Health: Stand Up To Cancer Money Is Helping Local Leukemia Patients Survive The Disease

September 14, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)  Stand Up To Cancer is back in the spotlight.  The show is returning to prime time this Friday on CBS to raise money and awareness for cancer research. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on how the money raised is helping leukemia patients right here in Philadelphia thanks to promising therapies.

Nora George is looking forward to growing old with her husband Anthony, and watching her grandchildren grow up.

But less than two years ago she wasn’t sure that would be possible, after doctors told her she had acute myeloid leukemia.

“He said Nora I would give you three months with this. And then it was just like, I just started crying because you have a family and all,” said Nora. She didn’t respond to standard treatment. But an experimental drug called SGI-110 gave her hope.

“We saw very early on some spectacular successes,” said Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa, researcher at the Fox Chase-Temple Bone Marrow Transplant Program. He along with Dr. Trish Kropf at the Program are testing the next generation of epigenetic therapy, using genes to fight cancer. It’s being funded by Stand Up To Cancer.

“We’re looking essentially to clean up the DNA, not just kill the cell. The need is huge, and the response has been dramatic,” said Dr. Kropf…

NOVA | Ghost in Your Genes | Epigentic Therapy | PBS

January 7, 2007
The best example of an epigenetic phenomenon is the face, says Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa (above). Skin, eyes, teeth, and hair all look different, but they contain exactly the same genetic information.


For decades, scientists and doctors assumed that cancer was caused by irreversible damage to some critical stretch of DNA within one’s genome. But in the last few years, a much more complex picture has emerged, one that shows that some cancers are caused by epigenetic changes—tiny chemical tags that accumulate over time and can turn genes on or off. Unlike genetic damage, epigenetic changes can sometimes be reversed, and with treatments that are far less toxic to the patient. In this interview, hear from Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, whose pioneering clinical work with a form of leukemia known as MDS is showing the promise of epigenetic therapy.


Q: What is epigenetics, and how does it relate to cancer?

Jean-Pierre Issa: Perhaps the best example of an epigenetic phenomenon—you’re actually looking at it. You see, skin and eyes and teeth and hair and organs all have exactly the same DNA. You cannot genetically tell my skin from my eyes or my teeth. Yet these are very different cells. They behave differently. And that behavior remains the same for as long as I live.

That difference, not being genetic, has been termed epigenetic. It is a difference that is not due strictly to genetic changes but to the way we utilize these genes. And so the same process that can cause such a profound difference that one tissue looks like skin and one tissue looks like eye could actually cause less profound changes that result in cancer.