By Karen Lee Sobol
I used to think of hospitals as halls of science. But recently I learned the word “clinic” comes from the Greek, meaning “bedside art.” While we’d all rather avoid a visit to a cancer clinic, there’s a lot we can do to make the first visit a productive, positive experience.
For my first visit to Dana-Farber, my husband joined me, along with my own wild emotions—anxiety, fear, and fury among them—and four pages of questions.
I found that at that first visit, an oncologist gets to know you in two ways: clinically and personally.
Each year, Dana-Farber patients join clinicians, staff, and the Boston Red Sox to share their stories of inspiration and their belief in the research advances at Dana-Farber during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon at Fenway Park.
This year, nearly 100 patients, including Rayquan Fregeau, who used art and resources from the Betty Ann Blum and Marjorie Blum Pediatric Resource Room to cope with his diagnosis; Debbie Whitmore, a mother of five who hopes for a cure for future generations; and Jack Robinson, who compiled a joke book to help other children during their treatment, shared their experiences battling cancer. Stephen Hodi, MD, Ursula Matulonis, MD, and other clinicians discussed the research and treatment strides donors help make possible.
Watch this video of highlights from the 36-hour event, which raised more than $3.5 million to support adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber:
Lakshmi Nayak, MD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently partnered with CancerConnect and Lakshmi Nayak, MD, to answer questions about brain cancer. Nayak is a neuro-oncologist in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.
Q: There seems to be some progress concerning treatment of brain tumors, especially immunotherapy. Do you think we will see further advancements in that area, or in other areas?
A: Immunotherapy is indeed a hot topic in gliomas. This is largely driven by advances we have seen in the treatment of melanoma. The way these drugs work is to release inhibition of the immune system so the immune cells can recognize cancer cells and attack the tumor. These advances are promising, and we hope this avenue of research will soon extend to gliomas. Development of trials in this direction is currently underway, and we anticipate the trials will open within the year or so.
In the last few years, we have seen a significant amount of progress in understanding glioma biology, including the mechanisms of tumor growth and resistance to treatments. Current research is focusing on treatment targeting specific pathways. It is difficult to envision which specific pathway or target will reveal the answer. It may be a combination of a few different targeted therapies, rather than one approach.
By Robert Foley
There is a vast amount of information available on nutrition and how to live a healthy lifestyle, but according to Dana-Farber Nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, “the best approach is to start small.”
“When it comes to nutrition, small changes can make a big difference,” Kennedy says.
One of those changes can be as simple as eating an extra piece of fruit every day. In a recent study, done by the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Krakow, Poland, men and women who ate two or more apples a day reduced their risk of colon cancer by 50 percent. That extra apple a day also helped decrease pancreatic cancer by 25 percent, the study said.
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.
Erica Mayer, MD, MPH
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 us,” says Erica Mayer, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers.
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.
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 before and after the procedure:
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.
Angela and Patrick Palmer
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 and I became her caregiver.
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.
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 other physical characteristics, and medical test results. But fundamentally, it is the DNA blueprint within cells that strongly influences a person’s risks of disease, how illnesses play out, which drugs are likely to be most effective and with the fewest side effects. This is where the newest phase of personalized medicine is heading.