New Research Shows Promise for Pediatric Brain Tumor Treatment

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Every year, about 4,700 children in the United States are diagnosed with brain cancer –­ making it the most common solid tumor in children. It is also one of the most difficult cancers to treat. Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children under age 10 and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in people under 20. Although survival rates for children with some types of brain tumors have risen over the past 30 years, current research aims to increase those rates dramatically in the years ahead. Scientists are focusing on the basic genetic and genomic …

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What’s the Difference Between Melanoma and Skin Cancer?

Yawkey Center for Cancer Care healing garden.

Many people consider skin cancer to be synonymous with melanoma. As May marks Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, it is important to understand that melanoma is only one type of skin cancer; other forms of the disease are less aggressive and more common. Melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer, with approximately 76,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. It is also the most aggressive, and is most likely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, which are the cells in the lowest layer of the epidermis. Possible signs of …

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Rising from the Ashes

5.12.14 Gerardo Martinez and familySMALL

By Gerardo Martinez In May 2013, I had surgery to rid my body of that insidious monster we know as cancer. It was a particularly difficult time. I struggled to make sense of the irony of being diagnosed at the same age my dear mother was when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. My mother died at the age of 46 and I wondered if fate was mocking me. Instead of getting lost in self-pity and debilitating depression, I was determined to face this fear and rise stronger than ever. In September 2013, during my first post surgery check in, …

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Motherhood, Pregnancy and Breast Cancer

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While visiting her obstetrician in May 2012, 30-year-old Meghan Martin received life-changing news. The mother of two, who was seven-months pregnant with her third boy, learned she had breast cancer. “My first thoughts were: Will this baby live? Will I Live? Who is going to read bedtime stores?” Martin says. A day later, Martin began planning her treatment with the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. She had four doses of chemotherapy before giving birth to her “miracle baby,” Gavin. Martin continued her treatment a short while after …

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How to Cope with Side Effects of Aromatase Inhibitors

Staff portrait of Anne Kelly, MSN, NP

Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are some of the most effective treatments for post-menopausal women with hormonally sensitive breast cancer, such as estrogen-positive breast cancer. Compared to tamoxifen, AIs like Arimidex, Aromasin, and Femara are less likely to cause blood clots or raise the risk of endometrial cancer. The drug also helps reduce the risk of recurrence. However, AIs often come with side effects, including joint discomfort, bone loss, hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Anne Kelly, MSN, NP, a nurse practitioner for the Breast Oncology Program in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, provides some advice on how patients …

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Melanoma: Five Things You Need to Know

Stephen Hodi, MD

Although skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, melanoma accounts for less than 2 percent of all skin cancer cases. The disease, which will be diagnosed in around 76,000 Americans in 2014, is the most aggressive form of skin cancer. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, which are found on the lower part of the epidermis. The disease can occur anywhere on the body and usually begins in a mole. “It is important that people protect themselves from the sun and make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of melanoma to greatly reduce their risk of …

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‘Chemobrain’ Added to Cancer Survivorship Guidelines

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Cognitive dysfunction is a common and frustrating side effect for many patients who undergo chemotherapy. The condition – also called “chemobrain” – can create problems with memory, attention and concentration, information processing, and mental skills used for organizing and scheduling. For many years, medical professionals were skeptical that these cognitive issues were a real side effect of treatment, leaving patients frustrated by the lack of information and suggested remedies. However, numerous cognitive testing and brain imaging studies have demonstrated that cancer and its treatments do have a significant effect on cognition. As a result, physicians now recognize it as a widespread issue, …

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Precision Medicine for Lung Cancer Marks Tenth Anniversary

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Ten years ago researchers at Dana-Farber and in Japan published a study showing that lung cancer patients whose tumors had a malfunctioning version of a protein called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) responded dramatically to a drug that specifically targets the EGFR protein. The findings launched the era of precision medicine for lung cancer, transforming the way the disease is treated in many patients. Today, the arsenal of targeted therapies for lung adenocarcioma – the most common lung malignancy – includes more than a dozen agents, some of which have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and some of …

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Star-Studded Support for Dana-Farber

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A group of influential theater owners known as the Variety Club of New England were touring Boston Children’s Hospital in 1947 when they happened upon a tiny basement laboratory. Here, Sidney Farber, MD, was conducting research that would lead to the first remissions in pediatric leukemia. The men were so impressed by Farber they decided to help his efforts. Calling on their Hollywood friends, the group held a fundraising drive that enabled Farber to establish the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation – now known as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Ever since, celebrities have been supporters of Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. In 1948, …

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Understanding Genomics and Cancer

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If the new era of “targeted” cancer drugs and personalized treatments for patients realizes its promise, the power of genomics will get a lot of the credit. Genomics is one of the most commonly heard terms in cancer research and biotech companies today – but what does it really mean? What is genomics? Most people know that genetics is the study of genes and how they affect health and disease, and it’s been said that that cancer is a disease of genes. Today, that’s been amended – cancer is a disease of the genome – the entire complement of human …

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