The number of deaths from breast cancer has dropped over the past decade in the United States, but around the world, especially in less-developed countries, the number is rising. A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2013 said 522,000 women died from breast cancer in 2012 – a 14 percent increase compared with 2008.
Archive for Cancer research
Outcomes are gradually improving for patients who suffer from graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), one of the most serious complications of stem cell transplantation, and researchers are optimistic that further advances may be on the way.
Not long ago, a diagnosis of multiple myeloma — a cancer of the bone marrow — carried with it a very poor prognosis, with median survival estimates of just two to three years. Now, thanks in large part to research and treatment advances at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), this disease is for many patients a chronic, and more manageable disease, with prognosis now improved to median survivals of seven to ten years.
Here is a look at how DF/BWCC physician-scientists and patients have helped lead the way toward improved treatment for multiple myeloma over the past three decades.
In prostate cancer – the most common cancer in men aside from skin cancer – scientists are working to answer some of the most basic questions about the disease while developing an array of new treatments.
Using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, doctors are often able to detect prostate cancer at an early stage. But it remains difficult to determine which prostate cancers are likely to spread – and therefore require aggressive treatment – and which are either idle or slow-growing, and can be dealt with by “observation or active surveillance.” This uncertainty could result in unnecessary treatment for some patients.
NBC News’ Tom Brokaw, 74, revealed this week he has multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. The disease, also known as plasma cell myeloma, will be diagnosed in more than 24,000 Americans this year.
Immunotherapy – stimulating the body’s defenses to recognize and destroy disease-causing cells and proteins – was dubbed the “breakthrough of the year” in 2013 by Science magazine. Dana-Farber researchers have contributed many important discoveries over the years about how the immune system works. Now, they are building on these insights to develop immunotherapy against tumors – known as immuno-oncology.
In 2005 Dana-Farber established the Cancer Vaccine Center (CVC) under the leadership of Ellis Reinherz, MD, Jerome Ritz, MD, and Glenn Dranoff, MD. The mission of the CVC is to translate the promising insights from basic immunology into therapeutics that benefit cancer patients. The CVC undertook a series of clinical trials exploring the biologic activity of autologous tumor cell vaccines and antibodies targeting negative immunoregulatory pathways in patients. These investigations contributed to the foundation underlying the FDA approval of the first therapeutic cancer vaccine (Provenege) and the first antibody antagonizing a negative T cell checkpoint (ipilimumab).
When cancer develops in someone with other diseases, it can be more serious, according to a recent annual report from several national cancer organizations.
“Cancer does not occur in isolation,” says Lawrence Shulman, MD, in commenting on the report. “It occurs in a human being, who may have other medical problems.”
For about 70 years, the standard treatment for patients with advanced prostate cancer was drugs that blocked male hormones feeding the tumor. If that stopped working and the disease progressed, oncologists turned to chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells.
This timetable is about to change. Results of a clinical trial led by a Dana-Farber researcher revealed that such patients lived longer if started on both a hormone blocker and a chemotherapy drug at the same time. The government-sponsored trial found that 69 percent of men receiving both treatments were alive at three years, compared with 52.5 percent of men who initially got just the hormone blocker. The advantage was so striking – especially for patients with greater degrees of cancer spread – that the National Cancer Institute publicized the findings ahead of schedule to alert doctors and patients.
“The results of this study are practice-changing for some patients,” says Christopher Sweeney, MBBS, clinical director of Dana-Farber’s Lank Center for Genitourinary Cancer, who headed the trial. We asked him to explain: