Science Illustrated: How Is Immunotherapy Used to Fight Cancer?

Immunotherapy, including the vitally important discovery of PD-1/PD-L1, is one of the most promising areas of cancer research today. One immunotherapy strategy  is to use checkpoint inhibitors to “take the brakes off” the immune system and unleash an attack on cancer cells. Learn about PD-1 and PD-L1, and how immunotherapy can be used fight cancer:

From Foe to Friend: Viruses Show New Promise as Cancer Treatment

SMALL Cancer Immunology & AIDS Team
Harvey Cantor

Almost as long as scientists have known of the existence of viruses, they’ve dreamed of using the tiny pathogens as a weapon against cancer. Now, as a result of advances in genetic engineering and insights into the workings of the immune system, science is giving substance to the dream. A variety of studies over the past few years have demonstrated the ability of specially modified viruses to attack and kill cancer cells – in the laboratory and, very recently, in some patients. Techniques vary from study to study, but the basic approach is to inject the viruses directly into tumors …

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Promising Research Developments Stir Hopes for Melanoma, Lung, Breast and Ovarian Cancer

F. Stephen Hodi, MD

The growing excitement about the potential of immunotherapy treatments for cancer continued at the 2015 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), one of the largest cancer research meetings of the year. Several Dana-Farber investigators presented encouraging results of immunotherapy for melanoma, lung cancer, and breast cancer. F. Stephen Hodi, MD, and Leena Gandhi, MD, gave reports on recently published results for immunotherapy trials in melanoma and lung cancer, respectively. Their findings were simultaneously published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “This field has changed a lot in the past few years and even in the past …

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Fighting Cancer by Day, Fighting for Cancer Research by Night

By John Quackenbush, PhD Everyone at Dana-Farber knows me as a scientist. Maybe a little crazy, but dedicated to cracking the code that drives cancer. And everyone who has spent time with me knows that I can talk (seemingly endlessly) about my work. But today I am going to share a different story about an unlikely boxer, ready to give and take punches to raise money for cancer research. I remember the evening in August when I sat down with my family after dinner to explain what I was thinking about doing and to ask their permission because I knew …

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What Is It Like to Enroll in a Clinical Trial?

When Elizabeth Cahn was presented with her treatment options for triple-negative breast cancer, the decision was about more than just getting healthy; it was about “paying it forward.” “I know there are many people who participated in clinical trials before I came along and it was because of their participation that researchers were able to create a new combination of chemotherapy drugs available to me,” says Cahn. “It made me feel like I was part of a much bigger world of people trying to make the patient experience better.” Cahn (@ElizabethCahn) recently discussed her clinical trial experience during a live …

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Chronicling Cancer Research in Books and Film

david nathan, md

In two recent books and the Ken Burns TV documentary, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”, prominent researchers explain eloquently why cancer is such a stubborn problem and detail how the latest treatment strategies are gaining ground – if slowly. “There have been so many wonderful changes,” says David G. Nathan, MD, president emeritus of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a noted pioneer in treating inherited blood disorders . “But I try to make people understand that they have to be patient; it’s slow, steady progress, but we’ll get there.” In Nathan’s 2007 book, “The Cancer Treatment Revolution,” he describes the …

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Which U.S. States Have the Highest Cancer Rates? [Infographic]

cancer rates by state

In a country as geographically vast as the United States, and with a large and mobile population, it’s not surprising that cancer rates vary by region, by state – and even by localities within states. Geographical differences exist in overall cancer rates and in specific types of cancer, according to a 2014 study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, breast cancer incidence rates are highest in the Northeast, followed by the Midwest and the South. But death rates from breast cancer are highest in the Midwest, followed by the South and the West. Lung …

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What’s New in Skin Cancer Research?

SMALL_Gordon Freeman, in his lab for Paths of Progress, POP SS 2014

Although malignant melanoma has been attracting much of the media spotlight because of promising new immunotherapy drugs, advances are also being made in other types of skin cancer. Nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are very common, with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually. In fact, it’s estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer. While melanoma tumors begin in the skin’s pigment-containing cells, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell cancers develop in cells at the base of the outer layer of the skin. They rarely spread to other parts of …

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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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The Latest in Cervical Cancer Treatment, Research and Prevention

SMALL_AlexiLarissaWebchat

Although cervical cancer is relatively rare in the United States, approximately 11,000-12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease each year. Globally, that number grows to more than 500,000 diagnoses each year, making it the fourth most common women’s cancer worldwide. As January marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber hosted a live cervical cancer webchat with Ursula Matulonis, MD, medical director of the Gynecologic Oncology Program at the Susan F. Smith Center, medical oncologist Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, and radiation oncologist Larissa Lee, MD. The discussion included information about …

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