Outsmarting This Year’s Flu Bug

If this year plays out like most, next month should start to see the peak of the annual flu season. However, recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that this year’s flu vaccine is missing about half of the key strains that are currently circulating. Specifically, the CDC found that 52 percent of the influenza A viruses (H3N2) that were collected between October 1 and November 22 had “drifted” from the  H3N2 vaccine virus. We asked Dr. Steven Pergam, the Director for Infection Prevention at SCCA, about this year’s vaccine and what everyone—especially cancer patients and their families—should do to protect themselves.

According to Dr. Pergam, you should still get your flu shot. While it may not protect you from all of this year’s flu strains, it’s still effective against half the strains in circulation. If you have symptoms—a cough, fever, sore throat, or muscle aches—see your doctor about getting tested for influenza. Getting treated early can help prevent complications down the road. Also try to avoid crowded places and if you have friends who want to visit but who are symptomatic, ask them come at a later time after their symptoms go away. Finally, make sure to wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer.

flu-vaccine-chartSee the CDC website for more information about the flu. Google FluTrends gives a graphical sense of the flu’s pervasiveness, both locally and around the country. And if you’re interested in how well the current flu vaccine matches up against circulating strains versus vaccines in previous flu seasons, checkout Beth Skwarecki’s post over at plos.org.

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    SCCA Clinical Trial Openings

    stemcellsListed below are clinical trials that have opened at SCCA in the last several weeks. These trials are looking at new treatments for patients with colon or rectal cancer, advanced renal cell carcinoma, advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer, and breast 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.

    Regorafenib Versus Placebo Stage IV Colorectal Cancer After Curative Treatment of Liver Metastases (20131931)
    A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Phase-III Study of Adjuvant Regorafenib Versus Placebo for Patients with Stage IV Colorectal Cancer After Curative Treatment of Liver Metastases

    Nivolumab Combined With Ipilimumab Versus Sunitinib in Previously Untreated Advanced or Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma
    A Phase III, Randomized, Open-Label Study of Nivolumab Combined With Ipilimumab Versus Sunitinib Monotherapy in Subjects With Previously Untreated, Advanced, or Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma

    Ruxolitinib for Advanced or Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer (20141052)
    A Randomized, Double-Blind, Phase III Study of the JAK1/2 Inhibitor, Ruxolitinib or Placebo in Combination With Capecitabine in Subjects With Advanced or Metastatic Adenocarcinoma of the Pancreas Who Have Failed or Are Intolerant to First-Line Chemotherapy (The JANUS 1 Study)

    Letrozole w/wo BYL719 or Buparlisib for Hormone Receptor-Positive HER2-Negative Breast Cancer (20132066)
    A Phase II Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo Controlled, Study of Letrozole With or Without BYL719 or Buparlisib, for the Neoadjuvant Treatment of Postmenopausal Women With Hormone Receptor-Positive HER2-Negative Breast Cancer

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      Cord Blood Transplants Explained

      ASH-LogoThe 56th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) is currently underway in San Francisco, and many of SCCA’s physicians are in attendance, including Dr. Colleen Delaney. Dr. Delaney is probably best known for her research into using cord blood transplants for patients with leukemia and other blood disorders. What makes cord blood so promising is that unlike bone marrow transplants—where patients need to find a suitably matched donor—cord blood can be used for almost anyone, especially those who can’t otherwise find a suitable donor for their transplant. A drawback of cord blood, however, is the small number of stem cells that are contained in each unit. Dr. Delaney and her colleagues have developed a technique that greatly expands the number of these cells, thus making the use of cord blood a viable option for many more patients. This past Saturday at ASH, Dr. Delaney presented the results of a clinical trial that was looking at the use of expanded cord blood. You can read the abstract that she presented here.

      Or you can play the video below and watch Dr. Delaney give the most complete and succinct introduction to cord blood transplants that you’re likely find anywhere.

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        SCCA Cancer News Watch

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

        Cancer Cure Inc.
        seattle-business-dec-2014The cover story for the December issue of Seattle Business titled Cancer Cure Inc., by Amelia Apfel, looks at how cancer immunotherapy research is boosting the Seattle biotech scene. The article traces the history of immune system research in Seattle, starting with Fred Hutch’s work on bone marrow transplantation in the 1970s to recent biotech startups such as Juno Therapeutics and EpiThany. The article cites many factors for Seattle’s prominence in immunotherapy, including local government support, a large pool of global health experts, and an “unusual openness and collaborative spirit” among the various researchers at institutions and companies throughout the area. Read the article here.

        Where You Live and Your Odds Of Surviving Cancer
        Earlier this week, NPR looked at the results of what it billed as the “largest cancer study ever published.” The study found large differences in cancer survival rates that hinged on which part of the world you happened to live. As you might expect, in the developed world your chances for a good outcome are pretty good, but elsewhere your odds may not be so great. SCCA’s Dr. Corey Casper, who was interviewed for the NPR report, underscored the problem that many developing countries have, such as the Ugandan doctor who until a few years ago was seeing 10,000 patients a year in a facility that had no roof and no meds. To put that in perspective, last year some 200 doctors treated nearly 6,000 newly diagnosed cancer patients at SCCA. Listen to the NPR report here.

        In Other Health and Cancer News
        The New York Times reports that Medicare may soon be paying for lung cancer screenings. According to a study reported on in the Guardian, people tend to ignore cancer alarm symptoms.russel-wilson The Washington Post looks at a retrospective study from MD Anderson that shows an alarming rise in colon cancer among young adults. And anyone who tuned into the Seahawks game on Thanksgiving Night learned what the Puget Business Journal Business reported on this week, that Seattle Children’s is launching a $100M fundraising campaign to tackle cancer with Russell Wilson as spokesperson.

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          Five Minutes With Dr. Christina Baik

          Editor’s Note: “Five Minutes With” is a new series about SCCA’s staff and physicians that is designed to give our readers a look into the “non-clinical” side of the people who work at SCCA. If there’s a doctor or staff member who you would like to know more about, or perhaps a question that you would like us to ask, please let us know.

          christina-baikChristina Baik specializes in the treatment of lung and head and neck cancer. She first started seeing patients here at SCCA in 2011. Not long after she was born in Korea, her family moved to Costa Rica where her father—a Presbyterian pastor—was sent to minister to the small Korean community in San Jose. When she was in the seventh grade, her family moved to Reno, Nevada. Dr. Baik attended the University of Puget Sound, where she studied biology and music. She received her MD from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and her Masters in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health. Learn more about Dr. Baik’s clinical and research expertise here.

          What’s the last book you read?
          I am going through Prince of Caspian: the Return to Narnia. I find classic fantasy novels to be quite fascinating – being lost in a world beyond ours in these novels can be quite refreshing. I must admit though that I am often distracted by Netflix – totally into The West Wing these days.

          What hobbies or activities do you enjoy doing outside of work?
          puget-sound-loggersI love hiking and exploring new hiking trails. There are so many in Washington and I feel really blessed to be living here. I also enjoy just being in my recliner and spending a lazy day with no plans. I am really a homebody at heart.

          Do you have a personal motto?
          Live a life of grace and generosity. None of us are perfect and we live in an imperfect world. Let’s make the best out of it!

          Who is the person you most admire?
          My mother. She is the most energetic and curious person that I know. We don’t always see eye to eye, but I admire the passion she brings to all she does. I just hope I can be as full of life as she is when I am her age.

          What is your favorite place to go in Seattle?
          I must say that I have too many places to name one. But I always find myself in awe when I drive south down I-5 on a sunny day and find myself face to face with the awesome view of snow capped Rainier.

          If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
          I would love to spend some extended time in Costa Rica. I spent part of my childhood there and have wonderful memories that still bring me warmth.

          What is your favorite restaurant?
          There is a Korean restaurant called Ka-Won in Lynnwood where the food is very good and pretty authentic – although can be pretty spicy too.

          red-soxMariners, Sounders, or Seahawks?
          I must say… Red Sox! (sorry…)

          iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone?
          I’m not much of a gadget person. I had a flip phone until about a year ago when people told me to join the 21st century and buy an iPhone. I probably would still be happy with a regular phone.

          What career could you see yourself in if you weren’t an oncologist?
          Probably a teacher. I think I would have been a good junior high history teacher.


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