For David Williams, MD, the field of pediatrics offers two great attractions. “It is wonderful because of the kinds of patients you take care of,” he says. “But also because of the personalities of pediatricians – in pediatrics you find very compassionate and caring people.” Williams embodies that compassion and combines it with a drive to solve the medical problems of young patients, often with the use of cutting-edge technology.
When Jane Davis was diagnosed with breast cancer last July, she began learning as much as she could about her disease. Davis quickly discovered one of the most startling statistics about breast cancer: Up to 40 percent of women who have a lumpectomy require a second surgery. That’s because surgeons often cannot microscopically remove the entire tumor. But Mehra Golshan, MD, FACS, director of Breast Surgical Services at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, is trying to change that with a phase I breast surgery pilot study. It’s the first of its kind in the world.
When it comes to treating prostate cancer, proton radiotherapy (PRT) is no better than traditional intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), according to a new study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Friday. PRT is an advanced but expensive treatment option for some prostate cancer patients. However, the researchers found that the therapy offers no added treatment benefit than the standard therapy. The article concluded: “Although PRT is substantially more costly than IMRT, there was no difference in toxicity in a comprehensive cohort of Medicare beneficiaries with prostate cancer at 12 months post-treatment.”
When Ken Anderson, MD, began working on multiple myeloma four decades ago, the disease, a cancer of the bone marrow, was untreatable. “People died within months,” says Anderson. Today, the story is very different. In the past decade, eight new multiple myeloma treatments have been approved. Survival has doubled. “When we see new patients, we can look them in the eye and say it’s likely you will live a decade or longer with modern therapies,” says Anderson, who recently received a 2012 Medal of Honor award from the American Cancer Society for his contributions to these advancements. “And that’s continuing …
Like wombats and wildebeests, cancer cells are continually adapting to their environment. If that environment includes drugs meant to kill cancer cells, some cells may adapt so well, they eventually gain the ability to grow and divide in spite of those drugs – a process known as drug resistance. The result can be a resurgence of tumors that once were held in check by treatment.
Cancer scientists use a wide variety of techniques to study the growth and development of tumor cells. Laboratory research often focuses on individual cells or tissue samples, but to learn how cancers grow and respond to therapies in living organisms, scientists rely on other experimental models. In recent years, zebrafish have become the model of choice for studying many cancer types. Dana-Farber’s A. Thomas Look, MD, who uses zebrafish in his own work, explains why.
The dirt roads in northern Rwanda now lead to a cancer center where patients can receive care for a disease that was, until now, considered a death sentence there. The Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence, which was dedicated on July 18, has allowed Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center to extend a helping hand in this tiny, densely populated country in Africa.
Genes don’t cause cancer, but genetic mutations can. Our cells have about 22,000 genes, which consist of DNA packed into chromosomes inside the cell nucleus. These genes control a wide range of functions, including cell growth and division. When the genes misbehave or mutate, cancer can develop.