Archive for Dana-Farber

The War on Cancer, 40 years later

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Friday, December 23, marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a national “War on Cancer.”

On that date in 1971, Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, which allocated $1.5 billion over three years for cancer research and control. He declared, “I hope that in the years ahead we may look back on this day and this action as being the most significant action taken during this Administration.”

Forty years later, the War on Cancer can claim countless successes against one of the most resilient and recalcitrant enemies mankind has faced.

Some cancers that were once almost invariably fatal, such as pediatric leukemia, are now cured in the vast majority of cases. In kidney cancer, the five-year survival rate – the percentage of patients alive five years after diagnosis – has increased from about 50 percent in 1971 to more than 70 percent today. In colon cancer, the rate has increased from 52 to more than 66 percent over the same time period. Death rates for cancers of the breast, liver, lung, prostate, and several other organs and tissues have been declining for the past 10-20 years.

At Dana-Farber, we take special pride in the progress of the War on Cancer because our founder, Sidney Farber, MD, was one of the key figures in mobilizing support for it.

As a frequent speaker before Congressional subcommittees, he described the burden of cancer on patients and their families – and the promise of research – in a way that captured the imagination both of legislators and the public at large.

Dr. Sidney Farber (far left) was a White House guest of Pat (second from right) and President Richard Nixon after the president declared his “War on Cancer” and passed the National Cancer Act of 1971. When the president appointed a National Cancer Advisory Board the following March, Dr. Farber was granted a four-year term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With philanthropist and activist Mary Lasker, Dr. Farber was instrumental in creating the national will to fund and lead an unprecedented commitment to the defeat of cancer. Author and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, has described the campaign in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

In 1971, no one was under the illusion that the War on Cancer would be easily or quickly won. At the signing ceremony of the National Cancer Act, Nixon remarked, “We would not want to raise false hopes by simply the signing of an Act,” and time has borne out the complexity of the challenge that cancer represents.

Despite all the strides over the past 40 years, cancer remains one of the biggest health challenges we face. The good news is that advances in the understanding of cancer at the basic, molecular level have positioned us to make even greater progress in the years ahead.

Blood cancer research may lead to new treatments

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At this year’s American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting, Dana-Farber scientists presented major findings that could one day improve diagnosis and treatment of blood cancers, extend life, or even cure some diseases.

Among the highlights:

Steven Treon, MD, PhD, and his colleagues identified a gene mutation that underlies the vast majority of cases of Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia, a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The results suggest that new, effective treatments are now possible for people with Waldenström’s. Read more about Dr. Treon’s Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia research breakthrough.

Catherine J. Wu, MD, co-led investigators who discovered nine new gene mutations that could help doctors predict if and how chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) will progress, and lead to new treatments for CLL. Take a closer look at Dr. Wu’s CLL research.

Corey Cutler, MD, MPH, and his colleagues reported on a new clinical trial that may improve the ability of stem cells from umbilical cord blood to take root in patients receiving a stem cell transplant more quickly and with a higher degree of success. Learn more about Dr. Cutler’s stem cell transplant clinical trial.

Breast cancer specialist discusses treatment advances

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Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD, a Dana-Farber breast cancer specialist, discusses some of the important studies presented at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The five-day meeting includes more than 1,000 scientific presentations, seminars, and posters, with a focus on emerging treatments in hard-to-treat populations, patients with metastatic breast cancer, and breast cancer prevention and risk.

Around 8,000 breast cancer experts from 90 countries are attending the symposium to learn about the latest developments in breast cancer care and research.