New Treatment Option for Patients with Rare Blood Cancer

Steven Treon, MD, PhD

It’s commonly thought that targeted therapy for cancer requires the development of separate drugs for each type and subtype of cancer. The recent approval of the drug ibrutinib (Imbruvica®), however, for Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia (a rare form of lymphoma) shows the opposite to be true: a single agent can be effective against multiple types of cancers, providing they spring from the same molecular mechanism. Last month, Waldenström’s became the fourth cancer for which ibrutinib has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2013 and 2014 the drug was successively approved for patients with mantle cell lymphoma who have …

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Forty Years After Introduction, Breast Cancer Prevention Drug Still Effective

Erica Mayer, MD

Nearly 40 years after its introduction, tamoxifen continues to prove its value as a breast cancer prevention drug. The most recent evidence comes from the International Breast Cancer Prevention Study 1 (IBIS-1), which for 20 years has been tracking breast cancer occurrence and survival rates in more than 7,000 women who had a higher than average risk of developing breast cancer at the time of enrolling in the study. Half the participants were randomly assigned to take tamoxifen for five years, while the other half took a placebo, or inactive pill, for the same period. (Participants didn’t know which pill they’d …

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Young Patients Create Global Artwork

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Although childhood cancer is relatively rare in the United States, around 200,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year. Of those cases, approximately 80 percent occur in low- and middle-income countries, which average a 20 percent survival rate. The remaining 20 percent of diagnoses are in high-income countries, which average an 80 percent survival rate. In anticipation of International Childhood Cancer Day on February 15, patients at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center recently participated in craft activities that represented some of the 21 countries where the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) works to improve outcomes for children with …

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Dating Advice from Young Adults with Cancer

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Navigating the dating world is difficult regardless of one’s age or circumstances. But dating or maintaining a relationship as a young adult living with cancer is particularly tricky. How should you tell a potential partner about your disease, and when? How do you maintain normalcy as a couple when you’re planning dates around treatment schedules, or treatment-related side effects? The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber recently hosted a Twitter chat for young adults with cancer to discuss these challenges. Here is some of their advice. Be open about your diagnosis in the beginning, it can help in the long run …

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Five Ways to Reduce Skin Cancer Risk this Winter

Lip balm sun safety

Whether you’re escaping the chill with a tropical vacation or skiing the slopes, sun safety is still important in the winter months. Because UV rays can be harmful even in frosty temperatures, protecting your skin is a year-round responsibility. Allison Goddard, MD, of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center for Skin (Cutaneous) Oncology, shares some wintertime sun safety tips to protect your skin and lower your risk for developing skin cancer: 1. Look for sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply to all exposed areas of skin, including neck, ears, and hands, and reapply every hour and a half that you …

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Discovering New Ways to Approach the Treatment of Rare Brain Tumors

brain tumor research

Until a few years ago, there were only a handful of known survivors of atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT), a rare cancer that affects the brain and central nervous system. When researchers at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center studied how these few survivors were treated, they found three had been given an unusual chemotherapy regimen. They decided to try that therapy with several new and relapsed patients. “We had two kids with newly diagnosed AT/RT and two that had relapsed, and three of them did very well,” says Mark Kieran, MD, PhD, director of Medical Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Boston …

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FDA Approves New Therapy for Metastatic Breast Cancer

New drug approved for metastatic breast cancer

  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new treatment  for women with advanced (metastatic) breast cancer. The new therapy, palbociclib, will be used to treat postmenopausal women with metastatic estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer who have not received previous treatment. Palbociclib, which is marketed under the name Ibrance, will be used in combination with another breast cancer drug, letrozole. “This is a new class of drugs that has been effective in treating this particular pathway in cancer, and it has improved outcomes for patients with advanced ER-positive breast cancer, one of the most common forms of the …

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Can Babies Be Born with Cancer?

Can babies be born with cancer?

For any parent, having a child with cancer is devastating. For the parents of Carrick Stafford Wood, it was even more so. Carrick was born with cancer, specifically acute myeloid leukemia (or AML). He spent the first six months of his life in the hospital before finally going home on Christmas Day. We spoke to Lisa Diller, MD, clinical director of Pediatric Oncology at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, about this rare scenario. Is it unusual for babies to be born with cancer? It’s unusual, but it can happen. The most common cancer in newborns is neuroblastoma – …

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Collaborative Effort Helps Develop More Effective Treatment for Brain Tumors

The information used in diagnosing a brain tumor takes many forms. At Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), patients’ brain tumor tissue undergoes a broad range of diagnostic tests: not only standard pathology exams in which tumor cells are viewed under a microscope, but also next-generation scans for mutated genes and misassembled chromosomes, as well as whole-genome searches for surplus or missing copies of genes. Such extensive testing helps pinpoint the exact type and characteristics of a particular tumor. The more specific the diagnosis, the more precise the therapy can be. But such a wealth of test results is only …

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Important Terms Every Breast Cancer Patient Should Know

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After a breast cancer diagnosis, it can sometimes be hard to wrap one’s mind around all of the terminology used by doctors and nurses. In fact, a recent study from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found a significant lack of knowledge among breast cancer patients about the basic characteristics of their disease, including how advanced it is (stage), the grade, and the subtype (e.g. whether it is hormone receptor-positive or HER2-positive). The study surveyed 500 women in the California Cancer Registry who had early-stage breast cancer. Between 56-58 percent of women knew the correct stage and receptor status of their tumor, and …

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