Archive for Uncategorized

The Faces of Pediatric Cancer – Fernando Morales

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Fernando Morales is a student athlete. Last year he was sidelined from the life he knew after he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma. Now done with treatment Fernando is back with his teammates, sporting a positive outlook and a new appreciation for life. This is his story. 

As a soccer player and member of the track and field team at my high school, running is a big part of my life. But one morning I started getting shooting pains in my knee. All of a sudden walking and running became very difficult. In the blink of an eye I lost a big part of my identity, which hurt almost as much as my leg. Almost.

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The Faces of Pediatric Cancer – Caitlynne McGaff

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Caitlynne McGaff is an active 17-year-old. She owes a lot of her mobility to an innovative surgery she had at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center to treat her osteosarcoma. This is her story.

When most people my age talk about a day they’ll never forget, they mention getting their license, or a great sweet sixteen party. For me, it’s a little different.

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A Closer Look at Childhood Cancer

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September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Beginning next Wednesday, and over the next four weeks, we’ll introduce four children – Caitlynne, Fernando, Sarah and Steven – who while still young, have already overcome one of the biggest challenges of their lives.

These four represent just a few of the many faces of childhood cancer across the United States and the world. We hope you’ll join us in September in honoring all of the children who come to Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center, as well as their caregivers—doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, researchers, administrators and more—who work tirelessly until every child is well.

We begin with a conversation with Lisa Diller, MD, chief medical officer and clinical director of Pediatric Oncology at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center.

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Black Hawk Pilot Ben Groen battles lymphoma diagnosis

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New Year’s Eve 2010. In a military hospital in Hawaii with much of the staff away for the holidays, Army pilot Ben Groen learned he’d been diagnosed with T cell lymphoblastic non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a rare, aggressive cancer of the white blood cells and lymph nodes. His doctor told him that his treatment – which would need to begin almost immediately and require months of hospitalization – would exceed the capacity of the base’s blood bank. Read more

Can aspirin prevent or treat cancer?

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Aspirin has been around for over 100 years. In the last 50 years, research has shown that regular use of aspirin may prevent heart disease. Now a new study points to aspirin’s effectiveness in preventing and treating cancer.

A recent University of Oxford investigation pooled more than 50 studies to show that regular aspirin use could reduce your chances of developing certain types of cancer, and may be effective in treating some cancers as well. We talked to Charles S. Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber for his take on the recent research.

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How to protect children from the sun

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Applying sunscreen to wiggly young children can be a challenge, but sun protection is especially critical for young skin. Babies and young children are especially sensitive to the sun. There are several lines of evidence indicating that burns during youth significantly contribute to melanoma risk. For instance, just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles an individual’s risk of developing melanoma later in life.

How are genes involved in cancer?

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Genes don’t cause cancer, but genetic mutations can. Our cells have about 22,000 genes, which consist of DNA packed into chromosomes inside the cell nucleus. These genes control a wide range of functions, including cell growth and division. When the genes misbehave or mutate, cancer can develop. Read more

Science and serendipity: How the study of basic science leads to unexpected results

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What’s a cancer scientist doing earning an award for diabetes or cardiovascular research?

The two Dana-Farber scientists who received the prizes in early June say they are great examples of how research that isn’t tied to specific goals can lead to unanticipated discoveries in other areas. They argue that just as their unrestricted pursuit of scientific questions in cancer biology has paid off in two different fields of biomedicine – diabetes and heart disease – research that originally wasn’t related to cancer has shed light on the roots of malignant diseases. Read more

AT/RT: How my son faced a rare cancer and beat the odds

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By Timothy Rourke

Most parents treasure the big moments in a child’s life: first steps, first word, first day of school. I, on the other hand, treasure every moment with my son, Declan – the simple act of eating breakfast together, watching him do his homework, or taking him to ice-skating lessons. This is because Declan is a cancer survivor.

It’s hard enough to learn your child has cancer. One minute your world seems fine, and the next, you’re falling into chaos and fear. But when my wife and I got the news, after Declan had a seizure on Father’s Day 2006, we had the added distinction of a cancer diagnosis so rare that only 30 or so families receive it every year.

Declan, then 15 months old, had an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT), a rare cancer that affects the brain and central nervous system. At the time of his diagnosis, researchers could count on one hand the number of long-term survivors. Like a lottery nobody wants to win, we suddenly found ourselves in a category of cancer so small, so remote, that it was easy to think there would be no place for us to turn.

The New Hampshire oncologist who diagnosed our son saw a different picture.

“I have no ego when it comes to kids,” he said. “If the best treatment for their cancer is in France, I send them to France. If it’s in Germany, I send them to Germany. It just so happens that, for your son, the best treatment is just 45 minutes away at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.”

With those words came hope for beating a disease that had inflicted so few, and yet taken so many.

Declan immediately began a year-and-a-half of treatment under the care of Dr. Mark Kieran, Dr. Susan Chi, and Dr. Anupama Narla at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. The regimen was brutal: 52-plus weeks of high-dose chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, and half a dozen surgeries at Boston Children’s Hospital, where surgeons work in partnership with Dana-Farber oncologists. There were feeding tubes, ports in his chest and head, and more blood and platelet transfusions than I can count.

And yet, our family was emboldened by the courage of a group of specialists that dedicated time – and resources – to such a rare disease. And we found comfort in the knowledge that although there were so few cases of atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor a year, this team had the expertise to give Declan the best possible care.

As I type these words, my son – now seven – sleeps peacefully in his bed.  He has been out of treatment since October 2007, and currently shows no evidence of disease, according to his doctors. As of today, he is one of the only long-term AT/RT cancer survivors in the world.

A world turned upside down is once again right side up. Of course, we dread every check-up and MRI scan that brings a threat of relapse. That’s one downside of being the rarest of the rare; survivorship cannot be taken for granted. We meet other AT/RT families who shared our hope for a cure that, for them, proved elusive.

Tomorrow the sun will rise. My son will open his eyes and greet the day. I’ll find him near his 6-month-old sister’s crib, where she will glance his way, hear his voice, and squeal with glee.

To most parents, the sight would be sweet. But I am not most parents. I am the parent of a cancer survivor. The moment will blind me with its beauty, and bring tears to a man who knows how lucky he is.

Timothy Rourke is a member of the Pediatric Patient and Family Advisory Council at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

 

3 cancer drugs raise risk of fatal side effects

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Treatment with three relatively new “targeted” cancer drugs has been linked to a slightly elevated chance of fatal side effects, according to a new analysis led by scientists at Dana-Farber.

The study looked at three drugs: sorafenib (Nexavar), sunitinib (Sutent), and pazopanib (Votrient). Sorafenib is approved to treat kidney and liver cancer, sunitinib to treat kidney cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), and pazopanib to treat kidney cancer.

Dr. Toni Choueiri, the lead author of the study, says that patients should be aware of the risks and speak with their doctor.