Metastatic Breast Cancer Patient Keeps on Riding

Every day, Pat Hastings is in the barn by 5 a.m. As steward of the Hamilton Rare Breeds Foundation in Hartland, Vt., Hastings oversees herds of Poitou donkeys, Choctaw mustangs, Dales ponies, and American Cream draft horses. She has worked on farms for 35 years, and it’s here, with her horses, that she recovers from treatments for metastatic breast cancer. “Animals and farming are in my blood,” she says. First diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in April 1998, Hastings had a radical mastectomy at a hospital near her home in Vermont. Eleven years later, she felt a lump in the …

Continue reading

Know Your Surroundings: How Cancer Treatments Can Keep Cells From Supporting Tumors

By Eric Bender Multiple myeloma is a poster child for recent advances in treatment: In the past decade, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved no fewer than nine treatments for the blood cancer, and several more drug approvals appear to be near. Not coincidentally, multiple myeloma is also a popular target that researchers use to study the interactions of tumor cells and their “tumor microenvironments” — the non-cancerous cells, molecules and blood vessels that surround and often support the malignant cells. “These new myeloma drugs are all based on understanding how the tumor cells interact with other cells …

Continue reading

A Better Way to Care for Seriously Ill Children and Their Families

Joanne Wolfe, MD, MPH

This post originally appeared on WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog.  By Joanne Wolfe, MD, MPH How is it that, in this day and age, a talented teenager treated for lymphoma emerges cured but with a life-threatening eating disorder? How is it that, in our nation’s capital, a boy dying at home from neuroblastoma experiences excruciating pain in his final moments? How is that, when we develop new drugs to treat children with cancer, we do not, at the same time, routinely and in a standardized manner ask them how they are feeling? As a pediatric oncologist and palliative care physician, I was alarmed by stories like …

Continue reading

Can Women Get More Than One Lumpectomy?

AW_MG_4990_14SMALL

For many women with localized breast cancer, a lumpectomy followed by breast radiation therapy may be the most effective treatment, with survival rates equal to a mastectomy. But if the cancer comes back, can women have additional lumpectomies? Women should not have a second lumpectomy in the same breast if they were previously treated with a lumpectomy and radiation, says Mehra Golshan, MD, FACS, director of Breast Surgical Services at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Instead, the standard course of treatment is a mastectomy (total removal of the breast), with or without reconstruction, to avoid …

Continue reading

Childhood Cancer Patients Mark Hospital Departure with Bubbles

KC_20150508_BubbleParade-13_15

Avery McAvoy’s last day in the hospital was a long-awaited milestone, but all the 2-year-old cared about was how it ended: with bubbles. After 12 months of treatment for neuroblastoma at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, much of which was spent on the inpatient oncology and hematology unit at Boston Children’s Hospital, Avery participated on a Friday afternoon last month in what has become a beloved discharge ritual for clinical staff and patient families. Lining both sides of the corridor outside her room, nurses and other caregivers cheered and blew bubbles as Avery and her parents walked past …

Continue reading

Melanoma – What’s the Latest?

PF_Jennifer Lin166from BWH

Sun safety applies to everyone, regardless of skin color, gender, or age. That was the message emphasized in a recent live video webchat with Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) dermatologist Jennifer Lin, MD. During the chat, Lin answered questions about the latest in melanoma treatment and prevention. “The bottom line is that UV radiation causes mutations in our genes, which can lead to cancer,” says Lin, who works in DF/BWCC’s Melanoma Treatment Center. “We have to live with the sun, so it’s important that we learn to limit exposure and minimize a lifetime risk of accumulating genetic mutations. ” …

Continue reading

Family Ties: Why Genetics Matter

Genetics, cancer prevention

By Christine Hensel Triantos  On a cold winter day in 2002, Sharon Goyette stepped into Dana-Farber’s Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention. She was a 21-year-old college student, and this was the last place she wanted to be. But her mother had insisted. After developing colon cancer, Goyette’s mother had been diagnosed with Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer), an inherited condition that increases the risk of many types of cancer, including colorectal, uterine, stomach, brain, and skin. Her colon cancer was now advanced, and she had pleaded with Goyette to undergo genetic testing to find out …

Continue reading

Young Adult Shares Tips for Coping with Cancer

Young adult patients

By Carolyn Ridge On June 1, 2012, at the age of 30, I was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. The physical toll cancer took on my body was difficult, forcing me into early menopause, but I was even less prepared for the emotional side effects cancer would bring, including the depression I experienced throughout treatment. I am now dealing with a recurrence that was diagnosed in September 2014, but my reaction this time is different, because I am different. I have a care team I trust, cancer tools at my disposal, and, most importantly, I know that I’m not …

Continue reading

Immunotherapy, Targeted Drugs, Brain Cancer Research Among Highlights at Cancer Meeting

Gordon Freeman 150

Eagerly awaited new data from trials of immunotherapy drugs, vaccines to treat brain tumors, and improved treatments for blood cancers sparked waves of optimism at the year’s biggest cancer meeting. The 2015 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) drew about 30,000 cancer specialists to Chicago May 29 – June 2. Immunotherapy, which uses drugs to block immune “checkpoints” such as PD-1 and PD-L1, allowing the patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells, drew standing-room-only audiences as researchers reported updated results in studies of melanoma, lung cancer, and brain cancer. Investigators from Dana-Farber and Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer …

Continue reading

Living Well with Chronic Breast Cancer

Duncan Finigan isn’t fond of the phrase “stage IV.” “I choose to call it treatable, non-curable cancer, or a chronic disease,” the mom of four says. Following a physical exam by a new gynecologist last October, Finigan expedited her December mammogram, which ultimately led to an MRI, ultrasound, and a diagnosis of stage IV breast cancer. “When I saw a surgeon, radiologist, and oncologist at Dana-Farber’s South Shore location, that’s when I learned my cancer had spread to my bones; I was now classified as stage IV and not a candidate for surgery, radiation, or standard chemotherapy,” she recalls. The …

Continue reading