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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The Latest in Precision Medicine and Lung Cancer

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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 …

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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 …

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Survivor, Hero, Battle: The Complicated Language of Cancer

The language of cancer

The language used to talk about cancer often focuses on battle words – those who are cured “won” or “survived,” while those who die from cancer “lost” their “fight.” But is cancer really something to be won or lost? Young adults with cancer discussed these phrases and others during the recent Young Adult Cancer Conference hosted by the Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber. Labeling your cancer, and yourself as a patient or survivor, is often one of the most challenging aspects of the cancer experience, they said. Loved ones and those without cancer often consider cancer patients “heroes,” but, as …

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Five Things You Need to Know About Head and Neck Cancer

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Head and neck cancers represent a group of cancers that affect the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses, and mouth. While these diseases only represent 2.5 percent of new cancer cases in the U.S., they affect vital functions, including swallowing and speaking. Here are five things to know about head and neck cancer: 1. What are the risk factors? Individuals who drink alcohol, particularly beer or hard liquor, and use cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or smokeless tobacco, are at a higher risk for developing head and neck cancer. Risk also increases with age, particularly those over 45. Certain strains of the human papilloma …

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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 …

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Answers to Common Questions About Stem Cell Transplants

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Stem cell transplantation can be a life-saving treatment option for patients with blood cancers or disorders. The procedure, sometimes called bone marrow transplantation, replaces bone marrow that doesn’t work correctly or has been damaged by disease. We spoke with Joseph Antin, MD, chief of the Stem Cell Transplantation Program at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, to learn more about this procedure: Why might I need a stem cell transplant? You might need a stem cell transplant if your bone marrow can’t make enough blood cells or if it produces abnormal blood cells, usually because it is damaged by disease. For …

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Angelina Jolie Puts Spotlight on Genetic Testing and Ovarian Cancer Risk

Once again Angelina Jolie is making headlines after penning another op-ed in The New York Times. The actress shared she has undergone more cancer preventive surgery – this time prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy, a procedure to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. Two years ago, she wrote about her decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy, a surgery to remove both breasts after her positive genetic test for the BRCA1 mutation. “It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue,” wrote Jolie. “You can seek advice, learn about the …

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Remembering My Father’s Journey with Multiple Myeloma

By Elise Renner There’s a 1-in-12 chance that this is the month yours or your loved one’s cancer is recognized—odds better than the survival rates for some of these diseases. Some months, like October, boast big names like breast cancer. Others, like September, are crowded with lesser-known branches of the disease. “Cancer apparel,” including ribbons and jewelry, is marketed with pretty colors, one for each type of cancer, and sold to raise money as well as awareness. For my dad, I would wear maroon. Multiple myeloma, maroon, March – whoever decided this must’ve been keen on alliteration. This month I …

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What Is Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia?

Waldenström's Macroglobulinemia

Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia (Waldenström’s) is a slow-growing type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma marked by abnormal levels of an antibody called macroglobulin (IgM). Also known as lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, Waldenström’s mostly forms in the bone marrow and can hinder the growth of normal blood cells, which can lead to anemia as well as a weakened immune system. Waldenström’s sometimes does not produce symptoms (asymptomatic), and is often found during a blood test. However, the increased amount of IgM produced by Waldenström’s cells can cause excess bleeding as well as problems with vision. Other symptoms can include enlarged liver, spleen, or lymph nodes, headache, fatigue, …

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