2022 was an impressive year for the University of Colorado Cancer Center, and we were able to share more than 125 stories highlighting our research, patient care, education, and community partnerships.
This year the National Cancer Institute (NCI) renewed the CU Cancer Center’s ‘Comprehensive’ designation, recognizing us as a top leader in oncology.
Here are the top stories of 2022 for the CU Cancer Center:
Country music star Toby Keith announced on social media that he has been battling stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer.
“Last fall I was diagnosed with stomach cancer,” the 60-year-old musician wrote in a statement on Twitter and Instagram. “I’ve spent the last 6 months receiving chemo, radiation, and surgery. So far, so good. I need time to breathe, recover and relax.”
His diagnosis spotlights a type of cancer that accounts for about 1.5% of all new cancer diagnoses in the United States each year, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 26,380 new cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed this year, with men facing higher risk than women.
We spoke with Sunnie Kim, MD, a University of Colorado Cancer Center member who researches stomach and gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancers, about Keith's rare but serious diagnosis.
Jim White was seen by the CU Cancer Center's multidisciplinary care team, which includes Richard Schulick, MD, MBA, director of the CU Cancer Center and chair of the Department of Surgery at the CU School of Medicine. "Jim’s diagnosis was bile duct cancer, which is rarer than pancreas cancer,” explained Schulick. “The head of the pancreas and the bile duct occupy the exact same space, so if a cancer develops in one it can give the exact same symptoms as the other."
White says he’s had a lot of time to think in the more than six years since his cancer diagnosis. Of all the lessons cancer has taught him, he says, one of the most important has been to take care of his mental health and to appreciate each moment as it comes.
Kacie Peters and Erik Stanley are working with multidisciplinary CU Cancer Center care teams to treat the late-stage colorectal cancer they’re both fighting.
Because of the communication between Sunnie Kim, MD, Erik's oncologist, Christopher Lieu, MD, Kacie’s oncologist, and other members of the care team, Kacie and Erik are able to receive their chemotherapy treatments in the same week, easing the logistical challenges of childcare and recovery.
For now, and for each day, Kacie and Erik are focusing on their time together as a family with their son, Nate. “It’s really important to us not to look at it as ‘buying time’ but as appreciating time,” Kacie says. “Nate needs to have as much of a normal life as we can give him.”
Actress Kirstie Alley, best known for her role as Rebecca Howe on the 1980s sitcom “Cheers,” died at age 71. According to a representative for the actress quoted in People magazine, Alley died from colon cancer after a short battle with the disease.
The American Cancer Society says that excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. The organization estimates that in 2022, there will be 106,180 new cases of colon cancer in the U.S. and 52,580 deaths from the disease. In spring 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered its recommended screening age for colorectal cancer (the combined term for colon cancer and rectal cancer) to 45 from 50.
We spoke with Chris Lieu, MD, associate director of clinical research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, about Alley’s death and what people should know about detecting and preventing colorectal cancer.
Can dietary strategies like intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating help breast cancer survivors prevent their tumors from recurring? It’s a question researchers at the CU Cancer Center are looking to answer with a study funded by a $3 million R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute.
CU Cancer Center members Paul MacLean, PhD, and Peter Kabos, MD, along with Victoria Catenacci, MD, an associate professor of endocrinology at the CU School of Medicine, received the funds for a study on the impact of obesity on breast cancer, looking specifically to see if intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding may help prevent risk of recurrence in women who recently completed treatment for breast cancer.
“This is a question that we get from patients all the time — what type of strategies should they take to improve their outcomes both during and after treatment?” Kabos says. “What we’re trying to do is put data behind that answer.”
Also known as renal cell carcinoma, kidney cancer is one of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women. In the U.S. in 2022, according to the American Cancer Society, there will be around 79,000 new cases of kidney cancer diagnosed, and around 13,920 people will die from the disease. In Colorado, there will be an estimated 1,080 new cases of kidney cancer in 2022, and an estimated 180 people will die from the disease.
To get the latest information on the disease, we spoke with University of Colorado Cancer Center member Elaine Lam, MD, FACP, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center have discovered how to extract critical information about breast cancer tumors and disease progression by analyzing blood plasma rather than using more invasive tissue biopsies.
“This is simply a blood draw,” said the study’s senior co-author Peter Kabos, MD, associate professor of medicine in the medical oncology division at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and CU Cancer Center member. “This allows us to look under the surface to see the defining characteristics of the disease. The advantage is that we don’t need to do repeated tissue biopsies.”
Former “TODAY” show anchor Katie Couric revealed that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in summer 2022. Couric appeared on “TODAY” on October 3 to talk about her diagnosis, saying she was lucky her cancer was detected during a routine mammogram and urging other women to keep up with their mammograms.
Couric is looking to raise awareness about women with dense breasts, like her. Those women may require secondary screenings, she said, as the density can affect how breast tissue shows up on a mammogram.
We spoke with University of Colorado Cancer Center member Elena Shagisultanova, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medical oncology at the CU School of Medicine, about Couric’s diagnosis and treatment.
Collaborations between CU Cancer Center and CSU Flint Animal Cancer Center researchers lead to cancer therapies with the potential to benefit humans and companion animals.
James DeGregori, PhD, CU Cancer Center deputy director, says that while researching corollaries and similarities between cancer risk and progression in humans and companion animals is not a new field, it is one of continually growing potential and scope.
“There’s a lot of overlap,” DeGregori says, adding that humans and dogs are at least 85% genetically identical. “We see many of the same pathways, the same genes that are mutating. There are overlaps in the types of cancer that humans and companion animals get. That’s why we’ve been able to see clinical trials that initiated in dogs at CSU and that subsequently led to pediatric oncology trials, and it works the other way around. Many of the therapies used in dogs were first used in humans.”
Comedian Louie Anderson — known for his stand-up routines, as well as a hosting stint on “Family Feud,” his animated series “Life With Louie,” and a more recent role on the FX comedy series “Baskets” — died January 21, 2022, of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. He was 68.
Anderson’s death underscores how deadly diffuse large B-cell lymphoma — a cancer of the lymphatic system — can be. We talked with University of Colorado (CU) Cancer Center member Manali Kamdar, MD, about the disease, its symptoms, and its treatment. Over the past four years, Kamdar has been the lead investigator on a global, multicenter, phase III clinical study to find out if a medication called Breyanzi (lisocabtagene maraleucel; liso-cel) can improve outcomes for patients who don’t respond to the standard-of-care treatment for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. The chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy works by removing blood from a patient’s body, enhancing immune cells called T cells to better fight the lymphoma, then re-infusing the cells back into the patient.