What to Expect for Cancer Prevention and Therapies in 2015

Dr. William Hahn

This post was originally published on Cancer Research Catalyst, the official blog of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).  Since the beginning of the “war on cancer” in the 1970s, we have made consistent progress against cancer aided by paradigm-shifting technological advances. Last year, we witnessed significant developments being made on several different fronts. Proof of this is the approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of eight cancer drugs, including a few milestone “first-of-their-kind” drugs encompassing immunotherapies and targeted therapies, and a nine-valent vaccine that can prevent infections that cause cervical cancer. The substantial gains we have made …

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Precision Medicine and the Future of Cancer Treatment

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Precision medicine is rapidly changing the way cancer is studied and treated today. With new information about genetic and molecular characteristics in tumors, doctors are finding more effective and less toxic ways to fight the disease. “Precision medicine is seeing the monster of cancer clearly for the first time in a way that we can pinpoint weaknesses and then go into our arsenal and try new drugs to attack those weaknesses,” says Levi Garraway, MD, PhD, director of the Joint Center for Cancer Precision Medicine at Dana-Farber. Garraway recently discussed the evolving field of precision medicine in a Science, Innovation, …

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Does Pregnancy Increase Risk of Breast Cancer?

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The link between pregnancy and breast cancer has been a focus of breast cancer research over the last decade, which has shown that there are a variety of factors related to pregnancy that can play a role in developing breast cancer. After a pregnancy, a woman’s short-term risk of breast cancer increases for 2-15 years, says Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, medical oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers, and director of the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer. Past studies have not been able to conclude a definitive reason for this short-term increased risk. However, if a …

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Common Myths About the HPV Vaccine

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When it comes to vaccines, particularly the HPV vaccine, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that girls and boys aged 11 or 12 years be vaccinated against HPV, the human papillomavirus, which can be spread during sexual activity and can cause cervical cancer in women and cancers of the genital and throat regions in both sexes. The two available HPV vaccines – Cervarix and Gardasil – protect against most of the cancers caused by HPV infection (Gardasil is approved for males and females). Here are some common myths and …

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A Teen’s Journey: Developing a Diagnostic Test for Pancreatic Cancer

Jack Andraka

This post was originally written and published on Vector, Boston Children’s Hospital’s science and clinical innovation blog.  At age 13, Jack Andraka lost a family friend to pancreatic cancer. At age 15, he developed a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer that early findings suggest is highly accurate. In this session from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards 2014, Andraka describes his journey, the Johns Hopkins professor who took him on, his fascination with carbon nanotubes and how open access to scientific journals can help people around the world create solutions to problems. The diagnostic itself is in the early phases of testing. …

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New Immunotherapy Vaccines Show Promise in Treating Brain Tumors

David Reardon, brain tumors

Researchers in Dana-Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology are now launching attacks on glioblastomas from a new angle – by turning the patient’s immune system against the cancer cells. Where targeted chemotherapy uses drugs to disable proteins that cancer cells need to grow, immunotherapy drugs stimulate the patient’s immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. Traditional drugs and even targeted chemotherapy agents have had little success in treating glioblastoma – the deadliest type of brain tumor. “Immunotherapy represents a great hope for patients currently facing this disease,” says David Reardon, MD, clinical director of the Center.  “We’re anxious to move this approach …

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Can Cancer Survivors Donate Blood or Platelets?

SMALL_Bloodmobile at Copley Square.

Blood products like whole blood and platelets are lifesaving for cancer patients at Dana-Farber and elsewhere. It comes as no surprise, then, that many cancer survivors want to return the favor by donating at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center, which collects blood products to benefit patients at both Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Survivors of solid tumor cancers are eligible to donate blood and platelets beginning one year after they stop taking medication for their cancer; however, survivors of blood cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, and other blood disorders, are permanently deferred due to the nature of their …

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How Integrative Therapies Can Help Lung Cancer Patients

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Any cancer diagnosis and treatment can take a physical and emotional toll on patient. For many lung cancer patients, post-operative pain and muscle tension, as well as breathing and sleeping issues, are common side effects. To help ease some of these symptoms, patients can seek out integrative therapies, which can be used in conjunction with standard treatment. “Patients who participate in integrative therapies may experience fewer side effects of treatment and therefore, have a better quality of life,” says Bambi Mathay, MD, LMT, oncology massage therapist and reiki master practitioner at Dana-Farber’s Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies. Lung cancer …

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How Her ‘Cancer Family’ Helped One Young Adult Through Treatment

young adult cancer, lymphoma

By Christina Dixon Cancer turned my world upside-down overnight. I had just graduated from college, moved to Boston after finishing undergrad at Washington and Lee in Virginia, and started my dream job on an interest rate derivatives sales desk.  Suddenly, instead of working, spending time with my friends, and playing sports, my life was filled with PET scans, chemotherapy, and pain management to treat stage IVB Hodgkin lymphoma. I was just 22 and facing my mortality in a very real way. From the very beginning, I decided I wanted as much good as possible to come from cancer. I did not want to …

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Lou Dittami, Lover of Platelets and Patriots, Honored for 600 Donations

By this time of year, most New England Patriots football fans are familiar with head coach Bill Belichick’s style of avoiding all talk of championships to focus solely on his team’s next opponent. The same words could ring true for Patriots fan Lou Dittami – who recently passed his 600th  bi-weekly platelet donation at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “I’m not worried about passing 600, only about the donation I have coming up,” says Dittami in true Belichick fashion. “That’s the one that could save a patient.” Given his devotion …

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