SCCA Cancer News Watch

Here’s a quick summary of notable recent health and cancer news:

T-Cell Therapy Puts Leukemia Patients in Extended Remission
Last week the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study that showed positive results for patients with advanced lymphoblastic leukemia who were treated using their own T-cells, which had been extracted, genetically modified and then infused back to the patients. Several news outlets reported on the study, including The New York Times and The Verge. The study, which was conducted at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, is similar to work that’s being done here at SCCA. Earlier this year Patient Power’s Andrew Schorr interviewed Dr. David Maloney about his CAR T-cell study.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October’s  annual focus on breast cancer has resulted in several nice stories involving SCCA physicians and their patients, including a pair of interviews on King5′s New Day Northwest. The first was with Dr. V.K. Gadi and Ali Spain, who was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer a year ago and who recently completed a clinical trial at SCCA under Dr. Gadi’s direction. The second was with Dr. Julie Gralow and Ashley Walker. You can read more about Ashley Walker here. She also documented her cancer journey in this YouTube video.

In Other Health and Cancer News
How fit are you? The Well reports on a new and improved online fitness calculator developed by The K. G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The Huffington Post looks at what happens to a 10-year-old who donated her hair to cancer patients, the reaction she got from her schoolmates, and then the Internet. And FoxSports reports on a six-year-old cancer patient who will be attending tonight’s World Series game.


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    Fridays with Dr. Gralow

    Editor’s Note: Dr. Julie Gralow is the director of Breast Medical Oncology at SCCA. In celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve asked Dr. Gralow to answer readers’ questions about breast cancer every Friday during October. If you have a question that you would like to ask Dr. Gralow, please let us know.

    Today’s question is two-fold: What are the recommendations for screening; and why are there different recommendations for getting a mammogram, in terms of what age you should start and  how often you should get one? In the video below, Dr. Gralow offers a comprehensive and easy-to-understand overview that every woman who has ever wondered about the necessity of mammography should watch.

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      SCCA Clinical Trial Openings

      Clinical TrialsListed below are clinical trials that have opened at SCCA in the last several weeks. These trials are looking at new treatments for patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, relapsed/refractory follicular lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, acute myeloid leukemia, and metastatic prostate cancer.  For more information about these trials, click on the links below. Check out our website to learn about the more than 200 ongoing clinical trials at SCCA. And follow us on Twitter at @SCCA_Trials for information about recently opened trials.

      Brentuximab Vedotin, Ifosfamide, Carboplatin, and Etoposide for Relapsed or Refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma (BV-ICE) (9111)
      A Phase I/II Trial of Brentuximab Vedotin (BV), Ifosfamide (I), Carboplatin (C), and Etoposide (E) for Patients With Relapsed or Refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma (BV-ICE)

      MPDL3280A + Obinutuzumab for Relapsed/Refractory Follicular Lymphoma and Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (9162)
      A Safety and Pharmacology Study of MPDL3280A Administered With Obinutuzumab in Patients With Relapsed/Refractory Follicular Lymphoma and Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma

      Selecting a Favorable KIR Donor in Unrelated HCT for AML (2484)
      KIR Genotyping for Unrelated Donor (URD) Selection Prior to Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation (HCT) for AML: Selecting a Favorable KIR Donor

      DSTP3086S for Metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer (20121064)
      A Phase 1, Open-Label Study of the Safety and Pharmacokinetics of Escalating Doses of DSTP30862 in Patients with Metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer

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        Metastatic Breast Cancer Day

        Dr. Julie Gralow

        Dr. Julie Gralow

        Substantial advances have occurred in the field of breast cancer during the 20 years in which I’ve been caring for patients with metastatic disease. I had a chance to reflect on this last month, when I saw a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient whose sister had also been a patient of mine. The sister died of metastatic breast cancer in 1995 at the age of 35. There were few effective treatments at that time, and despite access to state-of-the art care and enrollment in a clinical trial, her survival following recurrence was short. My current patient accompanied her sister to many of those last clinic visits, the memories of which were prominent in her mind when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 at the age of 47 and became a patient herself. Both sisters were diagnosed with HER-2 positive breast cancer, but there were no approved HER-2 targeted therapies in 1995. In 2014, there are four approved therapies, and others in development. What used to be an aggressive type of breast cancer with a poor prognosis has now become much more treatable and survivable. The outlook for this current patient is tremendously hopeful.

        Thanks to the human genome project, we no longer think of breast cancer as a single entity, or its treatment as “one-size-fits-all.” Our increasing understanding of cancer genomics has revealed multiple subsets of breast cancer with different behavior patterns and different responses to therapy. Additionally, dozens of new agents have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer in the past two decades, offering meaningful improvements in the likelihood of response and length of survival. And many drugs in the development pipeline currently undergoing clinical trials fall in the category of “targeted therapies,” drugs that are generally less toxic and more specific to cancer cells compared to healthy, normal tissues. In the past few weeks, we saw an updated presentation of the Cleopatra trial that showed one of the most impressive improvements in survival in metastatic breast cancer ever reported — an additional 15 months — from the addition of the HER-2 antibody pertuzumab (Perjeta) to standard chemotherapy and trastuzumab (Herceptin). While this study focused on the 20-25 percent of breast cancers that overexpress HER-2, there are exciting new agents being developed, and some close to FDA approval, that target additional receptors and pathways relevant to many other types of breast cancer.

        We still have a long way to go, and we are still losing too many women (and some men men) to metastatic breast cancer. But there is a lot more hope for many years of good quality life for a patient diagnosed with a metastatic recurrence in 2014 than there was two decades ago. I’ll even go so far as to say that I’m pretty sure I have some metastatic patients in my practice who are cured of the disease. These gains are available at least to those living in the United States or the developed world with access to high-level medical care. As a Professor of Global Health as well as Medical Oncology, I spend part of my time working with breast cancer patients in low and middle income countries. It’s sobering to realize that most metastatic breast cancer patients in the world have little or no access to the approved treatments and supportive/palliative care that we take for granted. None of the progress gained from our understanding of cancer genomics and the development of better, targeted drugs will make a dent in the global burden of suffering due to metastatic breast cancer unless we are able to rectify this inequity in access to care. On Metastatic Breast Cancer Day 2014, I’m calling for all of us to advocate for more resources for the basic research and clinical trials needed to conquer metastatic breast cancer, and to support efforts to improve access to diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer patients no matter where they live in the world.

        Julie R. Gralow, MD, is director of Breast Medical Oncology at SCCA , a professor in the oncology division of the University of Washington School of Medicine, and holds the Jill Bennett Endowed Professorship in Breast Cancer through the University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Gralow is involved in research and caring for patients, has co-authored a book on breast cancer and exercise, and has launched several cancer support organizations.

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          Fridays with Dr. Gralow

          Editor’s Note: Dr. Julie Gralow is the director of Breast Medical Oncology at SCCA. In celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve asked Dr. Gralow to answer readers’ questions about breast cancer every Friday during October. If you have a question that you would like to ask Dr. Gralow, please let us know.

          Last week Dr. Gralow traveled to Turkey to attend the International Istanbul Breast Cancer Conference: BREASTANBUL 2014 (which, incidentally, was happening in parallel with one of the world’s biggest women’s sports events—the FIBA Basketball World Championships). Dr. Gralow shared a panel with several other renowned cancer experts, including SCCA’s Dr. Ben Anderson. Dr. Gralow’s presentation was titled “Supportive Care During and Following Systemic Treatment.”

          In this Friday’s video, Dr. Gralow answers the question, “What are the challenges faced by women who have a breast cancer diagnosis in other parts of the world?”

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