New Immunotherapy Drug for Melanoma Wins Approval

Stephen Hodi, MD

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new type of  immunotherapy drug that will provide a much-needed option for patients with advanced or inoperable melanoma who no longer respond to other drugs – including the immunotherapy agent ipilimumab (Yervoy). The drug, pembrolizumab or MK-3745, will be marketed under the name  Keytruda. Based on impressive performance in clinical trials, the FDA had designated pembrolizumab a “breakthrough therapy” and placed it on a fast-tracked approval process. “This drug is exciting because of its really striking response rate and good indications that these responses are durable” for a least a year, says Patrick Ott, MD, PhD, clinical …

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Dentist Brings a Smile to Transplant Patients

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Like many family members of cancer patients, Stephen Matarazzo, DMD, wanted a meaningful way to thank the Dana-Farber caregivers who saved his son Michael’s life. What he came up with involved offering his own professional expertise to protect the smiles of others. A dentist based in Quincy, Mass., Matarazzo provides pro bono dental exams and services to cancer and benign hematology patients who, like his son did, need stem cell transplants. Dental visits are critical transplants suppress the immune system, and patients are at significant risk for developing infections – in some cases life-threatening ones. The oral cavity and teeth …

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Understanding the New Treatment Guidelines for HER2-Negative Breast Cancer

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A new national guideline for the treatment of women with a type of advanced breast cancer known as HER2-negative disease balances state-of-the-art evidence with a need to tailor therapy to each patient’s circumstances and preferences. The guideline, developed by a panel of experts convened by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), will help clarify the choices facing patients and physicians in treating one of the most common forms of breast cancer. Nearly 80 percent of advanced breast cancers are classified as HER2-negative, meaning the cancer cells do not have excess amounts of the HER2 protein and don’t respond to …

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Adult Leukemia: Five Things You Need to Know

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More than 52,000 new cases of adult leukemia are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Although it is one of the more common childhood cancers, leukemia is found more often in older adults. As September marks Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, we look at some important facts about adult leukemia: 1.     What are the different types of leukemia? Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. Main types of leukemia include: Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) – AML causes the bone marrow to produce immature white blood cells (called myeloblasts). As a result, patients may have a very high or low white …

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New Surgery Technique Expands Treatment Options for Brain Tumor Patients

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For many patients with brain tumors or other abnormal tissue located deep in the brain, treatment options have been limited. Last year, Jill Colter, now 50, discovered that a brain tumor resulting from Stage IV melanoma had returned. “Several years earlier, I had treatment with surgery and radiation, but the tumor came back,” Jill said. Due to the location of Jill’s tumor and her prior radiation, surgery and further radiation weren’t possible to treat her tumor. Colter was referred to neurosurgeon Alexandra Golby, MD, director of image-guided neurosurgery and clinical co-director of the Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) Suite …

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Months After Transplant, Teen Hits the Soccer Field

Some 100 days after receiving a stem cell transplant to cure his severe aplastic anemia, 13-year-old Behaylu Barry still couldn’t invite friends into his home. He can’t return to school until January, when his immune system will finally be strong enough to fight the pathogens present in indoor spaces. Yet  Behaylu was doing so well that he was cleared to play soccer – outdoors, of course — for the first time since February, when he was diagnosed with the life-threatening blood disorder. On August 23, Behaylu walked onto the field with the Exeter (N.H.) Hawks for a two-game pre-season tournament. …

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Get the Facts on Metastatic Breast Cancer

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When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body it is known as metastatic breast cancer (MBC), or metastatic disease. MBC is also sometimes referred to as advanced stage breast cancer or stage IV breast cancer. Although there is no cure for MBC, it is treatable. Thanks to new treatments developed through clinical trials, women with MBC are often able to lead full, active lifestyles with a good quality of life. We sat down with Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH, a breast oncologist with the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, to learn more:   Are there …

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How is Research Improving Treatment of Head and Neck Cancers?

Jochen Lorch, M.D. Head and Neck oncology.

Head and neck cancers account for 3 to 5 percent of all cancers in the United States and can occur in the oral and nasal cavities, the sinuses, the throat, the larynx, the salivary glands, and the thyroid. When diagnosed early, many head and neck cancers can be cured with combinations of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Researchers in the Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center have shown that carefully tailored regimens involving surgery and combined chemotherapy/radiation can often save tissues and structures like the larynx and vocal cords, which are vital to good quality …

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Patient and Doctor Come Full Circle

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Kate Franklin was 3½-years old in August 2000, when her mother brought her to the Boston Children’s Hospital emergency room because she was bruising easily and couldn’t seem to shake a strep throat. Loren Walensky, MD, PhD, had just started his fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology in July, and that night Kate Franklin became one of the first patients he diagnosed with cancer. When Walensky told Emily Franklin that her daughter had leukemia, the mother placed her hands on the doctor’s shoulders, and, in a moment that Walensky says he will never forget, she said, “I will see you at her …

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Mother and Son, Both Cancer Survivors, Share Their Story on Radio-Telethon

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When Lisa Robert is interviewed at Fenway Park  for the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon presented by Arbella Insurance Foundation (Aug 19-20), her mind will no doubt drift back to 1976, when she was a 7-year-old leukemia patient at Dana-Farber and had the thrill of her life. She threw out the first pitch of the season at Fenway to Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk. Lisa won’t be the only member of her family reminiscing on air about pediatric cancer. Her son, Josh Robert, now 17, was treated at Dana-Farber in 2009 for Burkitt’s lymphoma. Two generations of Jimmy Fund Clinic …

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