Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why Give Wednesday: Childhood Cancer

Every year in the United States, approximately 13,400 children between the ages of birth and 19 are diagnosed with cancer. Every day, 36 children are diagnosed with cancer, with the average age of diagnosis at just 6 years old. That's one to two cases for every 10,000 children in the United States.

In Alabama, 150 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. Childhood cancers are the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States, with approximately 2,500 children dying from the disease annually.

But there is hope. While incidence rates for some types of childhood cancers have remained steady over the last 20 years, five-year survival rates have dramatically improved. Today, a child diagnosed with cancer stands an 80 percent chance of beating the disease.

“That’s up from 50 percent just 20 years ago,” says Raymond Watts, M.D., director of the UAB Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology. “However, that still leaves 20 percent of children who don’t survive. So even though we’ve made tremendous improvements, we still face significant challenges.”

To address this, the Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, Children’s of Alabama, the Children’sOncology Group and the National Cancer Institute recently formed the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders. This unique partnership is focused on unifying local and national resources to improve and enhance childhood cancer care, research and education.

"Our goal is finding a total cure through research and development of innovative therapies,” Dr. Watts says. “We’re also researching ways to lessen the risks of treatment, both short-term and long-term, while allowing children to return to normal activities after their treatments are complete.”

Because while survival rates for childhood cancers have improved, they do come with a cost. Two-thirds of survivors face at least one chronic health condition, and as many as 25 percent face a late-effect considered severe or life-threatening. Some late effects of childhood cancers include: infertility, cardiotoxicity (heart problems at an early age), learning difficulties, audiovisual problems, hearing loss, and the most frightening possibility, second cancers.

Supporting research is critical to eliminating childhood cancer as well as the long-term effects that survivors face. Only about 4 percent of the National Institutes for Health's annual budget is currently dedicated to pediatric cancer research. You can make a difference by making a gift on our website or by visiting Children's of Alabama.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Give Wednesday: Liver Cancer

First, let’s start with the liver…
The liver is the second most important organ in your body and the largest organ inside your abdomen.  It is found right being your ribs on the right side of your body.

Its purpose?
-The liver removes harmful substances from the blood
-It makes enzymes and bile that help digest food
-It converts food into substances needed for life and growth.

What is Liver Cancer?
Liver Cancer is known as a Gastrointestinal Cancer, which is among the most deadly cancer types, and in some cases, some of the most difficult to treat.  In 2014, the National Cancer Institute estimated approximately 33,190 new cases of primary liver cancer and bile duct cancers in the United States and 23,000 deaths from the disease. Secondary liver cancer is cancer that spreads to the liver from another part of the body.

Facts on Liver Cancer
  • Liver cancer is seen more often in men than in women. An average man's lifetime risk of getting liver or intrahepatic bile duct cancer is about 1 in 81, while an average woman's risk is about 1 in 196.
  • The average age at diagnosis of liver cancer is 63. More than 95% of people diagnosed with liver cancer are 45 years of age or older. About 3% are between 35 and 44 years of age and about 2% are younger than 35.
  • Liver cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, accounting for more than 600,000 deaths each year.

Why UAB?

At UAB, treatment options are contemporary, accurate, efficient, and effective. Patients diagnosed with liver cancer can rest assured that they have an expert team behind them. Liver Cancer Patients will be treated within the UAB Multidisciplinary Gastrointestinal Oncology Clinic. When patients choose to be treated here they benefit from a team of physicians who are specialists in their fields, who care for patients with state-of-the-art technology. These specialists work in collaboration with members from the Department of Radiation Oncology, and Divisions of Hematology/Oncology, Gastroenterology, Endoscopy, and Radiology making a variety of innovative diagnostic and therapeutic modalities available to patients.

Visit our website for more information, your support is greatly appreciated. Donations are accepted here

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why Give Wednesday: Learn about UAB & Leukemia/ Lymphoma

What is Leukemia?
Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of blood cells to be produced and enter the bloodstream. There are an estimated 52,380 new cases of leukemia in the United States in 2014. There are an estimated 24,090 deaths due to Leukemia predicted this year.

What is Lymphoma?
Lymphomas are cancers that affect the cells in the immune system and are the most common type of blood cancer. Depending on the specific cells that are affected, each case is classified as one of two primary types – Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s – and these two categories break down further into five types of Hodgkin’s lymphoma and more than 40 subtypes of non-Hodgkin’s.

Of the two types, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is far more common, affecting approximately 70,800 estimated in 2014 in the United States, as opposed to 9,190 cases of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is any of a large group of cancers of lymphocytes (white blood cells). Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas can occur at any age and are often marked by lymph nodes that are larger than normal, fever, and weight loss. 

Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system that is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. Symptoms include the painless enlargement of lymph nodes, spleen, or other immune tissue. Other symptoms include fever, weight loss, fatigue, or night sweats. Also called Hodgkin disease.

Why Choose UAB
The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is a nationally recognized leader in the field of leukemia and lymphoma research and actively conducts clinical trials for both acute and chronic leukemia patients and both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients.
The Cancer Center has been involved in several clinical trials of Clofarabine, an anti-leukemia drug developed here in Birmingham. Many of these examine the drug’s effects on patients older than 60.
The Cancer Center has also been involved in several clinical trials and conducts much epidemiologic study on the outcomes of minority patients with lymphoma.

Much leukemia and lymphoma research is done through UAB’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, which is one of the 10 largest in the country.

Visit our website for more information, your support is greatly appreciated. Donations are accepted here

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

UAB Cancer Center Spotlight: Freda Lewis

Q & A with Freda Lewis
Clinical Trials Administrator

Tell us about yourself.
"I am a single mother to my daughter who is now 34, I am from Birmingham and have lived here all of my life. I enjoy volunteering at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama, Relay for Life, the Deep South Network for Cancer Control, and I am adviser to the Komen Foundation. I love reading and cheering on the Birmingham Barons and Auburn Tigers." 

How long have you been at UAB?
"I have been at UAB for 26 years, 14 of which have been at the Cancer Center. I started in the Clinical Trials Network, which evolved to where I work today."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why Give Wednesday: Breast Cancer

What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a malignant (cancer) tumor that starts in the cells of the breast. It occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare. It is estimated that there will be 232,570 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women this year and about 40,000 women will not survive. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.

What is UAB doing to find the cure?
The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is a nationally recognized leader in the field of breast cancer research. The center is one of only 11 institutions in the nation to hold a SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) grant in breast cancer. These highly prestigious grants are designed to move research findings quickly and safely from the laboratory to the clinical setting.
Komen Promise Grant awardees at UAB
The Cancer Center is also a member of the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium, a national group of 14 research centers that conducts innovative, high-impact clinical trials in breast cancer. Also, in 2009, the Cancer Center was awarded a $6.4-million Promise grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to study triple-negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of the disease.

Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama
Since 1996, the BCRFA has raised and invested nearly $4 million dollars of seed money to pave the way for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center to receive sought-after and sustaining grant dollars. These funds have been instrumental in developing the following:
-$11.5 Million Dollar Grant Pilot funding that led to the receipt and renewal of the Breast Cancer SPORE Grant (Specialized Program of Research Excellence)
-Microarray Facility Helped create the UAB CCC Microarray Facility that can determine the genetic footprint of breast cancers
-$6.4 Million Dollar Grant Pre-clinical lab testing to prepare for a $6.4 million Promise Grant from the Komen Foundation to change the prognosis and treatment of Triple Negative Breast Cancer
-Imaging Facility Helped fund the In Vivo Imaging facility which supports Three Distinct Research Studies in breast cancer
-Talent Funds to recruit and retain world-class breast cancer researchers

Dr. Edward Partridge, UAB CCC director
“The BCRFA works tirelessly to raise money for breast cancer research at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Their investment provides essential pilot funding for several projects that have potential to translate into new discoveries for cures and disease modifying treatments. This philanthropic support is absolutely critical, enabling us to receive additional, high-profile grants, as well as recruit and retain world-renowned breast-cancer researchers. For every dollar we receive from charitable contributions, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is able to generate an average of $16 in federal and other funding.” - Dr. Edward Partridge, UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Director

The Breast Health Center at UAB
The UAB Breast Health Center is a leader in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and research. With a multi-team approach to caring for patients battling breast cancer, the UAB Breast Health Center provides state-of-the-art treatment options and follow-up care. The Breast Health Center has a team of physicians with a strong passion for breast cancer and the patients it touches. Because our physicians are nationally recognized breast cancer specialists in oncology, hematology, surgical oncology, and radiation oncology, you can rest assured you’re receiving the best care available. We work with specialists in other areas of care when necessary to give you a comprehensive approach to treatment.

Why Choose UAB?
The Breast Health Center at UAB is unique in that we offer comprehensive breast health services that include screening, risk assessment, prevention strategies, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and research. The UAB Breast Health Center has earned full accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), a group of professional organizations from around the country dedicated to improving the quality of care and the monitoring of outcomes for patients with diseases of the breast. You can reach the UAB Breast Health Center at 205.801.8266.

Visit our website for more information, your support is greatly appreciated. Donations are accepted here

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why Give Wednesday - Colorectal Cancer Awareness

Why Give Wednesday - Colorectal Cancer 

What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is cancer that forms in the tissues of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine). Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). About 136,000 people will be diagnosed this year, and about 50,000 will not survive.

What is UAB Doing to Prevent Colorectal Cancer?
The UABComprehensive Cancer Center is a nationally recognized leader in the research and treatment of colon cancer. The center played an integral role in the development and approval of two important drugs used to treat colon cancer – Avastin and Erbitux, the latter of which was the first monoclonal antibody approved by the FDA for the treatment of colon cancer. The Cancer Center also researches minimally invasive surgical techniques, including laparascopic procedures, in order to improve patient comfort and recovery.
Treatment at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center
Colon cancer patients at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center are seen in the center’s Multidisciplinary Gastrointestinal Oncology Clinic, located in The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital. The clinic treats all types of GI cancers, including esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, bile duct cancer, colon cancer and rectal cancer, as well as soft-tissue sarcomas and endocrine diseases (thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas and adrenal).
The clinic’s multidisciplinary approach to treatment provides access to a team of dedicated specialists, including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists and radiologists, who work together to design the most effective treatment plan possible.

Pictured: Dr. Martin Heslin
Surgical Oncology Specialist at UAB. 
UAB’s Vision

The vision of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is to eliminate cancer as a major public health problem. The mission of the Center is to provide the highest quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer, while advancing the understanding of cancer and translating this knowledge into improved prevention, detection, treatment, and survivorship.

Visit our website for more information, your support is greatly appreciated. Donations are accepted here

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

UAB Cancer Center Spotlight: Carla Perna

Carla Perna...Expert of all things UAB Clinical Trials 

UAB’s Carla Perna will be the first to tell you about the amount of effort behind clinical trials. She is program director of clinical trials regulatory affairs at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. She handles the administrative side of clinical trials conducted here at the Cancer Center.  She has been in cancer research for 10 years and at UAB for five years.  In her words, she has the experience of working with passionate people where the research and progress is phenomenal. 

In Mrs. Perna’s free time you can find her spending time with her husband and best friend of 17 years, Dr. Sam Perna. Their hobbies include photography, nature walks, and cherishing the time they get to spend with their two sons Zach, 30, and Nathan, 26.

Describe your job, what does a typical day look like?
“If you plan it, it isn’t gonna happen. Things happen in clinical trials and they have got to be handled ASAP, usually. They move very fast. There might be something that happens with a patient and they need approval. A typical day involves a lot of meetings. I meet with my team a lot. I interact with the sponsors. Right now, we have 22 trials we are trying to activate. Our activation rule right now is 90 days from the time that we start the protocol, which is very tough at an academic center because you rely a lot on other departments. Keeping things going, setting out fires, that’s what I’m doing most of the day.”

What are some of the greatest challenges in your job?
“Prioritizing. It is often hard to complete something. You are always juggling. Nothing is ever done. One reason I love my job is that I always have something to do. Getting adjusted to the fact that sometimes you have to put something to the side to move to another is sometimes difficult.  I actually like it. I have a lot of things juggling at one time. And I think that’s the challenge for me is to not let something fall off, to know everything that is going on and to know when it needs to get handled because it is so much, but having the team I have is essential for success. They are excellent.”

How can you promote clinical trials in a positive way?
“Doing what I do really gives it a positive spin. I come to work every day and I have a purpose. That’s one of the reasons I love my job. I talk about what I do to a lot of people. They’ll say ‘what do you do’ and I say ‘clinical trials’ and they automatically think I’m a nurse. And many people do not realize all the work it that goes into getting a clinical trial. Even up from the pharmaceutical company developing a drug, to getting it to the point of even having a trial in humans.”

What inspires you about those participating in clinical trials?
“Phase I studies are fascinating because it’s the first in human trials. And those patients… I think all of our patients are heroes, but those phase I patients, to be the first willing to try something and know that they are testing toxicities and safeties. They already have a horrible disease and they already feel bad and they are willing to give something back to science I think is very admirable and very heroic to do that.”

What would you tell people who are considering participating in a clinical trial?
“You need to talk to your family. You need to weigh all your options. I don’t think that clinical trials are for everybody. I think that they need support. It is a big step to do a clinical trial. There are a lot of steps to it. These people are sick and they have to follow a regimen, steady visits. I would love to say I encourage everyone to do it but I don’t think it is for everyone because if you can’t be compliant it messes up the data. The support of the family is huge. I would say absolutely consider it.  But make sure you know all of your options. If you have family support and weigh all your options that is when you consider it.”

What advice would you give to people who are interested in a career in regulatory affairs?
“I think it is a field that will continue to grow. I think it is important to the future of our health care. And it is fascinating. One of the best things is to get the results of what your clinical trial has done. Especially when it is a drug that has proven to be effective and to know you were a part of that.”

How has experience been at UAB?
“Fantastic. I have been doing cancer research for 10 years. I’ve been here five of those years. The first five was at a smaller hospital. It was a great stepping stone to coming here. I think it would have been harder had I not had the experience at a lower level and a lower volume. The volume here is massive. You know we are one of 40 NCI-designated cancer centers in the United States, I mean to be part of that is a big deal. The people that do research here are just passionate about what they do. I think that that is what it takes if you are going to do research. No matter if you’re doing bench site or you’re doing therapeutic, you have to be passionate because it is tedious.”

How did you get involved in research?
“I just fell into research. Someone said hey I think you’d love research. And I did it. It wasn’t a goal of mine or anything. I was like everybody else. I never thought how a drug got to the pharmacy: all the work that went on to get it there, all the people that went into clinical trials to know that it would work and even be safe. People go day to day and don’t even think about it.”

Anything else you would like to add?
“I feel very proud to work at UAB. It is a leading academic site and the research is phenomenal. When I’m in another state and I tell them I work at UAB I expect them to know where I’m talking about. And if they don’t it’s a little insulting (she laughs).
I hope to retire here. I love it.”

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why Give Wednesday: Gynecologic Oncology

Who is affected by gynecologic oncology?

All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers, and risk increases with age. Gynecologic malignancies are the fourth most common cancers among American women. Every year 80,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with gynecologic cancer. The five main types are cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer.

Why UAB?

        Each year, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center treats more than 2,500 women battling these cancer diagnoses. The UAB Division of Gynecologic Oncology is a multidisciplinary team of specialty physicians, nurses, and consultants providing comprehensive, compassionate care in treating women’s cancers.
        “One of the many reasons why women should consider coming to UAB is that taking care of women with cancer is more than just being a good surgeon. We very much recognize that it is a team approach and that’s exactly the philosophy that UAB has,” Professor Warner Huh, M.D., a UAB gynecologic oncologist says. “We take care of our patients from the moment they are diagnosed, to doing their surgery, to even the administration of their chemo after surgery as well.” 

        UAB is nationally renowned for its care of patients with women’s cancers and is recognized as one of the leading gynecologic oncology research divisions in the world. UAB was one of just five institutions to be awarded a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in ovarian cancer by the National Cancer Institute and currently is partnered with Johns Hopkins in a cervical cancer SPORE. Researchers at UAB were also instrumentally involved in the development and approval of Gardasil, the world’s first HPV vaccine.
         "UAB is one of the biggest biomedical institutions in the world. We have clinical trials that no one else has; not only in the state of Alabama, but within the region as well as the entire U.S. The aggregative care the patients receive at UAB is truly unique and truly focused on finding the best possible care for the individual woman,” Dr. Huh says.

 What is your next move?
  • Get Screened- When gynecologic cancers are found early treatment works best. Screening and self-examinations conducted regularly can result in the detection of certain types of gynecologic cancers in their earlier stages, when treatment is more likely to be successful and a complete cure is a possibility.
  • Change Your Lifestyle - Diet, exercise and lifestyle choices play a significant role in the prevention of cancer. 
  • Do Your Research- Additionally, knowledge of family history can increase the chance of prevention or early diagnosis by determining if someone may have a gene which makes them susceptible to cancer.
  • Make a Donation - We utilize state-of-the-art technology to screen for and treat all types of gynecologic cancers, and our research team is dedicated to improving treatments, and, ultimately, finding a cure for these cancers. Your specific donation toward the gynecologic cancer of your choice will help make breakthrough discoveries and help our physicians provide personalized, passionate care to the women affected by this disease.
All donations are welcome and can be given through our website.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sleep and Cancer - It Matters

Carolina Salvador M.D., UAB Division of Hematology and Oncology. Dr. Salvador’s research interests include preventative medicine, integrative medicine and minority health-related issues. Dr. Salvador answered our questions related to the critical importance of sleep for good health below.

Q: Do cancer patients have specific issues regarding sleep?
Dr. Salvador: Patients suffering from cancer have more problems with lack or poor quality of sleep than people without cancer. Fifty percent of cancer patients suffer from sleep disorders compared to 15 percent in the people without cancer. Insomnia (lack of sleep) can present as difficulty falling asleep, waking up several times during the night, or waking up early with being able to go back to sleep. For cancer patients, certain medications, hospitalization, chemo, radiation, or hormonal therapy, pain, hot flashes, nausea and vomiting as well and anxiety and depression can keep them from getting much needed sleep.
Q: Is there a certain number of hours cancer patients should sleep?
Dr. Salvador: For a healthy patient, 6 to 8 hours of sleep would suffice. A person with cancer would need to sleep at least as much, taking into account how much they slept before the diagnosis as well as their age. However, if a person feels they are sleeping too much, mentioning it to your doctor is a good idea.
Q: What about cancer survivors? Will their body ever return to “normal” or will their bodies demand more sleep than average?
Dr. Salvador: Some survivors continue to have sleep problems and we don’t understand why. And, though there is evidence that suggests that a good sleep routine may increase survival, researchers are still trying to understand this relationship and what is normal.
Q: What should someone do if they have trouble staying asleep or cannot stay asleep?
Dr. Salvador: There are some simple, basic things to try to improve the sleep. The first thing they should do is address the problem with their physician/oncologist who can prescribe the treatments that may work best. They can also refer the patient to a psychologist, an integrative oncologist, or physical therapy.
Q: How does sleep play in to stress?
Dr. Salvador: Stress usually causes a person to lose sleep. The less sleep, the more fatigue; the more fatigue the less ability to cope with stress. So, this ends up being a cycle that’s difficult to treat unless caught in time. A cancer patient needs to make their oncologist aware of stress and how is it is affecting his/her quality of life. Then the oncologist can refer them to get the care they need.
Q: Do cancer patients tend to need more sleep than non-cancer patients?
Dr. Salvador: Everyone needs sleep to maintain a normal balance, but cancer patients need sleep more to help their bodies fight the cancer and deal with the added stress of the disease and the treatment. Sleep allows the body to restore its energy, repair damaged tissues and keep the immune system balanced. Thus, with a lack of sleep, fatigue sets in, the immune system becomes more vulnerable and activities become more difficult. It also increases the risk of depression. Therefore, good sleep habits help the body recover from illnesses as well as from cancer and its treatment.
How to get a good night’s sleep:
            Limit or discontinue caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
            Daytime naps should only be 15-20 minutes.
            Avoid activities in the evening (such as exercise, stressful movie, computers, etc.) that can stimulate you. Instead use restful music, reading or relaxation techniques in the evening hours.
            Follow a sleep routine. Go to bed and get up around the same time.
            If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and try another form of relaxation.
            Do not use the bed to read or watch TV. Train your body to know that your bed is for rest.
            ry complementary therapy approaches like mindfulness meditation, yoga, guided imagery/hypnosis, muscle relaxation exercises.
            Some herbs and supplements can be helpful. However, consult an integrative medicine oncologist who can recommend those that will work best for you without interfering with your treatment. He or she can also help you understand the correct doses.