Dancing for the kids

When DanceBlue started at the University of Kentucky more than 11 years ago, the group’s goal was simple: bring UK students and staff together to help support children and families fighting childhood cancer.

To say the group has been successful would be an understatement. Since it started, DanceBlue has raised more than $8.2 million for our pediatric oncology clinic at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital. And this weekend, they’ll add to that total.

The DanceBlue Marathon, which starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Coliseum, is a 24-hour, no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon that culminates in the group announcing how much money it’s raised in the last year. At the 2015 marathon, DanceBlue celebrated raising more than $1.5 million.

That money benefits children and families being treated at the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic – named in honor of the group.

The marathon is open to the public from start to finish but only dancers are allowed on the floor of Memorial Coliseum. Family and friends of dancers are welcome and encouraged to come support their loved ones.

If you’re interested in supporting DanceBlue, join us this weekend! Our dancers, children and families would love your support.

For more information about DanceBlue, registration information or to support its efforts, visit www.danceblue.org.

The DanceBlue Marathon benefits the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic


Next steps:

  • Read about R.J. Hijalda, a UK freshman dancing in this year’s marathon, who was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma as a freshman in high school.
  • Learn more about the DanceBlue Clinic at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.
  • Connect with DanceBlue on Facebook and Twitter. Use #FTK (For the Kids) to show your support.
The Markey Cancer Center joined a national movement encouraging people to get HPV vaccines.

Get the facts about the HPV vaccine

On Wednesday, the UK Markey Cancer Center, along with 68 of the nation’s top cancer centers, issued a statement urging young people in the U.S. to get a vaccination against the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

HPV, which is sexually transmitted, is responsible for about 27,000 new cancer cases in the U.S. each year, causing nearly all cervical and anal cancers and also the majority of throat and vaginal cancers, too.

Luckily, the HPV vaccine offers substantial protection against this threat. Unfortunately, not enough people are taking advantage of this rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer.

In Kentucky, only about 37 percent of girls and 13 percent of boys complete the vaccination schedule, leaving a significant portion of the population at risk. That’s why Markey and others are calling upon the physicians, parents and young adults to learn more about the benefit of receiving the HPV vaccine.

“Although we have made progress in the past several years, Kentucky continues to rank first in the nation for both cancer incidence and mortality,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the UK Markey Cancer Center. “We are still in the top 10 nationally for cervical cancer deaths, and increasing the HPV vaccination rates will significantly lower this grim statistic.”

The HPV vaccine offers substantial protection against various cancers but experts say not enough people are taking advantage of it.

Understanding the benefits of the HPV vaccine might convince you that it’s right for you or someone you know.

The HPV vaccine protects against more than cervical cancer.

The vaccine actually protects against several types of cancer. It does so by targeting certain strains of HPV. These infections are spread through sexual contact. They can cause genital warts. But most cause no symptoms and go away without treatment.

Some HPV infections may linger for years in your body. These viruses may damage cells, eventually causing cancer. The HPV vaccine prevents those strains responsible for the majority of cervical cancers. It may also prevent HPV infections that lead to cancers of the throat, anus, penis and vagina.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys, girls, young men and young women.

In 2006, health experts recommended the HPV vaccine for females ages 9 to 26. But its potential to prevent other cancers besides that of the cervix made it appropriate for boys and young men, too. Doctors now encourage males ages 9 to 26 to also receive the vaccine.

Two types of HPV vaccine are available. They are Gardasil and Cervarix. Gardasil is approved for use in both sexes. Cervarix is only for girls and young women. Ideally, three doses of either vaccine are given over a 6-month period at ages 11 or 12 before any sexual activity.

The HPV vaccine is effective.

The HPV vaccine may not protect against all HPV infections that may promote cancer. But it can substantially lower the risk. In a recent study, researchers compared the HPV history of more than 4,000 women ages 14 to 59 over two 4-year periods. Those timeframes included 2003 to 2006—before the HPV vaccine became available—and 2007 to 2010—after it was in use. They found that the vaccine cut in half the number of HPV infections in girls ages 14 to 19.

The HPV vaccine is safe.

Past research including nearly 60,000 participants has confirmed the vaccine’s safety. But like all vaccines, side effects are possible. Most are minor. They may include pain and redness at the injection site, fever, dizziness or nausea. Some people have fainted after receiving the shot. In rare cases, blood clots and Guillain-Barré syndrome — a disorder that weakens muscles — have been reported.

Women who receive the HPV vaccine should still schedule regular Pap tests.

Pap tests detect abnormal cells in the cervix. They alert your doctor to potential cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine may prevent future HPV infections, but it doesn’t treat pre-existing ones. It also doesn’t prevent all types of cervical cancer. For these reasons, women should still schedule regular Pap tests.

Next steps:

  • If you or someone you love is interested in receiving the HPV vaccine, schedule an appointment with the Markey Cancer Center online or at 859-323-5553.
  • Read a blog by Dr. Hatim Omar, chief of the Adolescent Medicine at UK HealthCare, about the importance of including the HPV vaccine in all young adults’ health care plans.
  • Learn more about the Gynecologic Oncology Team at the Markey Cancer Center

Immunotherapy offers new hope for cancer treatment

Back in December, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter surprised the nation by announcing that he no longer had any traces of cancer in his system, just a few months after announcing a frightening stage IV melanoma diagnosis.

So what led to his surprising good news? A specific type of cancer treatment called immunotherapy.

8 tips to beat cancer-related appetite loss

8 tips to fight cancer-related appetite loss

Patients receiving cancer treatment need to meet their nutritional requirements in order to maintain energy for treatment completion, healing and recovery.

Coping with cancer-related treatments and their side effects, however, can make maintaining good nutrition a challenge for even the most health-conscious patients.

One of the most common side effects during cancer treatment is experiencing loss of appetite, and this loss of appetite is the most common cause of malnutrition, which can delay treatment, lead to hospitalization and poor health outcomes.

Appetite loss can occur for many reasons, including the presence of disease, pain, stress, fatigue, surgery and such side effects of chemo and radiation treatments as nausea, vomiting or change in taste.

Appetite loss can occur during any cancer stage, as well as throughout the duration of treatment. The patient may eat significantly less, does not have a desire to eat or feels full very quickly, resulting in the inability to achieve enough calories throughout the day.

Regardless of the cause or type of appetite loss, it is essential to begin management right away.  Some of the following nutritional tips can help manage or alleviate poor appetite:

  1. Eat five to six small meals throughout the day to avoid feeling too full too quickly.
  2. Keep your favorite foods handy for snacking when you do feel hungry.
  3. Go for a walk to get light exercise to boost your appetite.
  4. Sip your liquids at mealtime and drink more fluids between meals so you don’t fill up early and end up consuming less calories.
  5. Try more nutritionally dense food choices such as peanut butter, nuts, eggs, chicken salad, avocados, cheese, smoothies or milkshakes when it is difficult to eat.
  6. Eat meals in a relaxed environment with family and friends.
  7. Have ready-to-eat or pre-made meals convenient for when your appetite has increased.
  8. Talk to a dietitian for nutrition and meal planning advice.

The following recipe offers calorie-dense and nutritious foods – before, during or after your treatments. Feel free to share it with a friend!

Pink breakfast smoothie

Total Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 2-4


  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • ½ cup oats
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. almonds
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup milk (almond, soy, or cow’s)
  • Handful of ice


  1. Combine all ingredients to a blender. Cover with lid and blend until ice is broken up, smooth, and at desired consistency.
  2. Serve and enjoy!

337 calories, 33g carbohydrates, 19g fat, 9g protein, 209mg sodium, 19g sugar

Smoothie recipe retrieved from:


By Guest Blogger, Rachel Flanery, University of Kentucky Dietetics and Human Nutrition student

Winter cherry plant extract, may hold promise as a new treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

UK study says plant extract shows promise against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

A University of Kentucky study shows that withaferin A, a component of Withania somnifera (winter cherry) plant extract, may hold promise as a new treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Winter cherry extract was used in traditional Ayurvedic Indian medicine for thousands of years before it caught the interest of Subbarao Bondada, a University of Kentucky College of Medicine professor and researcher for the UK Markey Cancer Center. Because withaferin A shows promise in treating other cancers without the side effects associated with current treatments, Bondada’s laboratory tested it against lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in the U.S. and is known for being particularly aggressive.

Unlike other studies using withaferin A to treat cancer, Bondada’s study, published in the journal Cancer Biology and Therapy, is the first to test the chemical against a blood cancer. Previous studies using withaferin A focused on cancers producing tumors that grow as a mass in tissue, more commonly known as solid tumors.

Katie McKenna, a graduate student in Bondada’s laboratory, found that withaferin A prevented the lymphoma cells from dividing and ultimately killed them. Specifically, they found withaferin A directly targeted a signaling pathway in the cancer it needs to survive.

“It may be possible to develop orally administered versions of withaferin A that could be used in lymphoma patients with fewer side effects than current chemotherapy regimens,” Bondada said.

Because withaferin A shows promise in treating non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Bondada’s team is now testing the chemical on chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells.

Bondada’s group collaborated with University of Louisville Professor Ramesh Gupta, who aided in the isolation of withaferin A.

This work was funded by the National Cancer Institute to the UK Markey Cancer Center, the National Institutes of Health, Office of Vice President for Research for Core Research facilities and the Sabinsa Corporation and does not necessarily represent the views of these institutions.


Turmeric – for color, flavor and health!

Adding new flavors and seasonings to our foods can pull us out of a flavor rut, jolt tired taste buds and offer healthful benefits.

Turmeric, a spice found often in Middle Eastern dishes, brightens with both color and flavor.  Its yellow color comes from the component in the spice called curcumin, a polyphenol, or type of antioxidant – and one that is being studied for its possible anticancer properties and anti-inflammatory effects. Research is also exploring the role curcumin may play in inhibition of tumor cell growth.

Turmeric is available at most grocery stores and can be used in many entrees and side dishes for a unique flavor with orange and ginger hints. Try this recipe for a change of pace, and hold the cayenne if you don’t like it spicy!  Try serving it with a side of whole grain rice or a green salad.

Shrimp with Mango & Basil

From Eating Well:  February/March 2005, The Eating Well Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook (2006)

Makes: 4 servings, 1 cup each
Active Time: 15 minutes (if using peeled shrimp)
Total Time: 45 minutes


  • 1 pound raw shrimp, (21-25 per pound), peeled and deveined, tails left on
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large ripe, firm mango, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see Tip)
  • 1 bunch scallions, green tops only, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped


  1. Toss shrimp with salt, cayenne to taste and turmeric in a medium bowl. Cover; refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; place the shrimp in a single layer and cook until the undersides turn salmon-pink, about 1 minute. Flip them over and cook for 1 minute more.
  3. Add mango, scallion greens and basil and cook, stirring, until the shrimp is just cooked and starts to barely curl, 1 to 2 minutes.


Per serving: 183 calories; 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 3 g monounsaturated fat); 168 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 20 g protein; 3 g fiber; 352 mg sodium; 478 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (57% daily value), Vitamin A (30% daily value), Iron (20% daily value).

Join us Aug. 26 for a smoothie demonstration

Smoothie Day — Aug. 26

Join us at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 26 for a smoothie demonstration and free samples! This is a free event.

Learn how to make a healthy and delicious smoothie, while trying tasty samples.

Location: 306 Whitney-Hendrickson Building, Psych-Oncology Services


Adolescent health care plan should include HPV vaccine

For women younger than 40, cervical cancer is among the leading causes of cancer-related death. With modern vaccines to protect against the underlying cause, human papilloma virus (HPV), cervical cancer is also one of the most preventable types of cancers.

As a society, we have the opportunity to wipe out or significantly reduce a disease by vaccinating the population. Still, many American health care providers and families aren’t getting their children and teens vaccinated, and our youth are suffering the consequences.

Cervical cancer, as well as cancers of the throat, penis, rectum, vulva and mouth, can develop from changes in cells caused by HPV. Since the FDA approved the first versions of the HPV vaccine in 2006, nearly 7 billion doses have been administered worldwide. HPV continues to spread because of a national resistance to accepting the vaccine as part of standard preventive care.

Because of social stigmas surrounding HPV vaccinations, only around 30 percent of men and women under the age of 25 have been vaccinated in both Kentucky and nationwide. Only 27 percent of women between the ages 13 to 17 have received the recommended dosages of the HPV vaccine. Many health care providers and parents view these vaccinations as elective or irrelevant unless a youth is sexually active. In reality, HPV can be transmitted a number of ways, including from a mother to a child during delivery. Statistics show most people will contract one form of the virus at some point in their lives.

Until 2014, the two vaccination options were Gardasil 4 and Cervarix, both of which protect against HPV strains 16 and 18 or the strains responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers and Gardasil 4 also protects against 90 percent of genital warts (Strains 6 & 11). Last year, Gardasil 9 entered the market targeting strains 16 and 18, as well as five additional strains, covering HPV types responsible for almost 90 percent of cervical cancers. The vaccine also protects against HPV strains 6 and 11, which cause genital warts.

Parents and adolescent providers must seize the opportunity to vaccinate their youth before infection occurs. Countries that provided massive free vaccination such as Australia have experienced a 70 percent drop in cervical cancer rates, as well as other cancers associated with HPV.

Next time you visit your pediatrician or adolescent health provider, insist on including an HPV vaccine in your child’s preventive health care plan. Both boys and girls should be vaccinated. The vaccine is safe and effective, and prevents 70 to 90 percent of the disease. As a parent, doing everything in your capacity to protect your child from harm means making the decision to get the HPV vaccine — the only certain way to prevent these forms of cancer.

Dr. Hatim Omar

Dr. Hatim Omar

Dr. Hatim Omar is the chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

Drs. Evers, Smyth discuss personalized medicine

The past decade, Dr. Mark Evers says, has been a revolution.

Thanks to advances in personalized medicine over the past 10 years, Evers says patients today receive treatments that are better tailored to their genetic makeup and specific medical history. Evers, the director of the UK Markey Cancer Center, along with Dr. Susan Smyth, director of the Gill Heart Institute, appeared Sunday on KET’s One to One to discuss personalized medicine.

“Really it has been the last 10 years, I would say, that the revolution has occurred,” Evers said. “I’ve been in this business treating patients for 20 years and now is such an exciting time to be practicing medicine, to be doing research.”

In a wide-ranging conversation with KET’s Bill Goodman, Evers and Smyth discussed how personalized medicine is changing the landscape of cancer and cardiovascular treatments.

Check out some highlights from the interview and be sure to watch full video below.

Smyth on defining personalized medicine

Personalized or precision medicine really means taking as much information about one individual as possible to be able to tailor specific treatments or preventative strategies toward them. So it’s taking their genetic information, taking information from environmental exposures they may have had and putting all of that together in a package that really chooses for that one particular person a best treatment or preventive strategy.

Evers on the pace of personalized treatment advances

I’ve been in this business treating patients for 20 years and now is such an exciting time to be practicing medicine, to be doing research. Because 20 years ago, if a 35-year-old lady came in with colon cancer, she’d be treated the same way as an 85-year-old gentleman. We were very limited in terms of drugs, but it’s only been within the last 10 years, I would say, that there’s been an explosion of techniques, technologies that really have allowed us to … identify biomarkers to be able to treat patients differently.

Drs. Mark Evers, Susan Smyth set to appear on KET on Sunday

UK HealthCare’s Dr. Mark Evers and Dr. Susan Smyth will appear on KET’s One To One with Bill Goodman on Sunday afternoon.

Evers, the director of the Markey Cancer Center, and Smyth, the director of the Gill Heart Institute, will discuss personalized medicine using genomics.

Tune in at 1 p.m. on Sunday, and check back here on Monday for a recap.