What is Liposarcoma?

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Cancers known as sarcomas develop in the connective tissues, such as muscle, fat, and bone, that hold the body together. The type of sarcoma diagnosed in Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, liposarcoma, originates in fat cells that have been driven by random DNA errors into malignant growth, forming tumors. George Demetri, MD, Director of Dana-Farber’s Center for Sarcoma and Bone Oncology, notes that while sarcomas are not a common form of cancer, they are not rare: about 10,000 sarcoma cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. Liposarcomas, which most often affect middle-age and older adults, develop as large, bulky …

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New Immunotherapy Drug for Melanoma Wins Approval

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The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new type of  immunotherapy drug that will provide a much-needed option for patients with advanced or inoperable melanoma who no longer respond to other drugs – including the immunotherapy agent ipilimumab (Yervoy). The drug, pembrolizumab or MK-3745, will be marketed under the name  Keytruda. Based on impressive performance in clinical trials, the FDA had designated pembrolizumab a “breakthrough therapy” and placed it on a fast-tracked approval process. “This drug is exciting because of its really striking response rate and good indications that these responses are durable” for a least a year, says Patrick Ott, MD, PhD, clinical …

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Dentist Brings a Smile to Transplant Patients

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Like many family members of cancer patients, Stephen Matarazzo, DMD, wanted a meaningful way to thank the Dana-Farber caregivers who saved his son Michael’s life. What he came up with involved offering his own professional expertise to protect the smiles of others. A dentist based in Quincy, Mass., Matarazzo provides pro bono dental exams and services to cancer and benign hematology patients who, like his son did, need stem cell transplants. Dental visits are critical transplants suppress the immune system, and patients are at significant risk for developing infections – in some cases life-threatening ones. The oral cavity and teeth …

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Five Things You Need to Know About Cancer Genetics

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Although most cancers are sporadic or occur by chance, a small percentage are due to inherited genetic (or germline) mutations, which can often be identified through genetic testing.  These mutations are different from somatic mutations, which are not inherited, but occur during one’s lifetime. Profile, a research project launched by Dana-Farber and Briigham and Women’s Hospital, has been analyzing DNA from tumor tissue since 2011 to learn more about how somatic mutations drive cancer. “Depending on family and personal history, we can test for genes that confer an increased risk for developing cancer,” says Huma Q. Rana, MD, clinical director for …

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Facts About Throat Cancer

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Throat cancer is one of many cancers that affect the head and neck area, including the nasopharynx, the area of the throat behind the nose; the oropharynx, middle part of the throat; the hypopharynx, the bottom section of the throat; the oral cavity where the tongue sits; and the larynx, the area of the throat used for speaking . While cancers in this region can be painful and complex, the majority of patients, 65-80 percent, survive, according to Robert Haddad, MD. “Treatment requires a multidisciplinary approach, with a supportive care team including nutritionists, speech language pathologists, oral medicine experts, social …

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Is Chemo Working If I Don’t Lose My Hair?

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It’s well known that many chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer can bring undesirable side effects, such as hair loss, lack of appetite, and fatigue. But experiencing such symptoms is not an indication of whether cancer treatment is working. Chemotherapy interferes with a cell’s ability to grow and divide, so it tends to kill rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. However, some normal cells in our body also divide rapidly, such as hair cells and cells that create the stomach lining. Whether or not you will have side effects during cancer treatment depends on a variety of factors, including …

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How Cancer Researchers Are Working to Help Fight MERS Virus

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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a viral respiratory illness has been in the news a lot lately.  MERS, first detected in Saudia Arabia in 2012, is caused by a coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV). It isn’t known exactly where the virus comes from though many infectious disease experts think it is likely from an animal source. While camels in a few countries have tested positive for antibodies to MERS-CoV, indicating they were previously infected with MERS-CoV or a closely related virus, it hasn’t yet been determined with certainty that camels are the source of the virus, or …

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Esophageal Cancer: Five Things You Need to Know

Although it is not a common disease, esophageal cancer affects about 18,000 new patients each year in the United States. Typically, the disease is found more often in men than in women, with men having about a ten-fold higher risk of developing esophageal cancer. “Esophageal and gastric cancers are some of the most stubborn and aggressive cancers that we treat in the United States today,” explains Peter Enzinger, MD, director of the Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer at Dana-Farber. “Therapies must be quite aggressive to treat these cancers, but we must know how to effectively treat any side effects …

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Play Ball: The Red Sox and Jimmy Fund Start Another Season Together

Their season starts today, and although the Boston Red Sox will have a lot of competition in their quest to repeat as World Series champions, fans can be certain of one thing: a continuation of the baseball team’s special bond with the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dating from 1953, this is the longest and most successful partnership between a professional sports team and charity in North America. The Red Sox have helped the Jimmy Fund raise millions of dollars for cancer care and research at Dana-Farber through appearances and appeals while befriending patients of all ages. Here are …

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A History of Multiple Myeloma Advances

Not long ago, a diagnosis of multiple myeloma — a cancer of the bone marrow — carried with it a very poor prognosis, with median survival estimates of just two to three years. Now, thanks in large part to research and treatment advances at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), this disease is for many patients a chronic, and more manageable disease, with prognosis now improved to median survivals of seven to ten years. Here is a look at how DF/BWCC physician-scientists and patients have helped lead the way toward improved treatment for multiple myeloma over the past three decades.