Bringing cancer care to Rwanda

By Lawrence Shulman, MD Dana-Farber, with our partners Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, offers patients highly advanced treatments in modern facilities. Our patients also benefit from an excellent staff, clinical research, and extensive resources, and many of them survive cancer to live long and healthy lives. Is it fair, then, that cancer remains a death sentence elsewhere in the world? In Rwanda, for example, a country of 10 million people, cancer care has been completely unavailable to almost all patients. They die of cancers that could have been cured in Boston.

3 cancer drugs raise risk of fatal side effects

Treatment with three relatively new “targeted” cancer drugs has been linked to a slightly elevated chance of fatal side effects, according to a new analysis led by scientists at Dana-Farber. The study looked at three drugs: sorafenib (Nexavar), sunitinib (Sutent), and pazopanib (Votrient). Sorafenib is approved to treat kidney and liver cancer, sunitinib to treat kidney cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), and pazopanib to treat kidney cancer. Dr. Toni Choueiri, the lead author of the study, says that patients should be aware of the risks and speak with their doctor.

World Cancer Day: Tips for prevention

As we recognize World Cancer Day today, it’s important to remember that one-third of cancer deaths worldwide are tied to lifestyle and diet, making them largely preventable. Dr. Judy Garber, director of Dana-Farber’s Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention, provides some perspective, and highlights some of the steps individuals can take to reduce their cancer risk.    

When Doctors Encounter Diseases without Names

The complicated meaty machine that is the human body can break down in a remarkable variety of ways. The 9th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) includes more than 16,000 afflictions – everything from the bite of a venomous tropical millipede to injury by falling spacecraft debris. With all of these dangers, it is truly a wonder that any of us can get out of bed in the morning. And yet any doctor who cares for patients knows that there are many other diseases that ICD-9 has never heard of – medical terra incognita, disorders that have yet to …

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The most talked about cancer stories of 2011

The face of cancer care in 2011 changed in encouraging and – in some cases – challenging ways. Here are some of the cancer stories that captured the most press attention in 2011.  A federal task force recommended against routine testing of healthy men for the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which can be a sign of prostate cancer. However, Dana-Farber’s Philip Kantoff, MD, called the message “misguided” and said that oncologists are using the test to find those who may benefit from screening and treatment.

Will a bald Barbie help kids cope with cancer?

The side effects of chemotherapy can create anxiety and uncertainty for any patient, but for young children, it can be overwhelming. A group of parents – that now counts thousands of supporters – is hoping that their call for a new bald Barbie will help. Cori Liptak, PhD, a psychologist in the Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology Program at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center, is part of a team that helps young patients manage pain and anxiety through play and behavioral therapy. She shared her thoughts on the subject during a recent interview with NBC. Tell us what you think. Would a bald Barbie help …

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Adult stem cells may hold key to better health

Sarah Knauss, famous for being among the oldest people in the world until her death at the age of 119, might have had more than just “good genes.” Dana-Farber’s Wayne Marasco, MD, PhD, says that adult stem cells – known for their healing and regenerative properties – might hold the key to a long and healthy life. Marasco shared his expertise on the subject at the recent International Vatican Conference on Adult Stem Cells in Vatican City, Italy, an event attended by a select group of cardinals, clergy, and leading researchers and physicians from around the world. “We have learned …

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What do you say when a friend has cancer?

A year ago today, I went to see my doctor about a lump that was growing scarily fast inside my mouth. Twelve days later, I was in a hospital bed with a cocktail of chemo drugs moving through an IV in my arm. Over the next few weeks, I adjusted to the fact that I had squamous cell carcinoma; that it was most likely curable; and that I had a long road of chemotherapy and radiation ahead. But one thing I couldn’t get used to was telling people I had cancer.

Do viruses cause cancer?

In 1958, when scientists linked an aggressive form of leukemia to infection with a particular virus, some researchers took the discovery as evidence that nearly all cancers are caused by viruses. A cover story in Life magazine in 1962 proclaimed, “Cancer may be infectious.” Today, it is estimated that viruses are responsible for almost 20 percent of cancer cases worldwide. Seven viruses have been connected to specific types of malignancies; it’s now known, for example, that the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer and some types of head and neck cancer. While viruses can cause cancer in a variety of …

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If a breast lump is painful, is it not cancer?

Many women who discover a lump in their breast confide in a friend or family member before talking to their doctor. They may be told that if a breast lump hurts or is sore, it probably isn’t cancer. To find out whether this urban legend holds any truth, we checked with Beth Overmoyer, MD, FACP, of the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. If a lump in the breast does not feel sore or tender, does that mean it isn’t cancer? Dr. Overmoyer: Between 2 and 7 percent of patients with a painful lump in their breast will be diagnosed with breast …

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