Finding the Best Targets for Precision Cancer Treatment

cancer research

The inner world of a cancerous tumor is a place of intense rivalry, subversion, and aggression. Multiple subgroups of malignant cells – each with its own pattern of molecular features – vie with one another for nutrients, access to the blood supply, and room to grow and spread. This diversity, or “heterogeneity,” complicates efforts to develop drugs that target the abnormal proteins in tumor cells. With so many subsets of cancer cells to choose from, how can researchers know which ones represent the tumor’s Achilles’ heel – the ones that are the tumor’s greatest vulnerability? Researchers generally assumed that these …

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Cancer and Alcohol: What You Should Know

alcohol, wine, cancer

Questions often arise about the relationship between alcohol and cancer: Does it increase cancer risk? Is it safe to drink while in treatment? What about after treatment? Several studies have linked alcohol consumption to a higher risk of many cancers, including breast, mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, and colon and rectum. The risk rises with the amount of alcohol consumed. Worldwide, 3.6 percent of all cancer cases and 3.5 percent of cancer deaths are caused by alcohol consumption, according to a 2006 study. The type of beverage doesn’t matter – the culprit is the alcohol itself. Many studies have specifically …

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How to Help Your Child Stay in School During Cancer Treatment

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For kindergartners through teenagers, it’s back-to-school time. And while this annual rite of passage is often met with groans, for children undergoing cancer treatment, this can be a welcome change – provided you properly prepare. “School serves as a normalizing experience for kids with cancer, because it’s what their peer group is doing,” says Lisa Northman, PhD, a staff psychologist in the School Liaison Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “It’s important for them to know that even in the midst of their treatment, there is a life available to them outside the hospital. They should participate …

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Women Cross Globe to Run for Dana-Farber

Paris Marathon, DFMC

“Go Dana-Farber!” Clad in her brightly-colored team singlet, Sigrid Wheatley loved hearing shouts of encouragement while running the B.A.A. Half Marathon® in Boston last October in support of Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. When she took on her first full marathon for the same beneficiary this April, she heard the cheers again – and even some shouts of “Go Red Sox!” – only this time the personalized support surprised her. After all, she was running the streets of Paris. “There must have been a lot of Americans in the crowd, or they were being friendly when they saw ‘Dana-Farber’ across …

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A Special Curriculum: Teachers Tell Their Students About Cancer

lymphoma, teaching

Gina Johnson and Connie Grayson have a combined 53 years teaching in the public school system. Last year, however, their cancer diagnoses prompted them to incorporate a new element into their lesson plans. “When I was diagnosed with lymphoma in September 2014, one of my student’s moms had just passed away from cancer,” says Grayson, a fourth-grade teacher at the Arthur T. Cummings Elementary School in Winthrop, Mass. “I wanted to teach my students about cancer and let them know that not everyone who has cancer dies from it.” Grayson gathered books and videos to help explain her diagnosis to …

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A Life-Saving Bridal Shower

bridal shower blood drive

Before Alden Coldwell and her fiancé, Peter Dearborn, were married in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire at the end of June, the couple opted for a different kind of bridal shower. On June 14, family and friends of the bride and groom gathered at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center in Boston to give blood instead of material gifts. The blood collected was donated to help save the lives of patients at Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We’ve never done anything quite like this,” says Malissa Lichtenwalter, supervisor for donor recruitment at the Kraft Center. “But we are …

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What Older Women Should Know About Breast Cancer

Pat Kartiganer and Eric Winer

American women have a 12 percent lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, the second most common cancer in women. While young women do get breast cancer, the disease is much more common in women aged 60 and older. Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, explains what older women should know about breast cancer: Menopause can impact breast cancer risk. The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and the age at which a woman enters menopause can also impact her risk. A woman who enters menopause …

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Five Tips for Facing a Rare Cancer

rare cancer, becky sail

By Becky Sail At age 22, I was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma called aggressive angiomyxoma – say that 10 times fast. When my parents and I got the news we asked the doctor, “Is it cancer?” He responded, “That is a complicated question.” He said he had never seen it before and I needed to get to New York or Boston – there were only 250 reported cases in the world, ever. Fortunately, my job relocated me to Boston and I was able to choose Dana-Farber for my care, which I am so grateful for. I have always faced …

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Childhood Cancer and the Promise of Gene Therapy

gene therapy

At its most basic level, gene therapy is a powerful technique for correcting mistakes (called mutations) in DNA of human cells. Lately, the therapy has been gaining traction as a potentially life-saving treatment for children with an array of inherited rare blood and immune disorders, as well as certain cancers. Gene therapies are being carefully tested in clinical trials, using improved, safer DNA delivery methods to reduce the risk of complications: some patients in earlier trials developed leukemia when treated with previous “vectors” – engineered viruses that transfer copies of normally functioning genes into cells of ill patients.  So far, …

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Stem Cell Transplant Donor, Recipient Meet for First Time at Fenway Park

stem cell transplant, fenway

After trying chemotherapy to fight acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive blood cancer, Donnie Lewis, a 56-year-old husband and father of two from Canton, Mass., learned that his best chance to return to health would be through a stem cell transplant. Because Donnie didn’t have any siblings who were a match for this procedure, his care team had to search national registries for a lifesaving donor match. They found one person who was a perfect match: Daniel Alcantor, a 21-year-old Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Alcantor donated the stem cells that saved Lewis’s life. Lewis and Alcantor, …

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