading “Cancer News Review” »

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