Scientific ‘Salvage’ Project Advances Understanding of AML

SMALL_Drs. Richard Stone, Donna Neuberg, Coleman Lindsley, and Ben Ebert in lab.

It looked like a scientific dead end – a clinical trial that found no benefit to a potential drug for a form of leukemia. But, like police detectives working a cold case, Dana-Farber scientists gathered hundreds of tissue samples that had been collected for the study – most of them languishing in laboratory cabinets, destined for disposal – and analyzed their molecular makeup. The result was discovery of a distinct genetic subtype of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that often has a worse prognosis than other forms but is rich in targets for new “smart” drugs. The research, published in the …

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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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Chronicling Cancer Research in Books and Film

david nathan, md

In two recent books and the Ken Burns TV documentary, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”, prominent researchers explain eloquently why cancer is such a stubborn problem and detail how the latest treatment strategies are gaining ground – if slowly. “There have been so many wonderful changes,” says David G. Nathan, MD, president emeritus of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a noted pioneer in treating inherited blood disorders . “But I try to make people understand that they have to be patient; it’s slow, steady progress, but we’ll get there.” In Nathan’s 2007 book, “The Cancer Treatment Revolution,” he describes the …

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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, co-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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Which U.S. States Have the Highest Cancer Rates? [Infographic]

cancer rates by state

In a country as geographically vast as the United States, and with a large and mobile population, it’s not surprising that cancer rates vary by region, by state – and even by localities within states. Geographical differences exist in overall cancer rates and in specific types of cancer, according to a 2014 study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, breast cancer incidence rates are highest in the Northeast, followed by the Midwest and the South. But death rates from breast cancer are highest in the Midwest, followed by the South and the West. Lung …

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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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What’s New in Skin Cancer Research?

SMALL_Gordon Freeman, in his lab for Paths of Progress, POP SS 2014

Although malignant melanoma has been attracting much of the media spotlight because of promising new immunotherapy drugs, advances are also being made in other types of skin cancer. Nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are very common, with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually. In fact, it’s estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer. While melanoma tumors begin in the skin’s pigment-containing cells, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell cancers develop in cells at the base of the outer layer of the skin. They rarely spread to other parts of …

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Helping Cancer Patients ‘Live Life to the Fullest’

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Cancer survivors of all ages sometimes face psychological, social, or physical side effects that are long-lasting or develop later in life. With the number of survivors reaching 12 million in the U.S. today, the need for survivorship care and education is growing. “Survivorship care is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Just like treating a cancer when a person comes in, we look at the person and the characteristics of the disease,” Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, director of Dana-Farber’s Adult Survivorship Program. “We need to tailor survivorship care as well, to help patients move forward and live life to the fullest.” Partridge …

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