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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How Cancer Researchers Are Working to Help Fight MERS Virus

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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a viral respiratory illness has been in the news a lot lately.  MERS, first detected in Saudia Arabia in 2012, is caused by a coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV). It isn’t known exactly where the virus comes from though many infectious disease experts think it is likely from an animal source. While camels in a few countries have tested positive for antibodies to MERS-CoV, indicating they were previously infected with MERS-CoV or a closely related virus, it hasn’t yet been determined with certainty that camels are the source of the virus, or …

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Precision Medicine for Lung Cancer Marks Tenth Anniversary

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Ten years ago researchers at Dana-Farber and in Japan published a study showing that lung cancer patients whose tumors had a malfunctioning version of a protein called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) responded dramatically to a drug that specifically targets the EGFR protein. The findings launched the era of precision medicine for lung cancer, transforming the way the disease is treated in many patients. Today, the arsenal of targeted therapies for lung adenocarcioma – the most common lung malignancy – includes more than a dozen agents, some of which have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and some of …

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Understanding Genomics and Cancer

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If the new era of “targeted” cancer drugs and personalized treatments for patients realizes its promise, the power of genomics will get a lot of the credit. Genomics is one of the most commonly heard terms in cancer research and biotech companies today – but what does it really mean? What is genomics? Most people know that genetics is the study of genes and how they affect health and disease, and it’s been said that that cancer is a disease of genes. Today, that’s been amended – cancer is a disease of the genome – the entire complement of human …

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When Should I Begin Regular Mammograms?

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For women weighing whether to have a mammogram for early detection of breast cancer, the findings of some recent studies can seem especially confusing. This month, a team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School published a review of recent mammography studies. They concluded that, for women in their 40s, the benefits of mammograms aren’t as great as they’re often touted to be, and the potential downsides – such as the likelihood of having a repeat screening or biopsy that doesn’t find cancer – are greater than for older women. The benefits of mammography vary with …

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New Experimental Breast Cancer Drug Shows Promise

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Reports of an experimental drug that slowed advanced breast cancer in a clinical trial have stirred excitement at a national research meeting and breathed new life into a cancer-fighting strategy that had seemed to falter. In one study, the drug, palbociclib, doubled the length of time without disease progression in patients with metastatic estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer that had spread beyond the breast, compared with women who took only a hormonal treatment, researchers reported at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in early April. Women in the study who received palbociclib also took the hormonal treatment, letrozole. Palbociclib is the …

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Does Talcum Powder Cause Ovarian Cancer?

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It’s been suggested that regular use of talcum powder products in the genital area might increase the possibility of ovarian cancer. In theory, particles of talc could travel through the reproductive tract to the ovaries and cause cancer. Research on this potential link has yielded mixed findings, with some studies finding a small increase in risk. For example, a study published in 2013 led by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found a 25 percent increase in risk for women using talcum powder in the genital area, but other studies haven’t shown any elevated risk. All of these studies suffer …

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