Tag Archive for ClinicalTrials

What is immunotherapy for cancer?

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Immunotherapy is one of the most technologically advanced yet basic forms of cancer treatment. It uses the body’s own defense mechanism, the immune system, to fight cancer.

Immunotherapy is probably most familiar to you in the form of vaccinations for the flu, polio, chicken pox, and other contagious diseases. In those cases, people are injected with a dead or weakened form of the virus responsible for the disease. That prompts the immune system to produce antibodies and white blood cells that ward off infection from the live virus.

For cancer prevention, two immune system-stimulating vaccines are now in use: one to protect against infection by the hepatitis B virus, which can give rise to liver cancer; and one to prevent infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is linked to cervical cancer, some cancers of the head and neck, as well as anal and penile cancers.

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A new approach to old ideas about diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma

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Hilary Olson had no reason to suspect that her daughter Hailey might have a brain tumor.

“Her smile was starting to droop a little, and one of her eyes was a little jumpy,” says the 6-year-old’s mother. “We took her to see a neurologist, and he thought she might have pinched a nerve.

“But when he sent us to Boston Children’s Hospital for an MRI,” she continues, “the radiologists sent us straight down to the emergency room.” Read more

New developments in brain tumor treatment: Five questions for David Reardon, MD

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More than 600,000 people in the United States are living with a primary brain tumor — one that begins and stays in the brain — and over 60,000 adults and children will be diagnosed with a brain tumor this year.

In recognition of May as Brain Tumor Awareness Month, we asked David Reardon, MD, clinical director of the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, for the latest advances in brain tumor research and patient care. Read more

A life saved by second opinions, experimental treatments, and a touch of luck

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By James Bond

“How long will I live?” I asked my oncologist in Ohio in 1992, when I was 44 and diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

“Three years,” he answered.

Instead, I enjoyed 10 more years of active living. Then my disease began to overtake me; my kidneys were failing, I was unable to eat solid foods, and I had fevers of 105 degrees.

Having already had three stem cell transplants, I seemed to be out of options. My wife Kathleen and I were advised to seek hospice care. Read more

From old drugs, new cancer treatments

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When it comes to finding better drugs for cancer, Dana-Farber oncologist Dr. David Frank is not a patient man. While new cancer science promises to bring novel, improved therapies to the bedside, it can take many years — and Frank isn’t willing to wait.

“We need to get new treatments to patients as soon as possible,” he says. Read more

The benefits of vitamin D

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Activated by sunlight and present in some foods and supplements, vitamin D has been associated with healthy bones and reducing the risk of diabetes and cancer.

But a new study says that the recommended dose of vitamin D needed to reap these health benefits remains unclear. To help shed some light on the topic, we talked to Dana-Farber’s Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, who has been studying the connection between cancer and vitamin D use, as well as other lifestyle factors.

What is the connection between cancer and vitamin D?

There is a large amount of scientific and observational data that links higher blood levels of vitamin D with a decreased risk of developing cancer, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer. It has also been found to improve cancer survival.

How do I know if I’m getting enough vitamin D?

Physicians can use a blood test, called a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, to measure how much of the nutrient is in the body. While many consider a vitamin D level of around 30 ng/ml or higher sufficient, we’ve found that the protective effects come from 35-40 ng/ml.

What is the recommended vitamin D dose for an adult?

The Institute of Medicine recommends between 600 – 800 IU. We don’t know what the optimal doses of vitamin D are for cancer prevention and treatment, although we suspect that they’re much higher than this recommendation. It is important to ask your doctor about how much vitamin D is best for you.

Is it better to get vitamin D from a pill or other sources?

Supplements are the best way to take vitamin D. Diet accounts for only 20 percent of vitamin D. A glass of fortified milk, for example, only contains 100 IU of vitamin D and isn’t enough to raise your blood levels. And while spending 10 minutes in the sun without sunblock provides 20,000 IU of vitamin D, there are other health risks to consider, like skin cancer.

Learn more about cancer and vitamin D deficiency.

Are there any vitamin D and cancer clinical trials?

We hope to begin enrolling metastatic colorectal cancer patients in early 2012 for a clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of high doses of vitamin D in combination with chemotherapy. We will be comparing the differences between a standard dose of 400 IU of vitamin D3 with chemotherapy, versus a higher dose of 8,000 IU of vitamin D3 for two weeks, followed by a maintenance dose of 4,000 IU vitamin D3 with chemotherapy.

 

Blood cancer research may lead to new treatments

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At this year’s American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting, Dana-Farber scientists presented major findings that could one day improve diagnosis and treatment of blood cancers, extend life, or even cure some diseases.

Among the highlights:

Steven Treon, MD, PhD, and his colleagues identified a gene mutation that underlies the vast majority of cases of Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia, a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The results suggest that new, effective treatments are now possible for people with Waldenström’s. Read more about Dr. Treon’s Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia research breakthrough.

Catherine J. Wu, MD, co-led investigators who discovered nine new gene mutations that could help doctors predict if and how chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) will progress, and lead to new treatments for CLL. Take a closer look at Dr. Wu’s CLL research.

Corey Cutler, MD, MPH, and his colleagues reported on a new clinical trial that may improve the ability of stem cells from umbilical cord blood to take root in patients receiving a stem cell transplant more quickly and with a higher degree of success. Learn more about Dr. Cutler’s stem cell transplant clinical trial.