Discovering New Ways to Approach the Treatment of Rare Brain Tumors

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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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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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New Immunotherapy Vaccines Show Promise in Treating Brain Tumors

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Researchers in Dana-Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology are now launching attacks on glioblastomas from a new angle – by turning the patient’s immune system against the cancer cells. Where targeted chemotherapy uses drugs to disable proteins that cancer cells need to grow, immunotherapy drugs stimulate the patient’s immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. Traditional drugs and even targeted chemotherapy agents have had little success in treating glioblastoma – the deadliest type of brain tumor. “Immunotherapy represents a great hope for patients currently facing this disease,” says David Reardon, MD, clinical director of the Center.  “We’re anxious to move this approach …

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New Year Brings New Hope for Young Violinist with Brain Tumor

On December 5, just after the students of Carolyn Bever’s Violin Studio finish playing “The First Noel” for the residents of the Pines Senior Living Community in South Burlington, Vermont, 9-year-old Sophie Fellows quietly leaves the stage because of a headache. The next day she is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and the following day she travels by ambulance from the University of Vermont Medical Center to Boston Children’s Hospital. “Christmas concerts are my most favorite part of violin,” Sophie says. “I felt really bad that I couldn’t finish the concert.” The day before Sophie’s surgery, something very special happens. …

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Brain Tumor Survivor Shares Her Tips on the College Transition

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By Frannie Palmer As a kid, I stumbled on my feet quite a bit. I had to use two hands on the railing while going down stairs. My parents thought I was just a little clumsy. The truth was, a brain tumor was creating pressure on my cerebellum and causing my incoordination. I was 6-years-old when I had surgery to remove the non-cancerous tumor. It wasn’t until I began applying for early decision admission to Wheaton College that I fully grasped how much it had affected me. After the surgery, I had to re-learn how to walk and talk. My …

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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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Five Things You Need to Know About Glioblastomas

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Glioblastomas are the most common primary cancer of the brain, with 13,000 new cases being diagnosed each year in the United States. Although it is a fast-moving cancer, doctors know a lot about this type of tumor and are finding ways to fight it. Here are five things you need to know about glioblastomas: 1. What is a glioblastoma? A glioblastoma is a central nervous system tumor. It is formed in the supportive tissue of the spinal cord and brain and is typically found more often in adults. It is an astrocytic tumor, which means it begins in the star-shaped …

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What is a Meningioma?

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A meningioma is a type of tumor that develops from the meninges, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas (90 percent) are categorized as benign tumors, with the remaining 10 percent being atypical or malignant. In many cases, benign meningiomas grow slowly. This means that depending upon where it is located, a meningioma may reach a relatively large size before it causes symptoms. Meningiomas account for about 27 percent of primary brain tumors, making them the most common tumor of that type. With May marking Brain Tumor Awareness Month, we’re looking at some common questions about …

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New Research Shows Promise for Pediatric Brain Tumor Treatment

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Every year, about 4,700 children in the United States are diagnosed with brain cancer –­ making it the most common solid tumor in children. It is also one of the most difficult cancers to treat. Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children under age 10 and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in people under 20. Although survival rates for children with some types of brain tumors have risen over the past 30 years, current research aims to increase those rates dramatically in the years ahead. Scientists are focusing on the basic genetic and genomic …

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Ask the Expert: Questions and Answers about Brain Tumors

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently partnered with CancerConnect and Lakshmi Nayak, MD, to answer questions about brain cancer. Nayak is a neuro-oncologist in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.  Q: There seems to be some progress concerning treatment of brain tumors, especially immunotherapy. Do you think we will see further advancements in that area, or in other areas? A: Immunotherapy is indeed a hot topic in gliomas. This is largely driven by advances we have seen in the treatment of melanoma. The way these drugs work is to …

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