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 …

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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 …

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Collaborative Effort Helps Develop More Effective Treatment for Brain Tumors

The information used in diagnosing a brain tumor takes many forms. At Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), patients’ brain tumor tissue undergoes a broad range of diagnostic tests: not only standard pathology exams in which tumor cells are viewed under a microscope, but also next-generation scans for mutated genes and misassembled chromosomes, as well as whole-genome searches for surplus or missing copies of genes. Such extensive testing helps pinpoint the exact type and characteristics of a particular tumor. The more specific the diagnosis, the more precise the therapy can be. But such a wealth of test results is only …

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Why the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative Is Good for Cancer Research

4.25.14 GenomicsSmall

A boost in funding for research on genetic causes of cancer and “tailored” cancer treatments will be a major focus of the new Precision Medicine Initiative. President Barack Obama is requesting an increase of $215 million in the 2016 budget, to launch the effort “to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes – and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.” Of that total, $130 million is slated for the NIH for development of a voluntary national research cohort of a million or more volunteers, …

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The Latest in Cervical Cancer Treatment, Research and Prevention


Although cervical cancer is relatively rare in the United States, approximately 11,000-12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease each year. Globally, that number grows to more than 500,000 diagnoses each year, making it the fourth most common women’s cancer worldwide. As January marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber hosted a live cervical cancer webchat with Ursula Matulonis, MD, medical director of the Gynecologic Oncology Program at the Susan F. Smith Center, medical oncologist Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, and radiation oncologist Larissa Lee, MD. The discussion included information about …

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What to Expect for Cancer Prevention and Therapies in 2015

Dr. William Hahn

This post was originally published on Cancer Research Catalyst, the official blog of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).  Since the beginning of the “war on cancer” in the 1970s, we have made consistent progress against cancer aided by paradigm-shifting technological advances. Last year, we witnessed significant developments being made on several different fronts. Proof of this is the approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of eight cancer drugs, including a few milestone “first-of-their-kind” drugs encompassing immunotherapies and targeted therapies, and a nine-valent vaccine that can prevent infections that cause cervical cancer. The substantial gains we have made …

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Precision Medicine and the Future of Cancer Treatment


Precision medicine is rapidly changing the way cancer is studied and treated today. With new information about genetic and molecular characteristics in tumors, doctors are finding more effective and less toxic ways to fight the disease. “Precision medicine is seeing the monster of cancer clearly for the first time in a way that we can pinpoint weaknesses and then go into our arsenal and try new drugs to attack those weaknesses,” says Levi Garraway, MD, PhD, director of the Joint Center for Cancer Precision Medicine at Dana-Farber. Garraway recently discussed the evolving field of precision medicine in a Science, Innovation, …

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A Teen’s Journey: Developing a Diagnostic Test for Pancreatic Cancer

Jack Andraka

This post was originally written and published on Vector, Boston Children’s Hospital’s science and clinical innovation blog.  At age 13, Jack Andraka lost a family friend to pancreatic cancer. At age 15, he developed a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer that early findings suggest is highly accurate. In this session from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards 2014, Andraka describes his journey, the Johns Hopkins professor who took him on, his fascination with carbon nanotubes and how open access to scientific journals can help people around the world create solutions to problems. The diagnostic itself is in the early phases of testing. …

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New Immunotherapy Vaccines Show Promise in Treating Brain Tumors

David Reardon, brain tumors

Researchers in Dana-Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology are now launching attacks on glioblastomas from a new angle – by turning the patient’s immune system against the cancer cells. Where targeted chemotherapy uses drugs to disable proteins that cancer cells need to grow, immunotherapy drugs stimulate the patient’s immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. Traditional drugs and even targeted chemotherapy agents have had little success in treating glioblastoma – the deadliest type of brain tumor. “Immunotherapy represents a great hope for patients currently facing this disease,” says David Reardon, MD, clinical director of the Center.  “We’re anxious to move this approach …

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Immunotherapy, Ovarian Cancer Treatment Top List of 2014 Cancer Developments


Immunotherapy, treatments for ovarian cancer, and investigating game-changing drug therapies topped the list of the most important cancer research and clinical developments at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 2014. Here are some highlights from the last year in research: Hodgkin lymphoma Some of the most dramatic evidence of potential of immunotherapies was in the treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma. In an early-phase clinical trial, research showed nivolumab, a drug that unleashes the immune system to attack cancer cells, achieved complete or partial remissions in Hodgkin lymphoma patients with resistant forms of the disease. The success of nivolumab in this study prompted the …

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