What is a Phase I Clinical Trial?

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Nearly all cancer drugs in use today were developed through clinical trials. But before they are approved for use, they must go through multiple phases designed to test the drug’s safety and efficacy. These phases include preclinical, phase I, II, and III. In phase I clinical trials, investigators evaluate how often and how much of the drug should be given. These early trials are often small, enrolling between 15 and 100 patients, but are an essential step in the development of more effective cancer treatments. “People who enroll in phase I trials are helping us discover new treatment options for …

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Webchat: The Latest in Breast Cancer Treatment and Research

With new approaches to therapy and increased understanding of the biology of cancer, breast cancer treatment has made significant progress in recent years. “I am personally very excited about what’s to come for breast cancer treatment,” says Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Program in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. “I think we will have drugs available in the clinic in the next several years that may have a dramatic impact on outcomes for women with breast cancer.” Winer discussed the latest in breast cancer treatment and research during a live video webchat …

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Precision Medicine for Lung Cancer Marks Tenth Anniversary

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Ten years ago researchers at Dana-Farber and in Japan published a study showing that lung cancer patients whose tumors had a malfunctioning version of a protein called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) responded dramatically to a drug that specifically targets the EGFR protein. The findings launched the era of precision medicine for lung cancer, transforming the way the disease is treated in many patients. Today, the arsenal of targeted therapies for lung adenocarcioma – the most common lung malignancy – includes more than a dozen agents, some of which have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and some of …

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New Experimental Breast Cancer Drug Shows Promise

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Reports of an experimental drug that slowed advanced breast cancer in a clinical trial have stirred excitement at a national research meeting and breathed new life into a cancer-fighting strategy that had seemed to falter. In one study, the drug, palbociclib, doubled the length of time without disease progression in patients with metastatic estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer that had spread beyond the breast, compared with women who took only a hormonal treatment, researchers reported at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in early April. Women in the study who received palbociclib also took the hormonal treatment, letrozole. Palbociclib is the …

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Young Woman with Breast Cancer Finds Dream Team

A young woman in her prime, with a full life and meaningful career, does not expect a cancer diagnosis. But that is what happened to 34-year-old Erin, who received the news when she was in Paris with her mother and sister, on a long-awaited trip to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Clinical Trials Paving the Way for Improved Vulvar Cancer Treatment

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 …

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DNA Test May Offer Alternative to Pap Smear

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel has recommended that a DNA test should be the primary screening tool for cervical cancer, rather than the traditional Pap smear. The DNA test detects the DNA of human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted infection that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. “This is an important step forward for cervical cancer screening,” says Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Specifically, the DNA test screens for HPV-16 and HPV-18, the two highest-risk HPV strains, as well as 12 other high-risk HPV …

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A History of Multiple Myeloma Advances

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.

Progress and Promise in Prostate Cancer Research

In prostate cancer – the most common cancer in men aside from skin cancer – scientists are working to answer some of the most basic questions about the disease while developing an array of new treatments. Using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, doctors are often able to detect prostate cancer at an early stage. But it remains difficult to determine which prostate cancers are likely to spread – and therefore require aggressive treatment – and which are either idle or slow-growing, and can be dealt with by “observation or active surveillance.” This uncertainty could result in unnecessary treatment for …

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