A diagnosis of cancer always comes as a shock, and the patient naturally asks the physician, why did this happen? Is it something I did or didn’t do, or did I inherit it, or were chemicals in the environment to blame? “Why patients develop cancers is not well known,” explains […]
After learning in December 2014 that her father was a carrier of the BRCA-1 gene, Katherine Saunders immediately knew she needed genetic testing. The 37-year-old mom of two had a 50-50 chance of inheriting the gene, which increases the risk of ovarian and breast cancers, and was likely responsible for the […]
Gene, genetics, genome, and genomics all are derived from a Greek word – gen – meaning birth or origin. Almost every aspect of health and disease is influenced in some way by the inherited information in cells, written in the chemical code of DNA and packaged in distinct units known […]
Many of the secrets of why precancerous conditions sometimes become cancerous are hidden in cells’ genes. At Dana-Farber, researchers are collecting tissue samples to see if they can pry open those secrets and unlock new treatment options for certain types of blood cancers and other blood disorders. They’re also exploring […]
Most cases of pancreatic cancer develop for unknown reasons, but about 10 percent occur in families that have a strong history of the disease. That doesn’t mean that if you are a member of such a family you will develop pancreatic cancer, but rather that you are at a higher […]
Advances in genetic research may improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of women’s cancers. “More genes are being found and fewer families are having to wonder if there is something genetic that may increase their risk, or future generations’ risk, of developing cancer,” says Judy Garber, MD, MPH, director of […]
Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), is the most common hereditary form of colorectal cancer. In the United States, about 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year and approximately 3 to 5 percent of these cancers are caused by Lynch syndrome. Individuals with Lynch […]
Although they may seem like foreign invaders, cancer cells develop out of normal body cells and tissues. Over a period of years, damage to the DNA of healthy cells disrupts their orderly growth, leading to the formation of malignant tumors. Cancer cells may contain thousands of mutations – alterations in […]
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, with nearly 232,000 diagnosed each year, and another 100,000 women are diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer in the U.S. each year. But do these diseases affect all women equally? In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re taking a closer […]
Women born with mutations in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 have an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, but the degree of increase depends on a variety of factors. Not all mutations within these genes raise the risk equally. A study published earlier this year tracked breast and ovarian […]
By Christine Hensel Triantos On a cold winter day in 2002, Sharon Goyette stepped into Dana-Farber’s Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention. She was a 21-year-old college student, and this was the last place she wanted to be. But her mother had insisted. After developing colon cancer, Goyette’s mother had […]
This post was originally published on Cancer Research Catalyst, the official blog of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Since the beginning of the “war on cancer” in the 1970s, we have made consistent progress against cancer aided by paradigm-shifting technological advances. Last year, we witnessed significant developments being made on […]
Precision medicine is rapidly changing the way cancer is studied and treated today. With new information about genetic and molecular characteristics in tumors, doctors are finding more effective and less toxic ways to fight the disease. “Precision medicine is seeing the monster of cancer clearly for the first time in […]
Cancer genetics has come a long way in the last two decades, leading to increased prevention and improved treatment options. Today, research is shining the light on why certain people have an increased risk for cancer. “It took us 20 years to get where we are today with the knowledge […]
Although most cancers are sporadic or occur by chance, a small percentage are due to inherited genetic (or germline) mutations, which can often be identified through genetic testing. These mutations are different from somatic mutations, which are not inherited, but occur during one’s lifetime. Profile, a research project launched by Dana-Farber […]
By Jenn Perry When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36, it was like déjà vu for my family. My mother had been diagnosed with the same disease at the same age, while pregnant with her third child. I learned I had breast cancer just six months after giving […]
If the new era of “targeted” cancer drugs and personalized treatments for patients realizes its promise, the power of genomics will get a lot of the credit. Genomics is one of the most commonly heard terms in cancer research and biotech companies today – but what does it really mean? […]
Before any patient begins treatment for cancer, oncologists should discuss first- and second-degree family cancer history, according to new recommendations from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The ASCO recommendations, published recently, are the first to focus on family history and a person’s genetic risk of cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, but only 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary. Of those cases, roughly 20-25 percent are linked to mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (BRCA stands for BReast CAncer susceptibility). View the infographic below for more on the […]
By Alexi Wright, MD, MPH Although there are two main types of cervical cancer, known as adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, they’ve generally been treated as one disease, with the same approach to treatment. In a recent study, my colleagues and I surveyed the DNA in both types of cervical […]
Does having cancer in one breast increase the risk of cancer occurring in the other, healthy breast? Young women with breast cancer often respond with a “yes” and overestimate the need to have the healthy breast surgically removed, according to a recent study by Dana-Farber investigators. However, the actual risk of […]
By Richard Saltus Physicians have long recognized that the same disease can behave differently from one patient to another, and that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. In cancer, chemotherapy might dramatically shrink one lung tumor but prove ineffective against the same type of tumor in a different patient – even though […]
By Clair Beard, MD Testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men (ages 15-34). It is also one of the most treatable and curable types of cancers.
Lung cancer can be a frightening diagnosis. However, new treatment approaches and promising research trends have made the outlook for patients a little more optimistic, says David Jackman, MD, an oncologist in the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
There are many decisions parents face after testing for genetic cancer risk, including whether to tell their children and how to approach the conversation. If you decide to talk to your children about the test results, allow yourself some time to process the information; you want to be calm and […]
When Angelina Jolie underwent a preventative double mastectomy earlier this year, this issue of cancer risk and genetics made front-page headlines. Jolie, who announced the operation in a New York Times op-ed, tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation and learned she had an 87 percent risk of developing breast […]
By Eric Schuller If you recently learned you have cancer, donating a sample of your cancer tissue to science is probably the last thing on your mind. But it’s a topic that you might discuss with someone on your health care team, because cancer researchers often rely on donated tissue […]
Actress Angelina Jolie is no stranger to the headlines, but she stunned the world with her Op-Ed in The New York Times, in which she shared her very private decision to have a preventive double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. “I hope that other women can benefit […]
By Stephen Sallan, MD Today, three quarters or more of all childhood cancer patients will be cured of their disease, a higher percentage than ever before. And the numbers will only get better as we learn more about the biology of childhood cancers and develop new ways of treating them.
By Judy Garber, MD, MPH We know that women who inherit harmful mutations in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 have a sharply increased risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer at an early age (prior to menopause). In fact, women with inherited BRCA1 or 2 mutations are about five times […]
Win or lose, Miss America contestant Allyn Rose made news with her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. According to the Associated Press, Rose, who lost her mother to breast cancer, inherited a rare genetic mutation which might put her at greater risk for developing cancer. Her decision to have […]
For David Williams, MD, the field of pediatrics offers two great attractions. “It is wonderful because of the kinds of patients you take care of,” he says. “But also because of the personalities of pediatricians – in pediatrics you find very compassionate and caring people.” Williams embodies that compassion and […]
Cancer scientists use a wide variety of techniques to study the growth and development of tumor cells. Laboratory research often focuses on individual cells or tissue samples, but to learn how cancers grow and respond to therapies in living organisms, scientists rely on other experimental models. In recent years, zebrafish […]
Genes don’t cause cancer, but genetic mutations can. Our cells have about 22,000 genes, which consist of DNA packed into chromosomes inside the cell nucleus. These genes control a wide range of functions, including cell growth and division. When the genes misbehave or mutate, cancer can develop.
The complicated meaty machine that is the human body can break down in a remarkable variety of ways. The 9th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) includes more than 16,000 afflictions – everything from the bite of a venomous tropical millipede to injury by falling spacecraft debris. With all […]
If your son or daughter has been diagnosed with a type of sarcoma – a tumor in connective tissue like muscles or bones – there are many questions: Will my child make a full recovery? What are the immediate and long-term side effects of treatment? Most parents don’t consider whether […]