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2019: Cedars-Sinai Cancer Investigators Pioneer Research, Therapies

Cedars-Sinai Cancer drove major advances in cancer research in 2019 and garnered national recognition for excellence.

The cancer center's ranking in the U.S. News & World Report's "Best Hospitals of 2019-20" cancer category jumped to 12 nationally, from 41 the year before. The publication's rankings are based on patient outcomes, patient safety, technology and reputation, among other measures.

"It is incredibly gratifying to see this public recognition of the hard work and dedication of the cancer center's clinicians, researchers and staff," said Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of Cedars-Sinai Cancer and a prominent bladder cancer researcher. "I am honored to continue to lead all of the exceptional people here."

Other 2019 highlights include:

  • Immunotherapy: A study led by Theodorescu identified a drug that potentially could make a common type of immunotherapy for cancer even more effective. Published in ScienceAdvances, the mouse study revealed that a drug approved by the FDA to treat certain types of leukemia greatly enhances responses to a form of immunotherapy that is used against a wide range of other cancers.
  • Ovarian Cancer: Cedars-Sinai scientists—along with colleagues from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA—newly identified 34 genes associated with an increased risk for developing the earliest stages of ovarian cancer. The findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics, will help identify women who are at highest risk of developing ovarian cancer and pave the way for identifying new therapies that can target these specific genes. The study was co-led by Simon Gayther, PhD, director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics, and Kate Lawrenson, PhD, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai.
  • Pancreatic Cancer: A scientific team led by Cedars-Sinai investigators was awarded $10 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to study risk factors and behaviors that contribute to pancreatic diseases and to develop potential treatments and lifestyle recommendations to prevent them. "We hope our study projects will reveal how certain types of pancreatitis develop in patients, due to lifestyle factors such as alcohol abuse and smoking, and use our enhanced understanding to develop new experimental therapeutics to prevent the development of pancreatic cancers," said Stephen J. Pandol, MD, director of Basic and Translational Pancreas Research at Cedars-Sinai.
  • Health Equity: An article published in Discoveries magazine focused on Cedars-Sinai studies that are examining the high cancer death rate among Korean Americans, the growing incidence of liver cancer in the Latino population and additional health disparities in the LGBTQ+ and other communities. The Cedars-Sinai Research Center for Health Equity is front and center in investigating the environmental, cultural and genetic factors that influence why certain populations—defined by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status—have higher rates of cancer and other diseases than other groups.
  • Breast Cancer: Cedars-Sinai radiologist Peter J. Julien, MD, chief of Thoracic Imaging and Tumor Ablation, performed the first cryoablation procedure for breast cancer at Cedars-Sinai. The procedure – which uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells and close off the blood vessels that feed them – is offered to women with small, low-risk breast tumors as an alternative to breast surgery. Julien and Cedars-Sinai breast medical oncologist Heather McArthur, MD, are planning clinical trials to further study the procedure.
  • Ovarian Cancer: Skilled diagnostic teamwork at Cedars-Sinai resulted in the surgical removal of a 25-pound cancerous ovarian tumor from a Los Angeles-area woman whose escalating abdominal symptoms had been dismissed for seven months by her outside physician. Doctor dismissals of women's physical symptoms as "all in your head" are nothing new to Bobbie J. Rimel, MD, a researcher and assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai and the patient's gynecologic surgeon and oncologist. "Physician bias based on physical appearance, ethnicity and gender often delays cancer diagnoses and treatment," Rimel said. "These disparities in healthcare break my heart."

Read more about lifestyle and cancer on the Cedars-Sinai blog: Lifestyle and Cancer: Understanding the Connection