Those of us at the University of Arizona Cancer Center would like to thank the fine folks at Becker’s Hospital Review for including us in their list of great oncology programs.

On Feb. 22, Becker’s released its list of “100 Hospitals and Health Systems With Great Oncology Programs.” According to Becker’s, “[t]hese hospitals are on the cutting edge of cancer treatment, prevention and research, and the Becker’s Hospital Review editorial team selected them based on clinical accolades, quality care and contributions to the field of oncology.”

Here is what Becker’s had to say specifically about the UA Cancer Center:

“The University of Arizona Cancer Center was established in 1976 and has a staff of more than 300 physicians and scientists. It has 73 research labs, and its scientists are currently involved in more than 200 clinical trials. The center is one of six in the nation with a National Cancer Institute Specialized Program of Research Excellence grant for gastrointestinal cancers. University of Arizona Medical Center was also named one of America’s Top Quality Hospitals in 2013 by CareChex.”

How does Becker’s compile its list? “These hospitals have been recognized for excellence in this specialty by reputable healthcare rating resources, including U.S. News & World Report, Thomson Reuters, the National Cancer Institute, the American College of Surgeons, the American Nurses Credentialing Center and CareChex. Each organization has demonstrated a focus on patient-centered cancer care and emphasis on continual innovation in treatments and services. Many of these organizations also have a place in the history of cancer prevention and research, as they’ve driven groundbreaking discoveries and made clinical milestones.”

Click here to read the full list.



University of Arizona Cancer Center researcher Samantha Kendrick, PhD, is one of the fastest-rising scientists in her field.

Last month, Dr. Kendrick was awarded a 2013 Lymphoma Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship award to support her research of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

The $105,000 grant will be used to support Dr. Kendrick’s ongoing research to determine the occurrence and clinical implications of various mechanisms for BCL2 and MYC oncogene over-expression in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most commonly diagnosed version of lymphoma, in order to identify patients that would benefit from targeted therapy.

“The project is two-fold,” Dr. Kendrick said. “We’re in the unique position to study high-risk patients, as well as to test new drugs that could target those key genes. This project takes us through the whole spectrum of identifying risk and trying to find a therapy for those patients.”

This isn’t Dr. Kendrick’s first major honor, either. In 2010, she was named the Student Technology Innovation Award winner. She was the first female recipient among either faculty or student top honorees in the program’s history. The Technology Innovation Award is given annually in recognition of exemplary innovative achievements in translating original ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace.

Dr. Kendrick’s cancer research also led to a major discovery in the BIO5 lab of Laurence Hurley, PhD, of a new class of drug receptors and a lead compound. Dr. Kendrick’s dissertation project, chemo-sensitization by modulation of BCL2 expression, provides a new molecular target for treatment of cancers such as lymphomas that have become resistant to chemotherapy.

Look for Dr. Kendrick to generate even more exciting, innovative research in the future.



Have fun. Be Fit. Fight Cancer. It’s time to live Better Than Ever.

Better Than Ever (BTE) is a grass-roots effort by The University of Arizona Cancer Center designed to encourage you to make fitness a regular part of life, and work to prevent cancer. On Saturday (Feb. 23), BTE begins its spring session at 10 a.m. at Brandi Fenton Park, Ramada G in Tucson.

Participants will meet their team leaders and fellow fitness enthusiasts, and kick off the season with a one-mile walk along the river path.

The Spring session is a 10-week running/walking training program that will keep you moving toward your fitness goals. BTE participants can take part in the 5.5-mile trail run/walk in Catalina State Park on April 6 and/or the Cinco de Mayo 10K on May 5. 

The registration fee is $10, and the suggested fundraising goal for this session is $100. Fill out the online registration form here, or visit arizonabte.org for more information.


Photo: UA College of Medicine – Phoenix

Thursday, Feb. 21, was a big day for cancer care in the state of Arizona. Ground was officially broken today on the new University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC) at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center/Dignity Health outpatient facility in downtown Phoenix.

The center, expected to open in 2015, will provide top-notch comprehensive cancer services. The UA Cancer Center is one of just 41 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. It is the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center headquartered in Arizona and serving the entire state through a network of affiliated health care organizations and community physicians.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart, Dignity Health CEO Linda Hunt, Arizona Diamondbacks President/CEO Derrick Hall, and UACC Director David Alberts, MD, were among those to attend Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

What we are witnessing today, it’s big,” Hall said.

Like the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix on Facebook to see photos from the groundbreaking event.

For up-to-date coverage on the project’s development, please visit phoenixcancercenter.org or follow @PhXCancerCenter on Twitter.



We’re proud to announce the release of our 11th issue of Act Against Cancer.

In the Winter 2013 edition, we highlight the construction of the University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center/Dignity Health outpatient clinic at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, with the most up-to-date renderings of the project, courtesy of ZGF Architecture, LLP. With the groundbreaking scheduled to take place on Thursday morning, this article serves as the perfect preview for what patients can expect.

On the research side, we talked to Karen Weihs, MD, the medical director for Supportive Care for Healing and Psychosocial Oncology at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. Dr. Weihs is among the leaders of the COPE-D project, which attempts to identify patients with depressive symptoms and intervene with biopsychosocial treatments as part of their comprehensive care.

We also discuss chemotherapy-related hearing loss with Abraham Jacob, MD, who has developed a procedure for patients who have suffered ototoxicity (damage to the inner ear from a chemotherapy agent) to prevent further hearing loss or perhaps even recover function.

That’s not all. The Winter 2013 issue of Act Against Cancer spotlights T’ai Chi instructor James Lofquist, UACC lymphoma expert Thomas P. Miller, MD (the recipient of this year’s Founders Day Award), as well as our Highlights In Giving.

Pick up a hard copy at any UACC clinical care facility, or at the upcoming Tucson Festival of Books. You can read the PDF version visiting our Publications page at the official UACC website.



University of Arizona Cancer Center researcher Philip H. Kuo, MD, PhD, appears in the latest issue of Radiology Today with a brief, but interesting essay regarding the need for improved diagnostics for cancer patients, but he hints at a larger point for the future of cancer care.

As “targeted therapy” becomes the norm for cancer treatment, the work that goes into diagnosing the patient must be at least as personalized, if not more so.

Dr. Kuo, a member of the UACC’s cancer imaging program, describes it as “companion diagnostics,” which is a concept that plays off the rapidly expanding field of biomarker research — the key molecular or cellular events that link a specific environmental exposure to a health outcome.

“The increasing interest in developing targeted therapies has created a need for companion diagnostics, including noninvasive imaging companion diagnostics, which potentially confer treatment advantages that ultimately benefit patients as well as the healthcare system overall,” Kuo writes.

Dr. Kuo’s essay is written for a scientific research audience, so the language is highly specific and technical. But the larger ideas raised here could provide a glimpse into what patients can expect prior to receiving treatment.

“While companion diagnostics often are based on genetic markers found in histological samples,” Kuo adds, “companion imaging diagnostics that noninvasively identify biomarkers have advantages that may benefit patient treatment.”

• Companion Imaging Diagnostics for Targeted Therapies (Radiology Today, Feb. 18, 2013)



Do you have six seconds to spare? Perhaps you might be interested in learning about major scientific innovations.

The folks at Science Magazine (@ScienceNOW on Twitter) are issuing a challenge to all researchers: “Can you explain your research in six seconds?”

At the AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, many of the world’s top scientific minds are attempting to boil down their work to its essence. Six seconds isn’t a very long time, so there isn’t room for impossible-to-pronounce words or hard-to-grasp concepts.

The researchers are using the popular new social media program Vine to record their explanations and tagging them #6SecSci on Twitter. Here is one example.

This is a fascinating idea that could help clarify important scientific discoveries, while using social media in fun, innovative ways. Let’s hope we continue to see more of these.

• Six-Second Science (#6SecSci) (Science Magazine, Feb. 13, 2013)


John Farley, MD

Big news out of Phoenix, as researchers at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix have a breakthrough study appearing in the Feb. 14 edition of the Lancet Oncology.

The researchers discovered that “many women with low-grade serous carcinoma of the ovary or peritoneum have seen their tumors stabilize or shrink after taking a regular dose of the compound selumetinib.”

The findings show that selumetinib targets a mutation in the MAPK pathway for patients with low-grade serous carcinoma, allowing for treatment on previously chemoresistant tumors.

“This is a potentially important breakthrough for the Gynecologic Oncology Group,” said John Farley, MD, a gynecologic oncologist in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Creighton University School of Medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, a Dignity Health Member.

Dr. Farley is part of the University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s and is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology with a subspecialty certification in gynecologic oncology. He is the first author on this study.

This study was initially developed in 2007, with 52 patients enrolled for the Phase II clinical trial between December 2007 and November 2009. Patients were given 50 milligrams of selumetinib orally twice daily. Of those participants, eight had a measurable decrease in tumor size, seven had partial responses and 34 patients saw their tumors stabilize. The findings suggest that inhibitors of the MAPK pathway warrant further investigation in patients with low-grade ovarian cancer.

“There just aren’t very good treatments for low-grade ovarian cancer, so this discovery opens up a lot of new exciting possibilities for us,” Dr. Farley said.

Please visit the official UA Cancer Center website for the full story.

• New drug for low-grade ovarian cancer identified (Dublin News, NewsTrack India, Feb. 15, 2013)
• Breakthrough In Treatment Of Ovarian Cancer Discovered (Eurasia Review, Feb. 15, 2013)
• Researchers discover breakthrough in ovarian cancer (Medical Xpress, Feb. 15, 2013)



This should be the start of something big.

On Saturday, Feb. 9, folks in the Phoenix area are invited to take part in the D-backs Race Against Cancer” presented by the University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s and the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix.

The inaugural event has already drawn more than 5,000 registrants, including some current and former Diamondbacks’ managers and players.

“They have over 5,000 signed up for a first-year event which is really, really high attendance,” said David Brachman, MD, the medical director of the Radiation Oncology Department at the UA Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s. “It’s very helpful to have the Diamondbacks be the sponsoring agency. I’ve been to first-year runs for equally good causes and there were one-tenth of the attendees, so I think they are clearly throwing some muscle behind this.”

The 5K Run and Family Fun 1K Walk will begin and end at Chase Field. 5K runners will start at 8 a.m., with fun-runners taking off at 9:30. Entry includes a commemorative T-shirt, a complimentary ticket to the D-backs vs. Rockies game at Chase Field on April 26.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and will be distributed to Arizona non-profits that provide screening, treatment and support for those dealing with cancer.

According to MLB.com, “Third-base coach Matt Williams, bench coach Alan Trammell, pitching coach Charles Nagy, first-base coach Steve Sax and bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock will take part in the 5K run, while manager Kirk Gibson will be limited to the Family Fun 1K Walk due to recent shoulder surgery.”

Cancer has hit home for the D-backs over the past couple of years, especially when popular team president and CEO Derrick Hall was diagnosed with prostate cancer late during the 2011 season. Managing general partner Ken Kendrick is a longtime prostate cancer survivor.

“Some of our friends and front-office people have been affected by cancer of all kinds and this is an opportunity to do what we can to help raise a little bit of money for the research and for the fight,” Williams said.

Find a course map and registration information here.

• Coaches doing their part in Race Against Cancer (MLB.com, Feb. 8, 2013)



There is more information available to cancer patients and survivors now than at any other point in history. That means there is more misinformation, myths, half-truths, and outright lies available, too.

How is anyone supposed to know what information to take seriously, and what should be ignored?

The fine folks at Cancer.net have set up a useful “Cancer Myths” FAQ to help folks separate fact from fiction. In addition to checking with doctors/nurses you trust, this FAQ page contains a useful set of common-sense tactics to help guide you through the maze of cancer information available online.

Here are a few examples:

MYTH: If you are diagnosed with cancer, you will probably die.

Cancer is not a death sentence. Advances in cancer detection and treatment have increased survival rates for most common types of cancer. In fact, more than 60% of people with cancer survive five years or more after their initial diagnosis. Learn more about cancer survivorship.

MYTH: Drug companies, the government, and the medical establishment are hiding a cure for cancer.

The medical community is not withholding a miracle treatment. The fact is, there will not be a single cure for cancer. Hundreds of types of cancer exist, and they respond differently to various types of treatment. In the past five years, research has shown that even common cancers like breast cancer and lung cancer contain many more genetic changes than originally thought, which makes it even more challenging to come up with effective treatments. There is still much to learn, which is why clinical trials continue to be essential for making progress in preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer.

MYTH: Cancer treatment is usually worse than the disease.

Although cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy are known to cause side effects that can be unpleasant and sometimes serious, recent advances have resulted in many chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments that are much better tolerated than in the past. As a result, symptoms like severe nausea and vomiting, hair loss, and tissue damage are much less common these days; however, managing side effects remains an important part of cancer care. This approach, called palliative or supportive care, can help a person at any stage of illness. In fact, people who receive both treatment for the cancer and treatment to ease side effects at the same time often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report they are more satisfied with treatment. Learn more about palliative care.

• Cancer Myths (Cancer.net, updated Feb. 5, 2013)