People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for more cancers than previously thought, says a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine today. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) brought together a group of 21 researchers from around the world to look at more than 1,000 studies linking excess body fat and cancer. Neli Ulrich, PhD, senior director of Population Sciences at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah, was a member of the group. Ulrich is a cancer researcher who studies lifestyle and biologic factors in cancer prevention and cancer prognosis.
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Every week, a special visitor appears at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). His job? To cheer up patients fighting cancer and their family members. His name is Misio, and he’s a therapy dog with Intermountain Therapy Animals. Kathy McNulty, a volunteer with the organization, is Misio’s escort. Kathy says Misio has only been coming to HCI for a few months, but she can already see the difference he’s making for patients and their families. “Over and over, I’ve seen tears turn to smiles,” she says. “Misio takes their minds off the procedures.”
Surgery is part of cancer treatment plans in many cases. While surgery is an important part of treatment, recovery from surgery has a major impact on overall health. Strong for Surgery is a program that focuses on making small changes in health before surgery. Making these changes, even just before surgery, can make a big difference in recovery.
P53 – one gene that may hold the key. Humans have two copies, but some people are missing a copy. For individuals with only one working copy of P53, their lifetime risk of cancer is nearly 100 percent. Elephants, after 55 million years of evolution, have 40 copies of the P53 gene. Those extra copies protect elephant’s cells from cancer by eliminating cells that develops any type of mutation that could go on to become cancer.
Individuals with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) have a nearly 100 percent chance of developing colon cancer and often undergo surgery to remove the colon so cancer can’t develop there. A new medication being tested in a clinical trial lead by Jewel Samadder, MD, has shown promising results. The first round of testing shows that in less than six months, half of the patients who received medication saw a nearly 70% regression of polyps. For some, polyps disappeared completely.
Eduardo Ayala was 17 years old when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He is fluent in English and Spanish, but his parents speak only Spanish. Eduardo and his family came to HCI from Nevada for his treatments. It is one of the five Mountain West states at the core of HCI’s service area. Cancer has a language all its own and it’s that much harder if English is not your first language. That’s where Guadalupe Tovar, a health educator and patient navigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), comes in. She helps Hispanic families navigate their cancer care.
The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Awards recognize and support outstanding clinical investigators at NCI-Designated Cancer Centers who participate extensively in NCI- funded collaborative clinical trials and whose leadership, participation, and activities promote a culture of successful clinical research. Established in 2009, the awards are intended to help retain investigators in academic clinical research careers. This year, 13 investigators nationwide, including Theresa Werner, MD, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) investigator and University of Utah assistant professor of medicine have received the award.
They call themselves “The Generation to End Cancer.” Sigma Chi fraternity brothers from across the United States sharing one goal – to raise $10 million for cancer research at HCI. For many Sigma Chi brothers, this fight against cancer is personal. Dan Shaver, chairman of the Sigma Chi Philanthropy Committee says, ,”We rarely come across someone whose family isn’t directly or indirectly affected by cancer. I just don’t think we’ll ever rest until we find the cure.” Sigma Chi fraternities raised $1.3 million during the 2015-2016 school year. 29 schools each raised more than $20 thousand dollars and traveled to Salt Lake to be inducted into the 20k club.
At Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), researchers are using the power of Big Data to help prevent cancer. HCI is home of the Utah Population Database (UPDB), a shared data resource that tracks family medical history through many generations. The UPDB is the only database of its kind in the United States and one of few such resources in the world. The UPDB has contributed to important gene discoveries including those for colon cancer (APC), breast cancer (BRCA1), melanoma (p16), and others. Utilizing the UPDB, researchers are able to identify families that have higher than normal rates of certain cancers.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet met with patients and leaders of Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) and the University of Utah during a brief visit to Huntsman Cancer Institute today, Tuesday, June 21. His visit coincides with his appearance later in the afternoon at the University’s Jon M. Huntsman Center where he will speak about compassion and universal responsibility.
In the United States, someone is diagnosed with a blood-related cancer every three minutes. For many of them, a blood or marrow transplant is the only hope for a cure. More than two-thirds of these patients, however, don’t have a matched marrow donor in the family. Donor registries offer them the best hope for finding a match.
Eye cancer took the life of author and neurologist Oliver Sacks last year, bringing attention to the rare and deadly disease. Scientists have tried to develop precision treatments against cancers like this one, but the mutations that cause them have proven difficult to block with drugs.
Melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. If melanoma is found early, it is easier to treat. Researchers at the University of Utah and Texas Tech University have identified a new approach for finding suspicious moles that could be melanoma: mole crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing refers to using crowds of people, often recruited online, to accomplish tasks. An individual performing a skin self-exam can miss about half of melanomas. But with mole crowdsourcing, one example showed if at least 19 out of 100 people think a mole is suspicious, then a doctor should examine it. Researchers are developing a cell phone application that will allow people to take a photo of a mole and have that image evaluated by other users. Learn more in The Scope Radio podcast about mole crowdsourcing, or about our Melanoma Program and the services it offers to diagnose and treat this disease.
With so much information about cancer that is readily available, those impacted by a cancer diagnosis often experience a feeling of information overload. The Cancer Learning Center (CLC) at HCI provides a welcoming environment where patients, families, and the general public can get answers to their questions about cancer. Trained health educators help visitors and callers navigate the potential for information overload and provide current, accurate information about treatment, side effects, and coping strategies. This resource is free for anyone with questions about cancer. Learn more about the G. Mitchell Morris Cancer Learning Center and how it began in our 2010 Annual Report, and other Education and Outreach programs at HCI.
Despite studies that claim people with cancer are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease—raising the possibility that what triggers cancer also prevents the neurodegenerative disorder—a new investigation finds a more somber explanation. Many cancer patients don’t live long enough to get Alzheimer’s. The research, led by investigators at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, was published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.
Actress Angelina Jolie-Pitt made headlines when she went public with a decision to have a preventative double mastectomy and later surgery to remove her ovaries as well. Jolie-Pitt made these decisions because test results revealed she has a genetic mutation that significantly raises her risk of breast and ovarian cancer. This drew important attention to understanding inherited cancer risk – part of ongoing genetic research at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI).
Teamwork is the focus of HCI’s tumor boards, monthly meetings where all the specialists involved in treating a given type of cancer share their expertise to come up with a treatment plan for a patient. This exchange means every patient receives the best care, aiming not only for survival but the highest quality of life possible. Dan HedlundTogether a team of doctors, social workers, and investigative researchers create a plan to treat an individual’s cancer with a combination of therapies. Learn how one patient, Dan Hedlund, is now cancer-free after undergoing treatment through HCI’s sarcoma multidisciplinary team.
Huntsman Cancer Institute’s CEO and director, Mary Beckerle, PhD, has been asked to join Vice President Joe Biden’s Moonshot Program Initiative as an invited member of a new Blue Ribbon Panel, tasked with advising the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) on the scientific opportunities available to accelerate progress against cancer and evaluate potential new investments in cancer research.
No one plans on having a medical emergency, but if one happens, an advance directive outlines your plans and wishes for medical care. It tells your doctor and your family what decisions to make on your behalf, if you are unable to speak for yourself. An advance directive is also called a living will. Even if you’re young and healthy, you can prepare for unforeseeable events with an advance directive. The forms for an advance directive vary by state, but most follow the same basic format. Learn more about advance directives and Utah advance health care directive forms and instructions from the University of Utah’s Center on Aging.
There are limits to precision medicine – the genome-mapping wave permeating health care these days. And no one is more aware of the gap between technology and science than cancer doctors. A panel gathered at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) March 23 warned about the boundaries, even the dangers, of relying too much on “big data” to treat patients with uniquely variable diseases.
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