Discovering New Ways to Approach the Treatment of Rare Brain Tumors

brain tumor research

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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Can Babies Be Born with Cancer?

Can babies be born with cancer?

For any parent, having a child with cancer is devastating. For the parents of Carrick Stafford Wood, it was even more so. Carrick was born with cancer, specifically acute myeloid leukemia (or AML). He spent the first six months of his life in the hospital before finally going home on Christmas Day. We spoke to Lisa Diller, MD, clinical director of Pediatric Oncology at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, about this rare scenario. Is it unusual for babies to be born with cancer? It’s unusual, but it can happen. The most common cancer in newborns is neuroblastoma – …

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Girls Fight Cancer with Glitz and Glamour

For 24 young girls, a recent getaway weekend replaced exam rooms with dressing rooms, hospital bracelets with stylish bangles, and MRI images with professional photographs. Every year, teenagers and young women ages 13-23, who are being treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, go on a “Girls Weekend” in Boston. The weekend includes a musical, a makeover, shopping, and more.

The Latest Research and Treatment for Blood Cancers and Disorders

research, multiple myeloma

In the treatment of blood cancers and disorders, doctors and researchers are focusing their sights on the immune system and how to bolster its ability to fight off diseases like leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. “Understanding how you control the immune system is a big theme in treatment for these diseases,” says David A. Williams, MD, chief of Hematology/Oncology and director of Clinical and Translational Research at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate chair of Pediatric Oncology at Dana-Farber. “We’re increasingly understanding how cancer tones down the immune system, allowing us to design treatment to turn the immune system back up …

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Survivor Uses Reiki and ‘Button Therapy’ to Help Others Facing Cancer


As a girl, Paula Kaufman loved playing with the buttons that her grandmother, a seamstress, had in abundance. Later, while in treatment for stage III colorectal cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Kaufman – then a mother of three in her late 30s – gained strength from a jar of buttons her grandmother bequeathed to her. “When you have cancer, you feel like you’re hanging by a thread,” Kaufman explains. “The connections you make with other people are the buttons that pull you through.” Kaufman’s caregivers, family, and friends served as her buttons, and she drew further comfort from Reiki, a …

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How to Manage Family Life When Your Child Has Cancer

SMALL_family pic

By Valerie Graf When our daughter, Ruby, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at one and a half years old, my husband and I were immediately transformed from working parents with two young children, to parental caregivers for a child with cancer. Between hospital stays, medications and appointments, there was so much to keep track of. It can be overwhelming at times, but there are ways to manage life after your child is diagnosed with cancer. Settle into to this new normal. It can be easy to stay in crisis mode when something like a cancer diagnosis interrupts your …

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New Therapy for ‘Bubble Boy’ Disease Gives Chilean Boy a Chance for a Healthy Life


Gabriel Solis is a typical 3-year-old. He likes puzzles and swimming and singing. He shakes off colds like other children. Gabriel, however, is not like other children. He has a functioning immune system thanks to an international gene therapy trial for “bubble boy” disease whose early success was reported recently in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). When Gabriel was 4½ months old, no longer protected by his mother’s immunity, he came down with a fever and pneumonia that landed him in the intensive care unit of the local hospital in the family’s hometown of La Serena, Chile. A …

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Room Makeovers Help Young Patients Feel at Home


Ana Karen Ventura may be a long way from home, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Ventura, 11, is an inpatient at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, but her hospital room at Boston Children’s Hospital looks more like the bedroom of any tween girl. There are posters of flowers and her favorite celebrities, paper butterflies hanging from the ceiling, and blue and purple lights strung around her window, door, and mirror. A colorful bedspread matches the shade of her new lamp, and a portable dresser has the credo “Bald Girls Rock!” highlighted on its top. She just …

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How a Navy SEAL Veteran Helps Kids with Cancer

Adam LaReau has seen courage. The 34-year-old Navy SEAL combat veteran spent 11 years serving his country, and has seen courage in the actions of his fellow SEALS and through the children of fallen comrades who must learn to grow up without their fathers. Now living in Boston, LaReau has found a way to channel these two examples of bravery. Through a nonprofit program he started called One Summit, he is pairing up SEALS with young cancer patients from Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and other hospitals for a day of indoor rock climbing activities in which confidence …

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Advice from Mother and Son on Facing Cancer Together

Perry family

Hearing the words “you have cancer” can be hard enough, but what is it like to hear them echoed for a loved one? Having two cancer patients in one family calls for extra strength from everyone involved. Karen Perry was undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer when she and her husband Brian learned that their son Owen, then 11, had leukemia. He was hospitalized for five months at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “My knees buckled when I heard the news,” recalls Perry. “Learning Owen had cancer was harder than learning I had it.” The Perrys offer the following …

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