Targeting Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Breast cancer may develop in one part of the body, but it’s not just one disease. In fact, oncologists think of breast cancer as at least three different types of diseases. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) describes breast cancer cells that do not have estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors. It makes up approximately 15 percent of all breast cancers and is typically more aggressive than the other two types, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer and HER2-positive breast cancer. “It may be the smallest group, but TNBC still represents thousands of women with breast cancer, so it is a very important group for …

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Study: Type of Cervical Cancer May Drive Treatment Choice

By Alexi Wright, MD, MPH Although there are two main types of cervical cancer, known as adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, they’ve generally been treated as one disease, with the same approach to treatment. In a recent study, my colleagues and I surveyed the DNA in both types of cervical cancer cells to see if there were any differences. Such variations may help explain why the two types sometimes behave the way they do, and guide us toward treatments that work best in one type or the other.

Foods to Keep in Your Diet Before and After a Mastectomy

During cancer treatment, a nutritious and well-rounded diet can help you cope with side effects of chemotherapy, maintain energy and support the immune system. If you are preparing for a mastectomy or other major surgery, a healthy diet will also provide nutrients to help optimize healing time. Most patients who undergo a mastectomy can return to regular eating habits two weeks after the surgery, but nutritionists recommend a healthy diet to be ideally implemented before the procedure to help you heal and set up long-term healthy eating habits. There are several foods we suggest make it to your plate both …

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Four Lessons from a Cancer Caregiver

By Patrick Palmer In June 2001, my wife, Angela Palmer, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer while we were living in Tucson, Arizona. This was a huge shock. She had annual mammograms and never had any indications of disease. She had a lumpectomy and completed about 50 percent of her chemotherapy protocol before we moved to the northeast where our family was located. We arrived in Boston in December 2001, bought a house and became engaged with a tremendous Dana-Farber team including Wendy Chen, MD, MPH, medical oncologist and Jennifer Bellon, MD, radiation oncologist. Angela immediately resumed her therapy …

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Thyroid Cancer: Five Things You Need to Know

By Melanie Graham Thyroid cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland. Found more often in women, the National Cancer Institute estimates 60,022 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2013. Like most forms of cancer, thyroid cancer can be broken down into several different types or subgroups, says Jochen Lorch, MD, an oncologist with Dana-Farber’s Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Center. Most types of thyroid cancer are treatable and in some cases, curable, Lorch says.

What is Personalized Medicine?

By Richard Saltus Physicians have long recognized that the same disease can behave differently from one patient to another, and that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. In cancer, chemotherapy might dramatically shrink one lung tumor but prove ineffective against the same type of tumor in a different patient – even though tissue samples look identical under the microscope. Side effects and appropriate dosage may vary from patient to patient as well. The goal of personalized medicine is to match a treatment to the unique characteristics of an individual patient: his or her personal and family medical history, age, body size, and …

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Teen Patient Uses Images to Document Cancer Treatment

By  Saul Wisnia Rayquan “Ray” Fregeau’s smile lights up a room, even after five days of chemotherapy. His upbeat personality infuses his poetry, but until recently the 17-year-old patient at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center had trouble putting into words what he’s gone through since his February cancer diagnosis, especially when it came to telling friends about his experience.

Chemotherapy Related Neuropathy: Managing this Nerve Wracking Problem

While chemotherapy can kill cancer cells, certain chemotherapy drugs can also cause an uncomfortable and distressing condition that may produce numbness, tingling, and discomfort in the arms or legs. This condition, known as peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), can make it difficult for people to perform day-to-day activities. Although there is no sure prevention for CIPN, there are ways to control the pain and minimize its effects on quality of life, says Cindy Tofthagen, PhD, ARNP, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of South Florida and post-doctoral fellow at Dana-Farber and the University of Massachusetts.

Research in Advanced Ovarian Cancer Shows Promise

By Ursula Matulonis, MD After a long period of slow progress, new knowledge about the genetics of ovarian cancer is leading to the development and testing of new therapies. Researchers at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers will soon be launching several phase 3 clinical trials testing drugs known as PARP inhibitors for patients with platinum-sensitive recurrent ovarian cancer – tumors that initially responded to platinum-based chemotherapy agents but have shown evidence of regrowth at least six months after treatment. Phase 3 trials test drugs in large numbers of patients to evaluate the drugs’ effectiveness as well as …

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Outsmart Your Genes: Understanding BRCA1/2 Cancer Risk

When Angelina Jolie underwent a preventative double mastectomy earlier this year, this issue of cancer risk and genetics made front-page headlines. Jolie, who announced the operation in a New York Times op-ed, tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation and learned she had an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer. Jolie’s announcement left many women wanting to know more: What is a gene mutation? Should I undergo genetic testing? What should I do if my tests are positive?