Patient Turned Researcher Helps Advance Understanding of Brain Tumors

SMALL_steven_keating.jpg

This post originally appeared on HealthHub, a blog from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Interested in seeing images of his brain, Steven Keating, currently a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, volunteered for a research study while attending school in Canada in 2007. When researchers returned his brain scans, they delivered some startling news. “The researchers told me I had an abnormality near the smell center in my brain, but that lots of people have abnormalities and I shouldn’t be alarmed,” says Steven. However, as a precaution, researchers advised Steven to get his brain re-scanned in a few years. Steven’s …

Continue reading

New Study: Chemo Before Surgery Avoids Need for Mastectomy for Many with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

SMALL_Golshan speaking

Chemotherapy before surgery shrank triple-negative breast tumors in women in a clinical trial to the point where half of those who had not been eligible for breast-conserving surgery became eligible for it, according to investigators at Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The findings were reported at the American Surgical Association annual meeting and in a study in the journal Annals of Surgery. The study involved 400 women participating in a phase 2 clinical trial of a combination chemotherapy regimen for triple-negative breast cancer, a malignancy whose cells lack receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and the protein HER2. …

Continue reading

From Foe to Friend: Viruses Show New Promise as Cancer Treatment

SMALL Cancer Immunology & AIDS Team
Harvey Cantor

Almost as long as scientists have known of the existence of viruses, they’ve dreamed of using the tiny pathogens as a weapon against cancer. Now, as a result of advances in genetic engineering and insights into the workings of the immune system, science is giving substance to the dream. A variety of studies over the past few years have demonstrated the ability of specially modified viruses to attack and kill cancer cells – in the laboratory and, very recently, in some patients. Techniques vary from study to study, but the basic approach is to inject the viruses directly into tumors …

Continue reading

The Latest in Precision Medicine and Lung Cancer

SMALL_PM webchat screenshot

Even before President Barack Obama declared it a national initiative, precision medicine has helped bring more effective treatment to patients with many types of cancer. One disease that has benefited from these treatments is lung cancer, where targeted therapies have significantly improved outcomes for patients. “When we find we have drugs targeted for a specific genetic mutation driving the cancer, the chance of having someone live longer and feel better is much higher,” says David Jackman, MD, a medical oncologist with Dana-Farber’s Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology and the institute’s Medical Director for Clinical Pathways. “We’re doubling, tripling, and in …

Continue reading

Promising Research Developments Stir Hopes for Melanoma, Lung, Breast and Ovarian Cancer

F. Stephen Hodi, MD

The growing excitement about the potential of immunotherapy treatments for cancer continued at the 2015 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), one of the largest cancer research meetings of the year. Several Dana-Farber investigators presented encouraging results of immunotherapy for melanoma, lung cancer, and breast cancer. F. Stephen Hodi, MD, and Leena Gandhi, MD, gave reports on recently published results for immunotherapy trials in melanoma and lung cancer, respectively. Their findings were simultaneously published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “This field has changed a lot in the past few years and even in the past …

Continue reading

What Is a Cancer Vaccine?

GettyImages-103919215

Cancer vaccines are medicines that spur the immune system’s natural defenses against cancer. They belong to a class of substances known as biological response modifiers, which strengthen or stimulate a basic bodily process – in this case, the immune system’s ability to detect and attack cancer cells. There are two broad types of cancer vaccines: Preventive vaccines, which are intended to prevent cancer from developing, and therapeutic vaccines, which treat an existing cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two preventive vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, for the prevention of cervical cancer. These work by the same general principle as …

Continue reading

What Is It Like to Enroll in a Clinical Trial?

When Elizabeth Cahn was presented with her treatment options for triple-negative breast cancer, the decision was about more than just getting healthy; it was about “paying it forward.” “I know there are many people who participated in clinical trials before I came along and it was because of their participation that researchers were able to create a new combination of chemotherapy drugs available to me,” says Cahn. “It made me feel like I was part of a much bigger world of people trying to make the patient experience better.” Cahn (@ElizabethCahn) recently discussed her clinical trial experience during a live …

Continue reading

Chronicling Cancer Research in Books and Film

david nathan, md

In two recent books and the Ken Burns TV documentary, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”, prominent researchers explain eloquently why cancer is such a stubborn problem and detail how the latest treatment strategies are gaining ground – if slowly. “There have been so many wonderful changes,” says David G. Nathan, MD, president emeritus of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a noted pioneer in treating inherited blood disorders . “But I try to make people understand that they have to be patient; it’s slow, steady progress, but we’ll get there.” In Nathan’s 2007 book, “The Cancer Treatment Revolution,” he describes the …

Continue reading

Five Common Myths About Clinical Trials

SMALL_Quackenbush Lab

Better cancer treatments depend on clinical trials of new drugs and other therapies, but in the United States, only 3 percent of cancer patients participate in these investigations of new therapies. Patients often hesitate to participate because they don’t understand the process or have misconceptions about what it means for them. “There’s a national lack of understanding of why we do clinical research and where it takes us,” says Michele Russell-Einhorn, JD, Senior Director of the Office for Human Research Studies at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. “We could all do a better job of educating people about clinical …

Continue reading

Discovering New Ways to Approach the Treatment of Rare Brain Tumors

brain tumor research

Until a few years ago, there were only a handful of known survivors of atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT), a rare cancer that affects the brain and central nervous system. When researchers at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center studied how these few survivors were treated, they found three had been given an unusual chemotherapy regimen. They decided to try that therapy with several new and relapsed patients. “We had two kids with newly diagnosed AT/RT and two that had relapsed, and three of them did very well,” says Mark Kieran, MD, PhD, director of Medical Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Boston …

Continue reading