When a Celebrity Has Breast Cancer

by Erica Mayer, MD, MPH  In 1974, when First Lady Betty Ford announced that she had undergone a mastectomy for breast cancer, it was a turning point in people’s willingness to talk about the disease. Prior to that, discussing cancer of any type, even with one’s family or friends, was often taboo. The First Lady’s openness about her cancer helped create a space in which women felt more comfortable talking about their experience – and about being screened for the disease.

Dana-Farber Staff Join the Race

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.

How to eat ice cream and support cancer research at the same time

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.

Traveling with cancer

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.

Do friends, family affect your health?

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.

‘Encyclopedia’ charts genetics of cancer

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 …

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Cancer biologist finds links between science, art

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, …

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Prostate cancer: At what age should you be screened?

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.      

How do genes get their names?

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 …

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Does sugar feed cancer?

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.