This Sunday, 7,000 runners will step up to the starting line for the 12th annual Boston Athletic Association (BAA) Half Marathon presented by Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. 500 of them will run not only to set a personal record on the 13.1-mile course, but also to raise money for Dana-Farber. Included in that group are a number of runners we’re happy to call our colleagues. Here are two of their stories.
Archive for General interest
Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen are the smiling faces once found on every container of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The Burlington, Vt. company’s co-founders have become as famous for their charitable work as they are for Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey.
Here Jerry talks about his company’s support of Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl® presented by FedEx, the nation’s largest all-you-can-eat ice cream festival to be held this year from noon to 8 p.m. on June 5-7 at Boston’s City Hall Plaza.
For most people, a cancer diagnosis brings the daily routine of life to a grinding halt, at least temporarily. But after the initial shock wears off, many patients strive to resume their everyday activities, including vacation or travel plans.
Being treated for cancer doesn’t necessarily mean cancelling your summer vacation. Many people travel during and after cancer treatment. But it can require a little planning. Read more
In low-income, minority communities, tight-knit social connections can lead people to eat right and be physically active — but they can also sometimes be an obstacle to a healthy lifestyle, according to new research by investigators at Dana-Farber and the Harvard School of Public Health.
The findings present a mixed picture of the benefits and potential downsides of social ties as they relate to a healthy lifestyle.
The Encyclopedia Britannica may have published its last print edition, but a group of Dana-Farber scientists and their colleagues recently produced one of the first encyclopedias to help researchers determine which subtypes of cancer are likely to respond to current drugs.
The freely available, online encyclopedia lists hundreds of cancer subtypes – each with a unique set of genetic abnormalities that define it – along with drugs that are known to target those defects. The data, described alongside a similar catalog developed by another team of investigators, will guide researchers in designing clinical trials – improving the chances that the drug being studied will act against the particular genetic vulnerabilities within a tumor. Read more
As a cancer biologist, Dr. Kornelia (Nelly) Polyak pores over countless images of breast cancer cells and their surrounding tissues, data tables, and graphs – visuals that only a scientist can find beautiful.
But when she sits down to paint, Polyak fills large canvases with a riot of vivid and deeply saturated colors, with thick brushstrokes rendering landscapes like purple fields of lavender in France, red-tiled houses on the Italian coast, and lush English gardens.
Polyak’s chosen medium is acrylic paint applied with little water and so thick that it resembles oils. She has been inspired by the Impressionist painters, including Monet and Manet and especially Van Gogh, with his bright colors and wide brush strokes. Read more
What age is appropriate to get screened for prostate cancer and begin treatment? Recent news surrounding Warren Buffett’s diagnosis, including a report on Boston.com, has some asking if age should factor into these decisions.
Dr. Philip Kantoff, chief of the Division of Solid tumor at Dana-Farber and director of Dana-Farber’s Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology, speaks about PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) screening and the benefits associated with undergoing active surveillance, instead of opting for radiation or surgery in appropriate patients.
Chinese scientists recently found a gene that encourages the growth of a form of lung cancer by switching on a circuit that includes a gene called sonic hedgehog. How do genes get their names?
When a scientist discovers a new human gene, he or she submits a proposed name to the Human Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC), an international panel of researchers with exclusive authority over this area. Guidelines were established in 1979 by the HGNC and have been updated periodically. (The HGNC itself operates under the auspices of the Human Genome Organization, an international association of scientists involved in human genetics.)
Although the rules are fairly lengthy, they basically require that names be concise and convey the character or function of the gene without trying to describe everything known about it. Despite the call for brevity, some names are rather unwieldy – ATP-binding cassette, sub-family A (ABC1), member 1 is an example. As a result, many genes are better known by their acronym or symbol: the symbol for the above-mentioned gene is ABCA1. Symbols are not permitted to be offensive, confusing, or spell actual words.
Even with these rules, gene nomenclature can be confusing. Sometimes, the names bestowed by the HGNC have little meaning for researchers in the field, who continue to use genes’ more familiar names. The gene officially dubbed Smarcb1, for example, also goes by the symbols Snf5, INI1, and Baf47. Even TP53, one of the most “famous” genes for its role as a tumor-suppressor, is best known by its nickname, P53.
However, the rules governing the names of genes for other (non-human) organisms are somewhat looser, allowing scientists to indulge their sense of whimsy. Fruit flies, for example, have the genes tinman and tribbles, while zebrafish boast the genes backstroke, einstein, and tiggywinkle hedgehog.
Cancer cells have a voracious appetite for glucose, a form of sugar, and consume it in much greater amounts than normal cells do. The knowledge of cancer cells’ zest for sugar has led some people to wonder if eating less sugar would restrain tumors’ growth.
While cancer cells do rely on a large intake of glucose to fuel their growth and proliferation, reducing sugar in your diet won’t curb tumors. Read more
Mattel Inc., maker of Barbie dolls, last week announced that it would create a bald version of the popular fashion doll to support people battling cancer.
The announcement came a few months after Beautiful and Bald Barbie, a Facebook group that petitioned Mattel to make a hairless version of the doll, gained mass support online. Their mission was simple:
We would like to see a Beautiful and Bald Barbie made to help young girls who suffer from hair loss due to cancer treatments, alopecia or trichotillomania. Also, for young girls who are having trouble coping with their mother’s hair loss from chemo. Many children have some difficulty accepting their mother, sister, aunt, grandparent or friend going from long-haired to bald.
“A hairless doll could really present a great opportunity for families and medical providers to talk about illness and hair loss with kids facing those issues,” says Cori Liptak, PhD, a psychologist in the Division of Pediatric Psychosocial Services at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center. “It could also be an interactive way for some children to express their emotions about their own medical experience.” Read more