DNA Test May Offer Alternative to Pap Smear

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel has recommended that a DNA test should be the primary screening tool for cervical cancer, rather than the traditional Pap smear. The DNA test detects the DNA of human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted infection that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. “This is an important step forward for cervical cancer screening,” says Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Specifically, the DNA test screens for HPV-16 and HPV-18, the two highest-risk HPV strains, as well as 12 other high-risk HPV …

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Why is Breast Cancer on the Rise Worldwide?

The number of deaths from breast cancer has dropped over the past decade in the United States, but around the world, especially in less-developed countries, the number is rising. A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2013 said 522,000 women died from breast cancer in 2012 – a 14 percent increase compared with 2008.

A History of Multiple Myeloma Advances

Not long ago, a diagnosis of multiple myeloma — a cancer of the bone marrow — carried with it a very poor prognosis, with median survival estimates of just two to three years. Now, thanks in large part to research and treatment advances at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), this disease is for many patients a chronic, and more manageable disease, with prognosis now improved to median survivals of seven to ten years. Here is a look at how DF/BWCC physician-scientists and patients have helped lead the way toward improved treatment for multiple myeloma over the past three decades.

Progress and Promise in Prostate Cancer Research

In prostate cancer – the most common cancer in men aside from skin cancer – scientists are working to answer some of the most basic questions about the disease while developing an array of new treatments. Using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, doctors are often able to detect prostate cancer at an early stage. But it remains difficult to determine which prostate cancers are likely to spread – and therefore require aggressive treatment – and which are either idle or slow-growing, and can be dealt with by “observation or active surveillance.” This uncertainty could result in unnecessary treatment for …

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Cancer Immunology at Dana-Farber

Immunotherapy – stimulating the body’s defenses to recognize and destroy disease-causing cells and proteins – was dubbed the “breakthrough of the year” in 2013 by Science magazine. Dana-Farber researchers have contributed many important discoveries over the years about how the immune system works. Now, they are building on these insights to develop immunotherapy against tumors – known as immuno-oncology. In 2005 Dana-Farber established the Cancer Vaccine Center (CVC) under the leadership of Ellis Reinherz, MD, Jerome Ritz, MD, and Glenn Dranoff, MD. The mission of the CVC is to translate the promising insights from basic immunology into therapeutics that benefit …

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Is Cancer More Serious If You Also Have Another Disease?

When cancer develops in someone with other diseases, it can be more serious, according to a recent annual report from several national cancer organizations. “Cancer does not occur in isolation,” says Lawrence Shulman, MD, in commenting on the report. “It occurs in a human being, who may have other medical problems.”

New Strategies in Treating Kidney Cancer

By Richard Saltus  Though quite curable when diagnosed early, kidney cancer in advanced stages can become a stubborn disease. However, the outlook for patients with metastatic kidney cancer has brightened in the past several years. Oncologists have added to their arsenal a number of designer drugs that attack molecular targets – genetic abnormalities that drive tumors – with high specificity.

New Findings May Change Treatment of Advanced Prostate Cancer

For about 70 years, the standard treatment for patients with advanced prostate cancer was drugs that blocked male hormones feeding the tumor. If that stopped working and the disease progressed, oncologists turned to chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells. This timetable is about to change. Results of a clinical trial led by a Dana-Farber researcher revealed that such patients lived longer if started on both a hormone blocker and a chemotherapy drug at the same time. The government-sponsored trial found that 69 percent of men receiving both treatments were alive at three years, compared with 52.5 percent of men who …

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