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CU Cancer Center News and Stories

Patient Care

Patient Care    Community    Awareness    Pancreatic Cancer    Vascular Surgery

“You’ve Got to Believe that You’re Going to Get Through It”

“Maybe this getting older thing just sucks and that’s how it is.”


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date December 17, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Education    Community

CU Cancer Center Top Stories of 2021

This was another exciting year for the University of Colorado Cancer Center, and we were able to share more than 80 stories spotlighting our members and their research. We also shared the cancer journeys of some of our patients.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date December 16, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Press Coverage    Faculty    Breast Cancer

Triplet Regimen Extends Time Before Brain, Spinal Cord Metastases Worsen in Patients with Breast Cancer

A three-drug regimen was shown to lengthen the amount of time before cancer progressed to the central nervous system — known as central nervous system progression-free survival — in certain patients with breast cancer.


Author Cure Today | Publish Date December 15, 2021
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Patient Care    Community    Lung Cancer

“We Want to Give People the Opportunity to Grow Older”

At her lowest point, after hearing there wasn’t much more that medicine or science could do for her, Connie Walters asked her best friend and ex-husband, Abel, to stay with her overnight. She wasn’t sure she would wake up and she didn’t want to die alone.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date November 30, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Pediatric Cancer

Using PET Scans to Better Treat Cancer Patients

One of the primary tools that oncologists use to stage cancers is the PET (positron emission tomography) scan, an imaging test that uses a small amount of radioactive sugar to detect metabolically active areas within the body.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date November 18, 2021
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Patient Care    Community    Lung Cancer

Dealing with Cancer One Step at a Time

It was just a cough – a nagging one, sure, but nothing too serious, Duane Cerniglia thought. Give it some time and it will go away.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date November 12, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Magazine

Driving Revolutionary Advances in Cancer Treatment

“When you lose hope, you lose everything,” says Ron Randolph. “It’s like you’re in the bottom of a hole and you see this light at the top of the hole. It’s a very small light, but there’s no way to escape.”


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date November 11, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Press Coverage    Faculty

Colorado Dogs, Doctors Take Center Stage for National Academy of Science

The University of Colorado Cancer Center is helping host a three-day workshop at the National Academy of Science, the lab Lincoln founded in Washington.


Author Colorado Politics | Publish Date November 08, 2021
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Patient Care    Press Coverage    Pancreatic Cancer

Former Castle Pines Mayor Pivots to Fight Pancreatic Cancer

Of all cancers, pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest to suspect, screen for or treat. For Castle Pines resident Maureen Shul, the disease took away two family members and changed her outlook on life.


Author Centennial Citizen | Publish Date November 03, 2021
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Patient Care    Community    Sarcoma

“You Are Cancer-Free”

The cancer diagnosis came at a time when it seemed as though everything was happening – he was only 37 and soon to become president of the Denver City Council; his three children were ages 4, 6, and 9; he had just run the BOLDERBoulder 10K.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date November 03, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Community    Breast Cancer    Surgical Oncology

Breast Cancer Research Gathers Data to Help Women Understand Well-Being Outcomes After Surgery

When a woman receives a breast cancer diagnosis, she may have many questions about her immediate future – the stage of the disease, what treatment she’ll receive, where it will happen.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date October 22, 2021
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Patient Care    Community    Breast Cancer    Advocacy

Genetic Counseling Helps Young Woman Take Control After Testing Positive for BRCA2

The first time Caley Kurchinski had to think about a double mastectomy, she was only 16. Her mother had died at age 36 from breast cancer, when Caley was 6. When she became a teenager, Caley’s family physician began telling her she needed to get genetic testing.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date October 15, 2021
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Patient Care    Colorectal Cancer    Surgical Oncology

Erica’s Colon Cancer Didn’t Stand a Chance With Procedure That Kills Microscopic Cancer Cells

Erica Ramsthaler was only given three years to live when she was first diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but after transferring her care to the University of Colorado Cancer Center, she is thriving more than four years later.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date October 08, 2021
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Patient Care    Awareness    Breast Cancer    Surgical Oncology    Plastic Surgery

Young Mom’s Breast Cancer Journey Highlights Importance of Breast Cancer Screening in Younger Women

Kirsten Stewart was just putting on lotion, like she does every morning after her shower. That particular morning, though, she noticed something different: a lump that hadn’t been there before and that definitely wasn’t normal. She was only 30 years old.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date October 07, 2021
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Patient Care    Blood Cancer    Leukemia

Norm MacDonald’s Death Puts Spotlight on Acute Leukemia

Comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Norm MacDonald died Tuesday, after what his brother, Neil MacDonald, described as a nine-year battle with acute leukemia. Norm MacDonald, known for his intelligence and sarcastic wit, was 61.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date September 16, 2021
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Innovation    Patient Care

GOAL Consortium Facilitates Group Purchases and Knowledge Sharing for Academic Pathology Testing Labs

When Dara Aisner, MD, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, was approached by a colleague at another university about splitting the cost of a bulk purchase of new clinical testing products, she initially declined. Although it would be a valuable resource — and might even save her lab money in the long-term — the short-term cost was prohibitive.


Author Valerie Gleaton | Publish Date September 07, 2021
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Patient Care    Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer Patient Hopes His Story Encourages Early Detection for Others

The diagnosis came as a shock. Although, looking back, Bill Mordecai says it shouldn’t have been. 


Author Valerie Gleaton | Publish Date September 01, 2021
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Innovation    Patient Care    Pancreatic Cancer    Surgical Oncology

Robotic Whipple Procedure Offers Pancreatitis Patient Relief

After suffering from painful bouts of pancreatitis for more than a decade, Christina Gonzalez felt resigned to a seemingly endless cycle of procedures.


Author Valerie Gleaton | Publish Date August 31, 2021
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Patient Care    Liver Cancer

Surviving a 1-in-5-Million Liver Cancer

The doctors she saw initially didn’t seem too concerned, but 22-year-old Ella Neal knew something was seriously wrong. A persistent, unusual abdominal pain was keeping her up at night and distracting her from her studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date August 25, 2021
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Patient Care    Lung Cancer    Clinical Trials

Traveling to CU Cancer Center for a Lung Cancer Clinical Trial

David Kooyman transferred his care to University of Colorado Cancer Center member and associate professor of thoracic oncology, Tejas Patil, MD, to be part of a clinical trial to help with his rare lung cancer gene fusion.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date August 19, 2021
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Patient Care    Pancreatic Cancer    Surgical Oncology

The Pancreatic Cancer Battle That Bonded a Patient and His Physician

Richard Schulick, MD, MBA, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, becomes close with all of his patients, but he has a special bond with Gerry Turner, one of Schulick’s surgical patients for pancreatic cancer.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date August 18, 2021
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Patient Care    COVID-19    Vaccinations

Why COVID-19 Vaccines Don’t Work As Well In Immunocompromised Cancer Patients

Despite the growing threat of the Delta variant, many Americans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are living life much as they did pre-pandemic — traveling, shopping, going out to eat, and forgoing masks in many situations.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date August 13, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    COVID-19    Clinical Trials

Adjusting to the Virus Has Long-Term Advantages for Clinical Trials

The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic were an adjustment period for medical professionals across the board, but they brought up particular challenges for the Cancer Clinical Trial Office (CCTO) at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. A number of procedures that used to take place in person or in the office — collecting signatures from patients and doctors, delivering medications, submitting data to trial sponsors — suddenly had to be done in a whole new way.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date July 22, 2021
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Research    Patient Care   

Helping Working Cancer Caregivers Manage Stress

It’s difficult enough when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, but employed spouses of those who receive the diagnosis also are confronted with an array of practical problems. It’s now up to them to untangle issues around medical leave, health insurance, caregiving benefits, and more.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date July 14, 2021
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Innovation    Patient Care    Melanoma

A New Drug Combination to Treat Mucosal Melanomas

Though people most often think of melanoma as affecting the skin, the cancer can occur anywhere in the body where pigment-producing melanocyte cells are found. That includes mucous membranes in the head, neck, eyes, respiratory tract, and genitourinary region.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date June 23, 2021
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Patient Care    Community    Support    Cancer

CU Cancer Center Celebrates National Cancer Survivors Day

National Cancer Survivors Day, June 6, 2021, is a day to recognize cancer survivors, bring attention to the ongoing challenges cancer survivors face, and celebrate life. 


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date June 01, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Esophageal Cancer    Surgical Oncology    Clinical Trials

Investigating a Better Treatment Sequence for Esophageal Cancer

Looking for better ways to treat patients with esophageal cancer, University of Colorado Cancer Center member Martin McCarter, MD, is investigating whether a new treatment sequence will result in better outcomes.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date May 25, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Community    Lung Cancer

From Debilitating Chemo to One Pill a Day for Lung Cancer

One of the most difficult nights of Hank Baskett Sr.’s life was the night he told his wife he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date May 24, 2021
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Patient Care    Colorectal Cancer    Magazine

Recommended Colorectal Cancer Screening Age Lowered to 45 for People at Average Risk

In a move that has the potential to save thousands of lives, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) this week lowered the recommended screening age for colorectal cancer from 50 to 45 for asymptomatic patients with no family history of colorectal cancer. Considered the leading source of medical guidance in the U.S., the USPSTF is an independent, volunteer organization made up of national experts in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, OB/GYN, nursing, behavioral health, and more.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date May 21, 2021
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Patient Care    Blood Cancer    Leukemia    Magazine    Clinical Trials

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Won’t Slow World Champion Triathlete Down

Siri Lindley couldn’t swim. She had never learned how and the idea of competing in a triathlon seemed completely out of the question.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 16, 2021
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Patient Care    Community    Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Patient’s Advice: Take It One Treatment at a Time

It feels odd to use the phrase “perfect timing” when talking about a cancer diagnosis, but that’s exactly how Tonya Quinn describes her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.  


Author Valerie Gleaton | Publish Date May 12, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Blood Cancer

From Start-Up to Established: Lymphoma Program Celebrates Six Years

When Manali Kamdar, MD, joined the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Division of Hematology as clinical director of lymphoma services in January 2015, she was fresh off her third fellowship (a bone marrow transplant and lymphoma fellowship at Stanford) and ready for a new challenge.  


Author Valerie Gleaton | Publish Date May 05, 2021
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Patient Care    Community    Faculty    Magazine

Linda Cook, PhD, Joins CU Cancer Center as Associate Director of Population Sciences

Bringing more than two decades of experience in the fields of population health and cancer prevention and control, Linda Cook, PhD, will join the University of Colorado Cancer Center in July as associate director of population sciences.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date May 03, 2021
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Patient Care    Pediatric Cancer    Magazine

CU Cancer Center Technology Gives Kids a Welcome Distraction During Radiation Treatment

Thirty days of radiation treatments — five days a week, with Saturdays and Sundays off — are difficult for even the toughest of adults. But for a child, they’re even harder to bear. They involve fasting, waking up early, and lying in a dark room alone, without even your parents there for support.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date April 21, 2021
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Patient Care    Colorectal Cancer    Magazine

Helping Low-Income Patients Navigate the Cancer Screening Process

Pablo Garcia started to worry when he began experiencing unusual stomach symptoms. He worried even more when his doctor at the Salud Family Health Center in Longmont, Colorado, ordered a colonoscopy to check for signs of colon cancer. Pablo was unfamiliar with the procedure, the preparation, and the hospital where the test was to take place. 


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date April 14, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Awareness    Pediatric Cancer    Kidney Cancer

Research supports the practice of personalized treatment to improve fertility outcomes for pediatric kidney cancer patients

Although rare, kidney cancer is the third most common type of solid tumor affecting children. Thankfully, pediatric kidney tumors are generally treatable and most have high cure rates. Treatment outcomes depend on several factors including age, tumor type, staging, genetics, the overall health of the patient, and the risk of treatment side effects.  


Author Noelle Musgrave | Publish Date April 09, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Pediatric Cancer    Blood Cancer    Leukemia    Magazine

CU Cancer Center Researcher and Physician Poses Double Threat to Pediatric Cancer

M. Eric Kohler’s commitment to both cancer research — particularly CAR T-cell therapy — and clinical care make him a double threat when it comes to battling pediatric blood cancer.   


Author Valerie Gleaton | Publish Date March 26, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Breast Cancer    Surgical Oncology

Improving Quality of Life for Breast Cancer Patients

Though breast cancer patients are now living longer than ever before, treatments for the disease can have wide-ranging effects on their long-term quality of life. Physical, social, and sexual wellbeing all can be impacted by radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, antiendocrine therapy and other challenges that go along with a breast cancer battle.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date March 23, 2021
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Patient Care    Philanthropy    Prostate Cancer    Magazine

An Engineer Tackles the Problem of Prostate Cancer as a Patient and Financial Donor

Ashton Villars has always been a problem solver. As a competitive athlete in basketball, waterskiing, and tennis and an actual rocket scientist, Villars has tackled every challenge in life head on — including his prostate cancer diagnosis. Now, he’s bringing that same problem-solving spirit to supporting cancer research. 


Author Valerie Gleaton | Publish Date March 05, 2021
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Patient Care    COVID-19    Colorectal Cancer

The Importance of Getting Your Cancer Screening and Treatment During a Pandemic

There’s never a good time for a cancer diagnosis, but it’s especially difficult in the middle of a pandemic, when concerns about safety compound the worry and anxiety that come along with hearing, “you have cancer.”


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date January 06, 2021
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Research    Patient Care    Community

10 Most-Read CU Cancer Center Stories of 2020

The global pandemic of 2020 has been a pivotal year for the health care industry. This year lead some CU Cancer Center members to shift their focus to learning more about COVID-19 while others continued their research on cancer. Whether the focus was on COVID-19 or Cancer this year showed how coming together as a community can make a difference. 


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date December 28, 2020
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Patient Care    Magazine

Increase in Cancer Deaths Predicted Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 is the most-talked-about health concern in 2020, but for many, it is not the deadliest disease. University of Colorado (CU) Cancer Center leadership is bringing attention to the fact that more people will die from cancer than COVID this year.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date December 22, 2020
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Patient Care    Community

4 Tips for Caring for a Loved One with Cancer During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Elissa Kolva, PhD, clinical psychiatrist and CU Cancer Center member, shares tips that might be helpful for caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date November 25, 2020
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Patient Care    Community    Publications

Changes Needed to Address Financial Hardship from Cancer

Until you or a loved one are facing treatment for a cancer diagnosis, you may not realize the cost associated with treatment and doctor visits. Unfortunately, the cost is continuing to rise as new treatments are discovered and patients are responsible for more of those costs, even if they have health insurance coverage.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date November 24, 2020
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Patient Care    Community

Self-Care is Key for Caregivers

Elissa Kolva, PhD, clinical psychiatrist and CU Cancer Center member, shares tips around self-care for a caregiver of a loved one with cancer.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date November 04, 2020
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Patient Care   

Start the Conversation About Fertility Preservation Before Beginning Cancer Treatment

As survival rates of many common cancers have improved it is no surprise that conversations around fertility preservation have also increased. These advances in treatments are letting patients think about their future beyond cancer, and if that future includes children.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date August 10, 2020
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Patient Care

Virtual Panel Highlights How CU Cancer Center is Redefining Cancer Care in Colorado and Beyond

On July 23rd, Richard Schulick, MD, MBA, director of the University of Colorado (CU) Cancer Center, Cathy Bradley, PhD, deputy director of the CU Cancer Center, James DeGregori, PhD, deputy director of the CU Cancer Center, took part in a virtual panel that highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on cancer as well as the ways the CU Cancer Center is redefining cancer care. The panel was moderated by Don Elliman, Chancellor of the Anschutz Medical Campus.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date July 27, 2020
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Patient Care

Alcohol and Cancer Risk

The American Cancer Society recently updated its recommendation from limiting alcohol to avoiding alcohol altogether to reduce cancer risk. Here, the University of Colorado Cancer Center discusses this update with Valaree Williams, MS, RD, CSO, CNSC, FAND, lead dietician from the Oncology Supportive Services at UCHealth.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date July 21, 2020
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Patient Care    Bladder Cancer    Cancer

To Live: Artist Shelley Kerr’s Sculptures Explore the Battle, Journey and Gratitude of Five Years With Stage IV Cancer

“Have you ever had a dream when you wake up and everything is just kind of vibrating? It doesn’t make any sense but it kind of points the way?” asks Fort Collins artist and musician, Shelley Kerr. 


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date July 16, 2020
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Patient Care

The Human Touch

University of Colorado Cancer Center member Ryan Weight, DO, MS, has always been passionate about caring for patients. However, in early April, in the middle of a global pandemic, the way he goes about patient care looks a little different.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date July 16, 2020
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Patient Care

5 Tips for a Successful Cancer Telemedicine Visit

Telemedicine is not a new concept. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it might not be something that many providers or patients are becoming familiar with. Recently, it was announced that over 200,000 virtual primary care and specialty visits have occurred since the start of the pandemic at UCHealth, where University of Colorado (CU) Cancer Center doctors provide care.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date July 15, 2020
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Patient Care

Anxiety and Cancer During COVID-19

Originally posted on the University of Colorado (CU) Department of Psychiatry website. Tips from Joanna Arch, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and CU Cancer Center member.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date July 10, 2020
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Patient Care    Breast Cancer

BFitBWell Strengthens Cancer Survivors

In late 2019, two remarkable women were brought together by a shared experience that could only happen at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health & Wellness Center. Through their participation in the BFitBWell Program for cancer survivors, they found renewed strength and friendship.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date June 30, 2020
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Patient Care    Skin Cancer    Cancer

Do chemicals in sunscreen cause cancer?

In the summer of 2019, Dr. Neil Box toured Colorado with the Sun Bus, attending events with over 700,000 participants and reaching 26,000 people in 46 service days. Free skin cancer screens identified 96 suspected skin cancers, including six cases of dangerous melanoma. The tour also gave Dr. Box the opportunity to hear what people think about skin cancer and sun protection.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 28, 2020
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Patient Care    Skin Cancer    Magazine    Melanoma

Melanoma Skin Cancer Clinical Trial Provides Hope When Options Looked Bleak

“For Christmas, we took a family photo with all the grandkids,” says Sam’s wife, Janet. She went on to explain, “The kids wanted to take this photo because they thought Sam would not be here next Christmas.”


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 26, 2020
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Patient Care    Skin Cancer    Melanoma

Does getting a suntan really protect against burns that cause skin cancer?

We all know that in the spring or before going on a beach vacation, it’s important to get a solid tan so that we don’t get burned. After all, it’s sun burns and not sun tans that cause skin cancer, right? Not so fast, says Neil Box, PhD, University of Colorado Cancer Center investigator and president of the Colorado Melanoma Foundation.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 18, 2020
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Patient Care    COVID-19

Leading Chloroquine Scientists Weigh in on Drug As Possible COVID-19 Treatment

French and Australian studies suggest the anti-malarial drug chloroquine could be effective against COVID-19. Promising early results now lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fast-track its own tests, and have spurred the drug’s maker, Bayer, to offer the drug free for treatment. Earlier today, President Trump (among others) touted chloroquine as a ready-to-use treatment for the disease.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date March 19, 2020
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Patient Care    COVID-19

COVID-19 Recommendations for Patients Receiving Anti-Cancer Immunotherapy

We should all be doing our best to keep from catching COVID-19, if not for ourselves and our loved ones, then to avoid passing the disease to people in high-risk populations – like cancer patients taking chemotherapy, which can lower white blood cell counts and undercut the effectiveness of remaining white blood cells, leaving these patients immunocompromised and less able to fight infections like COVID-19.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date March 19, 2020
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Patient Care    Cancer

University of Colorado Cancer Center adds years back to bile duct cancer patient’s life

It is said that ignorance is bliss. In some cases, choosing to not acknowledge a “truth” or “fact” is detrimental to an individual. However, there are times when not knowing is the thing that keeps you going. Take Lydia Mallernee for example. When she was diagnosed with cancer in March of 2018, Lydia was unaware that she had two to eight months to live.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date February 27, 2020
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Patient Care

Do I Wait? Do I Not?

Cathy Noon (middle) and her supporters!

After 8 years of serving as the Mayor of the city of Centennial, Cathy Noon was ready for a vacation. A shocking diagnosis of late-stage pancreatic cancer turned her plans of rest and relaxation upside down. Now, Cathy’s care team at the University of Colorado Cancer Center is giving her what she desires most – time. 


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date November 26, 2019
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Patient Care    Lung Cancer

Guest Blog: Good News and Bad News

Joe Schneider, Lung Cancer Survivor

“I have good news and bad news,” the ER doctor told me. I had been sent to the ER under the suspicion of a heart attack because of chest pains. “We took an x-ray of your chest. The good news is that your heart is fine. However, we found a large mass in your left lung. You probably have lung cancer. You should see someone about that.” Then he handed me a prescription for a very powerful pain killer. I did not see that as a good omen.

Within a few days I had the PET scan and the biopsy to confirm the diagnosis: non-small cell lung cancer.  It had already metastasized to my spine and my ribs (the cause of my chest pains). I was Stage IV from the initial diagnosis.

 My first meeting with the community oncologist was not real upbeat. I was warned to stay off the internet because I would only find the dismal survival statistics. The best they could offer was the standard of care chemotherapy, a doublet of a platinum-based chemo drug paired with another drug.

Of course I didn’t stay off the internet. I researched what were the “new and exciting” lung cancer treatments. I learned about gene mutations that could drive the growth of a cancer. Ones such as EGFR and ALK were responsible for some lung cancers. And for these there were already drugs available to treat, a class of drugs called inhibitors.

I also researched what cancer centers and what doctors were the experts in treating lung cancer and were doing research into new treatments. The University of Colorado Cancer Center was often on the top of the list. Additionally, I found that Dr. Ross Camidge was a leader in the research and practice around the overall treatment of lung cancer and specifically the treatment of mutation-driven cancers. And best of all, this was practically in my own backyard, a mere 60 miles from northern Colorado.

It was amazingly easy to get an appointment with Dr. Camidge. He educated me about the mutations that had been identified in NSCLC. And what drugs were available to treat which mutations. Another biopsy was scheduled and a molecular analysis to determine what actionable mutations, if any, I might have.

It was indeed my lucky day (if there is such a thing for someone with lung cancer) when he informed me that I was ALK positive. And there was an inhibitor to treat it. The drug crizotinib had been approved by the FDA just the previous last year. I started on it and my next scan showed great results.  I was sent back to my local oncologist. Dr. Camidge said to return when my cancer comes back.

Inhibitors are truly wonder drugs. A few pills each day. And overall less-severe side effects than traditional chemotherapy. But they have a limitation. Almost invariably, resistance to the drug will develop. Minor mutations in the gene driving the cancer disable the drug’s therapeutic power. And the cancer comes back.

After about three years of life as normal, routine scans showed that my cancer was back.  I had developed resistance to crizotinib. I returned to UCH and Dr. Camidge. He told me about a new ALK-inhibitor that was then in clinical trials. Brigatinib was successful in overcoming the resistance to crizotinib. He offered me the opportunity to enter the clinical trial.

I had several motivations to enroll in a clinical trial. Most importantly, it would provide access to a drug that potentially control my cancer. It’s also an important way that the practice of medicine can make scientific progress. I had run across many claims for cancer treatments that were based on limited, inaccurate, or anecdotal data. A clinical trial is the standard by how claims of efficacy are judged. The data is collected according to a very precisely defined protocol. The results are presented at professional conferences and published in established medical journals.

The clinical trial also allowed me to work more closely with the doctors, staff, and trial coordinators. I received wonderful support. Appointments were scheduled for me. The drugs were handed to me. I didn’t have to deal with insurance for anything related to the trial. I was responsible for only the standard of care items that I would have had regardless of my trial participation.

And then there’s the economic motivation to participate in a trial. You not only get access to the drug that could save your life, but in most cases the drug is provided by the drug manufacturer at no cost.

Brigatinib controlled my cancer for a year before I showed progression.  Next up was the lorlatinib clinical trial. Lorlatinib is a third-generation ALK inhibitor and showed promise of working after brigatinib. I came off brigatinib, signed the paperwork, and a few weeks later started lorlatinib. Many more tests were involved. I had more scans and blood work. I spent a day at the hospital having my heart activity tracked via EKG after I took the dose of lorlatinib. And during each visit I took cognitive tests, computer-based activities to test my reaction time and short term memory. 

Lorlatinib worked great for a while. But once again I showed progression, localized in a few lymph nodes. This time, there was no next-generation drug trial to jump to. Instead we opted to use targeted radiation to zap (technical term: ablate) the suspicious lymph nodes. I became familiar with the Radiation Oncology department on the first floor of the Anschutz Cancer Pavilion. A few months later after 10 radiation treatments, my scans were clear. My cancer was under control. I was fortunate to continue on with the clinical study protocol.

I’ve repeated this process two more times. As long as lorlatinib provides overall control of my cancer and the sites of progression are localized, I will continue. My last radiation treatment was January 2019 and my scans have been coming back clear – no sign (yet) of the cancer coming back.

This treatment of using radiotherapy to treat this pattern of progression in ALK patients was pioneered here at UCH.

Over these years, I’ve been fortunate that I had an “easy” cancer. I know that for many, their cancer is anything but easy. But I’ve been able to maintain my life as normal. I continued to work for several years after diagnosis before I took an early retirement offer. 

I enjoy my retired life. My wife and I travel. I travel into the mountains often. And after a hiatus of about 50 years, I’ve started camping again.  It’s been great to head off to the mountains with one of my son. And this last summer, my wife has started to join me on my camping trips.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date November 06, 2019
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Research    Patient Care

$4M grant aims to reduce stress in cancer caregivers

Patients aren’t the only ones affected by cancer. Often alongside patients are family caregivers who struggle to keep their own lives on track while supporting their loved one’s treatment and recovery. It’s not easy. For example, a study showed that stress increases a family caregiver’s chance of death by 63 percent over four years. Now a nearly $4M grant from the National Cancer Institute to researchers at University of Colorado Cancer Center seeks to lessen the impacts of stress specifically on cancer caregivers who are also employed. The project hopes to help caregivers manage the demands of their jobs and their lives, while also meeting the day-to-day needs of their loved one with cancer.

The grant leverages the expertise of co-principal investigators Cathy Bradley, PhD, a health economist, and Mark Laudenslager, PhD, a stress researcher.

Dr. Bradley, Deputy Director and the David F. and Margaret Turley Grohne Endowed Chair for Cancer Prevention and Control Research at CU Cancer Center, focuses her research on defining the associations between health insurance and employment on cancer outcomes, while identifying socioeconomic disparities in the delivery of and response to care. Dr. Laudenslager, is a professor in the CU School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, and director of the Behavioral Immunology and Endocrinology Laboratory. His works focuses on the physiological impacts of stress such as increased inflammation and shortening of telomeres, the protective caps on chromosomes that shorten with stress and aging.

The current study will test the ability of an intervention that was proven effective in reducing stress in cancer caregivers when delivered face-to-face, now transformed by Laudenslager and former fellow, Dr. Nicole Amoyal-Pensak, for delivery via a website (Pep-Pal) at the caregiver’s discretion.

“Mark has developed effective interventions to reduce stress in caregivers. My research is on employment outcomes of people with cancer. We intersect at the point of employed caregivers,” Bradley says.

Pep-Pal will be delivered via a mobile application and/or website including eight 20-minute sessions: (1) Introduction to Stress Management, (2) Stress and the Mind-Body Connection, (3) How Our Thoughts Can Lead to Stress, (4) Coping With Stress, (5) Strategies for Maintaining Energy and Stamina, (6) Coping With Uncertainty, (7) Managing Relationships, and (8) Getting the Support You Need. In addition, the website includes short (3-minute) videos demonstrating an activity or exercise to decrease stress, focusing on relaxation and mood.

“The caregiver actually gets to select between face-to-face meetings with a social worker, video chat with the social worker, or using Pep-Pal at their discretion. The idea is to maximize caregiver convenience and hopefully keep them more engaged during the three-month program,” Laudenslager says.

The study follows caregivers for one year, starting when the caregiver’s patient begins “adjuvant” therapy (used after primary treatment to keep cancer from returning).

“The grant will allow us to look at whether less stress correlates with improved health and employment outcomes for the caregivers – and perhaps result in improved outcomes for patients,” Bradley says.

If the intervention proves effective in employed caregivers, the team hopes the program could provide a model for reducing caregiver stress, and perhaps be useful with health conditions beyond cancer.  


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date August 19, 2019
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Patient Care    Cancer

CU Cancer Center Deputy Director, Cathy J. Bradley, PhD, earns grant to close urban-rural cancer care gap

Cancer treatment isn’t the same for everybody. Research by the University of Colorado Cancer Center Deputy Director, Cathy J. Bradley, PhD, and Assistant Professor, Marcelo Perraillon, PhD, shows that people in rural areas of Colorado are diagnosed with cancer at a later stage, do not get the same care, and have poorer outcomes than people living in urban areas.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date June 26, 2019
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Patient Care    Multidisciplinary Clinic    Neuroendocrine

CU Cancer Center Neuroendocrine Tumor Multidisciplinary Clinic

If you drew a line straight back between your eyes, you would hit the pituitary gland in about three inches. Though only about the size of a pea, the pituitary is a master regulator of hormone systems throughout the body. It’s also a fairly common origin of tumors. One in every 10,000 people will be diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumor originating in the pituitary; one in five people will develop a pituitary mass without knowing it. Most of these pituitary masses aren’t cancer – they become dangerous only when they affect pituitary function or grow large enough to squeeze against other nearby structures, often creating headaches or affecting vision. But some pituitary masses are cancer. Knowing the difference can be tricky and treating these diverse pituitary tumors can be especially challenging.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date June 24, 2019
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Patient Care    Prostate Cancer

“Miracle drug” helps patient with recurring prostate cancer find his inner-poet

For most people finding out that they have prostate cancer multiple times in the span of just a few years seem like a cruel joke. But Jonathan Ormes is not most people. After being told for the third time that he had the disease he decided to take a chance on a University of Colorado Cancer Center study drug that, so far, is controlling his cancer. Ormes is not letting prostate cancer slow him down. In fact, he is using his experience to create poetry.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date June 04, 2019
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Patient Care    Lung Cancer    Clinical Trials

Virtual clinical trial gives entrectinib edge over crizotinib against ROS1+ non-small cell lung cancer

Crizotinib and entrectinib are both active against ROS1+ non-small cell lung cancer. But which is best? The answer seems easy: Just compare the drugs’ clinical trial results. However, not all trials are created equal, and these differences in trial designs can lead to irrelevant comparisons – like comparing athletes’ running times without noting that one ran a kilometer while the other ran a mile. Now results from an innovative, “virtual” clinical trial presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting 2019 attempt to place crizotinib and entrectinib on an equal playing field. In this analysis, patients taking entrectinib were able to stay on treatment longer and had about almost 6 months longer progression-free survival than patients treated with crizotinib.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 30, 2019
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Patient Care    Colorectal Cancer

ASCO: 294 days between symptoms and diagnosis of colorectal cancer in young patients

The incidence of early onset colorectal cancer has increased nearly 50 percent in the last 30 years. A University of Colorado Cancer Center study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago aimed to identify factors that may aid in earlier diagnosis and treatment of the disease. 


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 29, 2019
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Patient Care    Cancer    Medical Marijuana

Cancer care providers see benefit in medical marijuana, but not comfortable prescribing

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting 2019 shows that while 73 percent of surveyed oncology providers believe that medical marijuana provides benefits for cancer patients, only 46 percent are comfortable recommending it. Major concerns included uncertain dosing, limited knowledge of available products and where to get them, and possible interactions with other medications.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 28, 2019
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Patient Care    Faculty    Breast Cancer

Treatment Guidelines for Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)

The use of textured breast implants during augmentation or reconstructive surgery can slightly increase a patient’s risk of developing Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), a form of cancer that is distinct from other breast cancers. Now an article recently published in Aesthetic Surgery Journal formalizes the treatment strategy for this diagnosis, offering clear guidelines for plastic and oncologic surgeons. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization all recommend the surgical technique known as stepwise en bloc resection, which includes total capsulectomy (removing scar tissue  around the implant),  explantation (removal) of the implant, complete removal of any associated masses, and removal of any involved (proven by biopsy) or suspicious lymph nodes.


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date March 12, 2019
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Patient Care    Awareness    Lung Cancer

Survivor Raises Money for Lung Cancer Research

Emily Daniels was 32 years-old and pregnant with her second child when she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  One year later, Emily presented a check for more than $100,000 to the Lung Cancer Colorado Fund (LCCF) bringing the fund over the $1 million mark.


Author Erika Matich | Publish Date February 28, 2019
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Research    Patient Care    Breast Cancer

For Breast Cancer Survivors, Group Exercise Beats Personal Training for Quality of Life

Study after study has shown that for cancer survivors, exercise is good. But what kind of exercise is best? A pilot study by Colorado researchers hints that group exercise and personal training may lead to similar physical gains, but that a specially designed class for cancer survivors incorporating group dynamics-strategies may increase quality of life beyond that of survivors using personal training. The study now results in a $718,000 grant from the American Cancer Society that will dramatically expand the program, including new offerings through University of Colorado Cancer Center at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. 


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date February 27, 2019
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Patient Care    Faculty    Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal Cancer Care Crosses State Lines

When Tom Donahue came to UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital (UCH), University of Colorado Cancer Center’s clinical partner, he thought he had a pre-cancerous condition called Barrett’s Esophagus. But Donahue had a diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus with high-grade dysplasia (precancerous cells) and an oncologist in Scottsbluff, Nebraska referred to him to UCH because he needed to see a specialist.  


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date February 05, 2019
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Patient Care    Brain and Spinal Cancer

Dog Bites Man, Saves Life

Tim Reagan saved Brady’s life, adopting the high-energy rescue dog from a shelter. Within a year, Brady returned the favor.


Author Erika Matich | Publish Date January 03, 2019
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Patient Care    Community    Faculty    Leukemia

Getting to the Root of Leukemia

The day before Joel Rutstein planned to leave for a week-long trip to Hawaii with his wife, Barbara, and their grown children, an oncologist in Fort Collins gave Joel bad news.


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date January 03, 2019
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Patient Care    Lung Cancer

With the Right Care, Patients Now Living a Median 6.8 Years After Stage IV ALK+ Lung Cancer Diagnosis

According to the National Cancer Institute, patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) between the years 1995 and 2001 had 15 percent chance of being alive 5 years later. For patients with stage IV disease, describing cancer that has spread to distant sites beyond the original tumor, that statistic drops to 2 percent. Now a University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology tells a much more optimistic story. For stage IV NSCLC patients whose tumors test positive for rearrangements of the gene ALK (ALK+ NSCLC), treated at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital between 2009 and 2017, median overall survival was 6.8 years. This means that in this population, instead of only 2 percent of patients being alive 5 years after diagnosis, 50 percent of patients were alive 6.8 years after diagnosis.


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date December 31, 2018
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Patient Care    Leukemia    Clinical Trials

91 Percent Response Rate for Venetoclax Against Newly Diagnosed AML in Older Adults

Clinical trial results published in the journal Nature Medicine show 91 percent response rate to the combination of venetoclax with azacitidine in older adults newly diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Of 33 patients given combination venetoclax and azacitidine, 20 experienced a complete response (aka complete remission) and eight experienced a complete response but with continued low blood counts. Of the three patients who did not respond to treatment, two discontinued the study before the first week due to personal reasons unrelated to treatment or side-effects.


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date November 29, 2018
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Patient Care    Brain and Spinal Cancer    Clinical Trials

Drummer Finds New Rhythm after CU Cancer Center Clinical Trial

Bob Rupp is a drummer. He works with the best musicians in the world and he’s celebrated for his contributions to the music scene in the Metro Area. There is even a day in his honor in the City and County of Denver.


Author Erika Matich | Publish Date January 31, 2018
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Patient Care    Breast Cancer    Cancer    Surgical Oncology

In Breast Surgery, Sometimes Less is More

Last year when surgeon Gretchen Ahrendt, MD, was considering a move from the University of Pittsburgh to accept the position of Director of the Diane O’Connor Thompson Breast Center on the Anschutz Campus, she and her husband, Steven – also a surgical oncologist – agreed their three daughters would have to support the move.


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date December 07, 2017
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Research    Patient Care    Lung Cancer

Blood Tumor Markers May Warn When Lung Cancer Patients Are Progressing on Targeted Treatments

For many years, oncologists have known that cancers can secrete complex molecules into the blood and that levels of these molecules can be easily measured. These so-called ‘tumor markers’ are traditionally associated with a single dominant cancer type, for example Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) linked to prostate cancer, Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) to colorectal cancer, CA125 to ovarian cancer, CA19.9 to pancreatic cancer and CA27.29 to breast cancer. However, the real challenge has been to determine a practical use for these markers. They don’t appear to be useful as a means of screening otherwise healthy people for evidence of underlying cancers.


Author Garth Sundem | Publish Date September 06, 2017
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Patient Care    Faculty    Colorectal Cancer

Young Colon Cancer Patient Finds Hope at CU Cancer Center

With long blonde hair, a fit physique, and an overwhelmingly positive attitude, Katy Davenport hardly looks like someone who is enduring cancer. Yet at 34 years old Katy went in for a precautionary colonoscopy after noticing some blood in her stool. Her doctor was shocked to discover a tumor.


Author Taylor Abarca | Publish Date March 02, 2015
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CU Cancer Center In the News

5280

No, Sun Exposure Is Not the Secret to Living Longer (Probably)

news outlet5280
Publish DateJanuary 05, 2022

CU Cancer Center member Neil Box, MD, separates fact from pseudoscience when it comes to protecting yourself from the sun.

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Denver 7

'I'm Just so Proud of Him': Crested Butte Family Shares 2-year-old's Journey with Kidney Cancer

news outletDenver 7
Publish DateDecember 23, 2021

In 2021, a Crested Butte family received a life-changing diagnosis. During the holiday season, their story is an apparent reminder that sometimes the best gifts are never found under a tree.

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Cure Today

Triplet Regimen Extends Time Before Brain, Spinal Cord Metastases Worsen in Patients with Breast Cancer

news outletCure Today
Publish DateDecember 15, 2021

A three-drug regimen was shown to lengthen the amount of time before cancer progressed to the central nervous system — known as central nervous system progression-free survival — in certain patients with breast cancer.

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Healio

Liso-cel Significantly Improves Outcomes in Second-Line DLBCL

news outletHealio
Publish DateDecember 11, 2021

Second-line lisocabtagene maraleucel more than quadrupled EFS compared with standard therapy for patients with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma, according to study results presented at ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition.

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