How is Research Improving Treatment of Head and Neck Cancers?

Jochen Lorch, M.D. Head and Neck oncology.

Head and neck cancers account for 3 to 5 percent of all cancers in the United States and can occur in the oral and nasal cavities, the sinuses, the throat, the larynx, the salivary glands, and the thyroid. When diagnosed early, many head and neck cancers can be cured with combinations of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Researchers in the Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center have shown that carefully tailored regimens involving surgery and combined chemotherapy/radiation can often save tissues and structures like the larynx and vocal cords, which are vital to good quality …

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The Truth About BRCA Testing and Genetic Risk

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Cancer genetics has come a long way in the last two decades, leading to increased prevention and improved treatment options. Today, research is shining the light on why certain people have an increased risk for cancer. “It took us 20 years to get where we are today with the knowledge of BRCA1/2, but we are starting to find changes in other genes that are explaining a history of cancer in families,” says Huma Q. Rana, MD, clinical director for Dana-Farber’s Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention. “These new genes we’re identifying are likely to make a difference in prevention and …

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Research Shines Spotlight on Risk of Morcellation Procedure in Hysterectomy

SuzanneGeorgeMD

Research by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists supports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent warning about laparoscopic power morcellation, a procedure sometimes used to remove the uterus and uterine fibroids, noncancerous growths that often appear during childbearing years. The FDA based its warning on data suggesting that the procedure may spread unsuspected cancerous tissue beyond the uterus. The procedure involves an electrical device, a morcellator, that slices uterine tissue into pieces that are removed through small incisions in the abdomen. Such “minimally invasive” surgery is often preferred to traditional, open-abdominal surgery because it can lower the risk of infection and …

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Research Advances Hold Promise for Multiple Myeloma Treatment

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Multiple myeloma is one of the most compelling examples of a cancer in which research has markedly improved the length and quality of patients’ lives in the last decade. A malignancy of certain white blood cells in the bone marrow known as plasma cells, myeloma is still considered incurable, but treatment advances have significantly improved survival. Not long ago, patients with myeloma lived a median time of two to three years after diagnosis. Today, median survival is seven to 10 years, although this can be unpredictable, with some patients living longer and others surviving for significantly shorter time periods. Scientists have …

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ASCO: New Advances in Ovarian, Prostate, Lung and Melanoma Treatment

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“Science and Society” was the theme of this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 50th annual meeting. The meeting showcased  cancer research from around the world. Some new findings from Dana-Farber researchers included: Joyce Liu, MD, MPH, of the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers reported that, in a phase 2 clinical trial, a combination of olaparib (a drug that blocks DNA repair in cancer cells) and cediranib (which blocks blood vessel growth in tumors) was considerably more effective in women with recurrent ovarian cancer than olaparib alone.. Progression-free survival – the length of time after treatment when …

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50 Years of Discovery: Advances in Colorectal Cancer Treatment

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The fight against cancers of the digestive system – including colorectal, stomach, esophageal, hepatic, and pancreatic cancers – has made significant progress in the past 50 years, especially in prevention and early diagnosis of colorectal cancer, where screening with tests such as colonoscopies is continuing to make a major impact. “In some areas we have done better than others,” notes Robert J. Mayer, MD, former director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology at Dana-Farber. Mayer, a past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), led a recently published review commissioned by ASCO. Today, about two out of three colorectal …

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What is a Phase I Clinical Trial?

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Nearly all cancer drugs in use today were developed through clinical trials. But before they are approved for use, they must go through multiple phases designed to test the drug’s safety and efficacy. These phases include preclinical, phase I, II, and III. In phase I clinical trials, investigators evaluate how often and how much of the drug should be given. These early trials are often small, enrolling between 15 and 100 patients, but are an essential step in the development of more effective cancer treatments. “People who enroll in phase I trials are helping us discover new treatment options for …

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Webchat: The Latest in Breast Cancer Treatment and Research

With new approaches to therapy and increased understanding of the biology of cancer, breast cancer treatment has made significant progress in recent years. “I am personally very excited about what’s to come for breast cancer treatment,” says Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Program in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. “I think we will have drugs available in the clinic in the next several years that may have a dramatic impact on outcomes for women with breast cancer.” Winer discussed the latest in breast cancer treatment and research during a live video webchat …

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ASCO Recommends Tamoxifen for up to 10 Years

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Women with hormone receptor-positive (HR+) breast cancer should be given the option to have adjuvant hormonal therapy for as long as 10 years, according to new guidelines issued today by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The updated guidelines reflect results from several large studies that showed women who took tamoxifen for 10 years had a lower risk of recurrence and a “survival advantage,” compared to women who took the drug for only five years. In a press release issued by ASCO, Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD, a breast oncologist with the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers …

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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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