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.

Patient’s Grandson: How My Grandfather Inspires Me

Many young boys have special relationships with their grandfathers. Few express their feelings as eloquently as young Oliver Parry. Inspired by his grandfather’s work and his battle with cancer, the nine-year-old penned the essay below, winning a regional award from the 2013-2014 Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Reflections contest, and potentially qualifying for a national competition. Oliver’s story reminds us that cancer’s reach is wide, and it affects the patient’s whole family. The essay is as inspiring to us as Oliver’s grandfather is to him, particularly given the year that Oliver went through; the young boy lives in Newtown, Conn., and …

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Cancer Immunology at Dana-Farber

Immunotherapy – stimulating the body’s defenses to recognize and destroy disease-causing cells and proteins – was dubbed the “breakthrough of the year” in 2013 by Science magazine. Dana-Farber researchers have contributed many important discoveries over the years about how the immune system works. Now, they are building on these insights to develop immunotherapy against tumors – known as immuno-oncology. In 2005 Dana-Farber established the Cancer Vaccine Center (CVC) under the leadership of Ellis Reinherz, MD, Jerome Ritz, MD, and Glenn Dranoff, MD. The mission of the CVC is to translate the promising insights from basic immunology into therapeutics that benefit …

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When It Comes To Fighting Leukemia, This Patient Says, “Sharpen your Sword”

By Buck Rogers When I woke up from a 40-minute operation to remove a lymph node from my neck, my Ear, Nose & Throat surgeon approached me with another doctor and said, “I’d like you to meet your oncologist.” My life instantly changed; I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. After about six weeks of being scared, wondering how much time was left, trying to figure out what to tell our kids and our parents, my wife and I decided that the only choice was to fight as hard as we could. I started by running up and down Village …

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