New, Faster Test Speeds Up Treatment for Blood Cancers

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  Rapid Heme Panel, a new quick-turnaround genetic diagnostic test, at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), offers some patients with aggressive blood cancers faster diagnoses, and treatments. Instead of sending blood samples to different laboratories for tests that return results in two weeks or more, Rapid Heme Panel puts the results in doctors’ hands in about five business days. This shortcut can be critical for patients with fast-moving leukemia and other hematologic malignancies, say specialists at DF/BWCC. The new test was developed by researchers at DF/BWCC and launched in August. It uses next-generation DNA sequencing to analyze the genetic …

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The Latest Research and Treatment for Blood Cancers and Disorders

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In the treatment of blood cancers and disorders, doctors and researchers are focusing their sights on the immune system and how to bolster its ability to fight off diseases like leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. “Understanding how you control the immune system is a big theme in treatment for these diseases,” says David A. Williams, MD, chief of Hematology/Oncology and director of Clinical and Translational Research at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate chair of Pediatric Oncology at Dana-Farber. “We’re increasingly understanding how cancer tones down the immune system, allowing us to design treatment to turn the immune system back up …

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FDA Approves New Treatment for Advanced Ovarian Cancer

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new treatment for women with advanced and recurrent ovarian cancer who test positive for the BRCA gene mutation. The new therapy, olaparib, will be used to treat women who have already received three or more lines of chemotherapy. The new therapy, which will be marketed under the name Lynparza, is a poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase – or PARP inhibitor – that hampers cancer cells’ ability to repair damaged DNA, potentially causing the cancer cells to die. Olaparib was approved along with a blood test called BRACAnalysis CDx that detects BRCA gene …

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Fertility After Breast Cancer

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Young women may think about having children, but when diagnosed with breast cancer, patients often face these decisions long before they thought they would have to. For Maggie Loucks, NP-C, who was diagnosed at age 28, preserving fertility became a major factor in deciding what treatment plan to pursue. “You’re 28-years old and you want to do everything you can to ensure this doesn’t come back, but at the same time you want to preserve your fertility as much as possible,” says Loucks, who sought care at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Although the process was …

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Survivor Uses Reiki and ‘Button Therapy’ to Help Others Facing Cancer

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As a girl, Paula Kaufman loved playing with the buttons that her grandmother, a seamstress, had in abundance. Later, while in treatment for stage III colorectal cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Kaufman – then a mother of three in her late 30s – gained strength from a jar of buttons her grandmother bequeathed to her. “When you have cancer, you feel like you’re hanging by a thread,” Kaufman explains. “The connections you make with other people are the buttons that pull you through.” Kaufman’s caregivers, family, and friends served as her buttons, and she drew further comfort from Reiki, a …

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Employee Elves Bring Holiday Cheer to Dana-Farber Patients

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For many, the holiday season is a time of gift-giving, warm meals, and celebration. But, for families with limited financial resources who are dealing with cancer treatment, the holidays can be overwhelming and stressful. That’s where Ellen Casey-Magleby and Deborah Toffler, MSW, LCSW, come in. Casey-Magleby, program administrator for Social Work, and Toffler, director of Patient and Family Programs and Services, lead Dana-Farber’s Seasonal Giving Program, which provides holiday support to current Dana-Farber patients and their families in need of financial assistance. The program is fueled by Institute employees and external donors, with the goal of giving patients gift cards …

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How to Manage Family Life When Your Child Has Cancer

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By Valerie Graf When our daughter, Ruby, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at one and a half years old, my husband and I were immediately transformed from working parents with two young children, to parental caregivers for a child with cancer. Between hospital stays, medications and appointments, there was so much to keep track of. It can be overwhelming at times, but there are ways to manage life after your child is diagnosed with cancer. Settle into to this new normal. It can be easy to stay in crisis mode when something like a cancer diagnosis interrupts your …

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Tips and Advice for Taking Oral Chemotherapy

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By Thomas Kochanek, PhD When we think of chemotherapy, most of us imagine a cancer patient hooked up to an IV in a hospital setting, getting his or her treatment through infusion. While this image is accurate, cancer treatment increasingly takes place at home, as patients receive oral chemotherapy or other types of anti-cancer drugs through pills, tablets, and liquids. Infusion and oral chemo are not necessarily mutually exclusive, either. Many patients begin with one and transition to the other; others, like me, are on several drugs, receiving one by infusion and another by pill. Since I was diagnosed with multiple …

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Summer Camp Gives Nurse Insight into Challenges Facing Patients’ Children

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Erin Silva, RN, BSN, has formed very strong connections with her adult patients at Dana-Farber/New Hampshire Oncology-Hematology (Dana-Farber/NHOH) in Londonderry, New Hampshire. However, the 30-year-old oncology nurse rarely saw the full impact of cancer on their children. After a stint at summer camp, she has a much better idea. Silva spent a week in late August as nurse for the MIT chapter of Camp Kesem, a non-profit, student-run organization that offers free camping experiences to children ages 6-16 whose parents are living with or died from cancer. “Kesem” means “magic” in Hebrew, and the network of 63 Kesem camps throughout …

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BRCA-Positive Mom Supports Ovarian Cancer Research for Future Generations

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Mimi Gallagher never missed a gynecologist appointment. Her maternal grandmother died from ovarian cancer in her early 70s, and Gallagher, at 46, was well aware of her risk. Despite her diligence, and years of worry-free trips to the gynecologist, the mother of two was diagnosed with stage III c ovarian cancer. Troubling symptoms in July 2012, including bloating, constipation, and lethargy, led Gallagher to visit her gynecologist, primary care physician, and a gastrointestinal specialist, but, she says, “Ovarian cancer was never on anyone’s radar.” However, a vaginal ultrasound soon confirmed her cancer, and she was referred to a surgeon who …

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