Why the Pan-Mass Challenge Is My Kinetic Karma

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By Dave Lafreniere I rode in my first Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) the day my mother died. She was a two-time breast cancer survivor who developed an unrelated, rare ocular melanoma while I was training. She passed away in the early morning of August 2, 2002, as I sat by and held her hand. After feeling her heart beat its last, I picked up my bike and headed out to the Wellesley starting line. Getting through that first PMC was much easier than I expected. I was alone, I was grieving, but once I got on the road people were very …

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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 …

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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 …

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Can Women Get More Than One Lumpectomy?

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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 …

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

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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 …

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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 …

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Explaining the Complexities of Cancer

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This post originally appeared on Cancer Research Catalyst, the official blog of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).  Burgeoning understanding of the biology of cancer has led to advances in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment. These advances mean that a person diagnosed with cancer in the United States today has a greater chance of surviving their diagnosis than ever before. Despite the tremendous advances, almost 600,000 people in the United States are expected to die from cancer this year alone. We asked Eric Winer, MD, chief of the Division of Women’s Cancers and director of the Breast Oncology …

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Creating a Legacy with Metastatic Breast Cancer

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This post originally appeared on Critical Mass as part of the 2015 National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week. By Beth Fairchild My name is Beth Fairchild. In my former life, I was an artist, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend. Now, while I may still be all of these, I have added fearless fighter and breast cancer advocate to the list of things that make me, me. This is my new, cancer life. A year ago my life was pretty normal. My husband and I were successful business owners. We were raising our daughter and preparing to adopt another. I …

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New Study: Chemo Before Surgery Avoids Need for Mastectomy for Many with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

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Chemotherapy before surgery shrank triple-negative breast tumors in women in a clinical trial to the point where half of those who had not been eligible for breast-conserving surgery became eligible for it, according to investigators at Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The findings were reported at the American Surgical Association annual meeting and in a study in the journal Annals of Surgery. The study involved 400 women participating in a phase 2 clinical trial of a combination chemotherapy regimen for triple-negative breast cancer, a malignancy whose cells lack receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and the protein HER2. …

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My Lifetime Movie: How Cancer Changed Me

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By Deb Norris My life plays like a Lifetime movie. I was born tall, blonde, with big breasts (note – they later tried to kill me). I was the straight-A cheerleader who dated the captain of the football team and became a corporate executive.  Friends teased me that I lived a charmed life. Then at 38, I lost my husband to glioblastoma, the “deadliest of all brain tumors”. It was a 16-month fight that confirmed my belief that what does not kill you, makes you stronger. A couple years later, I reconnected with the football captain and married him for …

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