Tag Archive for Cancer research

Clinical Trials Paving the Way for Improved Vulvar Cancer Treatment

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Cancers of the vulva – the external portion of the female genitals – are diagnosed in approximately 4,700 women in the United States each year. While many patients can be cured by a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, others – particularly those whose cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body – often don’t fare as well.

As one of the rarer forms of gynecologic cancer, vulvar cancer hasn’t attracted as much research funding as other forms. Still, several efforts are under way to make treatment options more effective, according to Neil Horowitz, MD, a vulvar cancer expert at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber.

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A History of Multiple Myeloma Advances

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Not long ago, a diagnosis of multiple myeloma — a cancer of the bone marrow — carried with it a very poor prognosis, with median survival estimates of just two to three years. Now, thanks in large part to research and treatment advances at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), this disease is for many patients a chronic, and more manageable disease, with prognosis now improved to median survivals of seven to ten years.

Here is a look at how DF/BWCC physician-scientists and patients have helped lead the way toward improved treatment for multiple myeloma over the past three decades.

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Cancer Immunology at Dana-Farber

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Immunotherapy – stimulating the body’s defenses to recognize and destroy disease-causing cells and proteins – was dubbed the “breakthrough of the year” in 2013 by Science magazine. Dana-Farber researchers have contributed many important discoveries over the years about how the immune system works. Now, they are building on these insights to develop immunotherapy against tumors – known as immuno-oncology.

In 2005 Dana-Farber established the Cancer Vaccine Center (CVC) under the leadership of Ellis Reinherz, MD, Jerome Ritz, MD, and Glenn Dranoff, MD. The mission of the CVC is to translate the promising insights from basic immunology into therapeutics that benefit cancer patients. The CVC undertook a series of clinical trials exploring the biologic activity of autologous tumor cell vaccines and antibodies targeting negative immunoregulatory pathways in patients. These investigations contributed to the foundation underlying the FDA approval of the first therapeutic cancer vaccine (Provenege) and the first antibody antagonizing a negative T cell checkpoint (ipilimumab).

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Is Cancer More Serious If You Also Have Another Disease?

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When cancer develops in someone with other diseases, it can be more serious, according to a recent annual report from several national cancer organizations.

“Cancer does not occur in isolation,” says Lawrence Shulman, MD, in commenting on the report. “It occurs in a human being, who may have other medical problems.”

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Top 10 Insight Stories from 2013

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As 2013 comes to a close, we’re looking back at some of our favorite Insight posts from the last year. From inspiring patient stories to important research, here is our top 10 list:

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Cancer Immunotherapy Named ‘Breakthrough of the Year’

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By Robert Levy

Treatments that unleash the body’s own disease-fighting cells against cancer – an approach known as immunotherapy – have been heralded as the “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science magazine.

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New Study: Nuts Linked to Reduced Risk of Pancreatic and Other Cancers

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An analysis of data from the decades-long Nurses’ Health Study revealed that women who ate a one-ounce serving of nuts – any kind of nuts – two or more times a week had a 35 percent lower risk of pancreatic cancer than women who abstained from them. That’s a significant and encouraging piece of news for a field that has had far too little.

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Research Report: New Treatments for Melanoma

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by Richard Saltus

As recently as five years ago, progress in treating life-threatening malignant melanoma was slow. Since then, several molecularly targeted drugs have burst on the scene, and new strategies for awakening the immune system to attack the cancer cells have yielded dramatic long-term survival benefits for some patients.

“The outlook for patients has never been so good – and we anticipate that in the next year or two it will be much better,” says Louise M. Perkins, PhD, chief science officer for the Melanoma Research Alliance, which funds research on the skin cancer.

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Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer by the Numbers

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As November marks Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, view the infographic below to learn more about the disease:

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Video: Nearly 100 Patients Inspire Others with Stories of Hope

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Each year, Dana-Farber patients join clinicians, staff, and the Boston Red Sox to share their stories of inspiration and their belief in the research advances at Dana-Farber during the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon at Fenway Park.

This year, nearly 100 patients, including Rayquan Fregeau, who used art and resources from the Betty Ann Blum and Marjorie Blum Pediatric Resource Room to cope with his diagnosis; Debbie Whitmore, a mother of five who hopes for a cure for future generations; and Jack Robinson, who compiled a joke book to help other children during their treatment, shared their experiences battling cancer. Stephen Hodi, MD, Ursula Matulonis, MD, and other clinicians discussed the research and treatment strides donors help make possible.

Watch this video of highlights from the 36-hour event, which raised more than $3.5 million to support adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber:

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