Can Women Get More Than One Lumpectomy?

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For many women with localized breast cancer, a lumpectomy followed by breast radiation therapy may be the most effective treatment, with survival rates equal to a mastectomy. But if the cancer comes back, can women have additional lumpectomies? Women should not have a second lumpectomy in the same breast if they were previously treated with a lumpectomy and radiation, says Mehra Golshan, MD, FACS, director of Breast Surgical Services at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Instead, the standard course of treatment is a mastectomy (total removal of the breast), with or without reconstruction, to avoid …

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Immunotherapy, Targeted Drugs, Brain Cancer Research Among Highlights at Cancer Meeting

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Eagerly awaited new data from trials of immunotherapy drugs, vaccines to treat brain tumors, and improved treatments for blood cancers sparked waves of optimism at the year’s biggest cancer meeting. The 2015 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) drew about 30,000 cancer specialists to Chicago May 29 – June 2. Immunotherapy, which uses drugs to block immune “checkpoints” such as PD-1 and PD-L1, allowing the patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells, drew standing-room-only audiences as researchers reported updated results in studies of melanoma, lung cancer, and brain cancer. Investigators from Dana-Farber and Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer …

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How the Body’s Immune System Can Fight Cancer

F. Stephen Hodi, MD

Immunology is one of the most promising areas of cancer treatment today. Immunotherapy drugs, which use the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer cells, have been effective in treating several forms of the disease, including melanoma, prostate cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, and certain types of brain tumors. The immune system has natural stopping points when fighting against bacteria and infection, which prevent the system from going after the body’s own cells and tissues. However, these “brakes” prevent the immune system from successfully attacking cancer cells and tumors. Immunotherapy drugs block those brakes, allowing the immune system to fight and destroy …

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Explaining the Complexities of Cancer

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This post originally appeared on Cancer Research Catalyst, the official blog of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).  Burgeoning understanding of the biology of cancer has led to advances in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment. These advances mean that a person diagnosed with cancer in the United States today has a greater chance of surviving their diagnosis than ever before. Despite the tremendous advances, almost 600,000 people in the United States are expected to die from cancer this year alone. We asked Eric Winer, MD, chief of the Division of Women’s Cancers and director of the Breast Oncology …

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How a Cure for Hodgkin Lymphoma Changed the Course of Cancer Treatment

ASCO, George Canellos, Hodgkiin lymphoma

To mark its 50th anniversary, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) invited physicians, patients, and the public to name the most important advances in clinical cancer research in the past half century. From more than 2,000 responses, the top choice was a cure for advanced Hodgkin lymphoma developed by scientists at the National Cancer Institute in the mid-1960s. The treatment used a combination of chemotherapy agents known by the acronym MOPP and represented the first time that combination chemotherapy had cured a non-leukemic solid tumor in adults. Its success led to the development of other combinations of chemotherapy drugs …

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New Research Brings Better Understanding of Brain Tumors, Treatment Advances

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Brain cancer takes a variety of forms – and research to better understand and treat it is progressing on a variety of fronts. One area of focus is the tumor microenvironment the skein of tissues and blood vessels that feed and support a tumor. Researchers are exploring how newly formed brain tumors interact with surrounding cells to turn those cells into aiders and abetters of tumor growth. They’re particularly interested in how brain tumors tap into the body’s blood supply to draw in nutrients. Understanding these processes is a critical first step to devising therapies that prevent tumors from exploiting …

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The Science of PD-1 and Immunotherapy

The science of PD-1 and immunotherapy

This is a story about the velocity of an idea – a discovery whose potential to improve cancer treatment practically leapt from the test tube. The groundwork was laid in the 1990s, when scientists learned that human cells carry certain proteins on their surface that enable them to escape attack from the body’s immune system. That was followed by the discovery by Dana-Farber scientists that many cancer cells wear one of those same proteins, called PD-L1 – part of an elaborate masquerade that allows the cancer cells to live and multiply without harrassment from the immune system. The implications of …

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Patient Turned Researcher Helps Advance Understanding of Brain Tumors

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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 …

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

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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. …

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

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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 …

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