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.”
The 36th annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, which ran from Dec. 10-14, brought news of significant advances against a disease that strikes more than 230,000 women and 2,000 men in the United States each year. The more than 1,000 research papers presented by thousands of scientists and physicians ranged from laboratory explorations of the basic biology of the disease to studies that may change the treatment for patients with a variety of breast cancer subtypes. Here are summaries of the findings of several high-profile studies:
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.
Current lymphoma therapies are a far cry from the mustard gas used more than 50 years ago. More treatment options, including ones that may be more effective and less toxic, are being studied in ongoing clinical trials. “Clinical trials really are the future of lymphoma treatment,” says Ann LaCasce, MD, a medical oncologist in the Adult Lymphoma Program at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.
Breast cancer may develop in one part of the body, but it’s not just one disease. In fact, oncologists think of breast cancer as at least three different types of diseases. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) describes breast cancer cells that do not have estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors. It makes up approximately 15 percent of all breast cancers and is typically more aggressive than the other two types, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer and HER2-positive breast cancer. “It may be the smallest group, but TNBC still represents thousands of women with breast cancer, so it is a very important group for …
By Ursula Matulonis, MD After a long period of slow progress, new knowledge about the genetics of ovarian cancer is leading to the development and testing of new therapies. Researchers at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers will soon be launching several phase 3 clinical trials testing drugs known as PARP inhibitors for patients with platinum-sensitive recurrent ovarian cancer – tumors that initially responded to platinum-based chemotherapy agents but have shown evidence of regrowth at least six months after treatment. Phase 3 trials test drugs in large numbers of patients to evaluate the drugs’ effectiveness as well as …
By Maura Perkins I can’t pinpoint when I started to get ovarian cancer symptoms. It was all very subtle and gradual. I was a healthy person. I ran, biked swam, hiked, and went to the gym regularly. A slight pain in my left side, difficulty digesting food, feeling of fullness, and shortness of breath: those were the subtle constellation of symptoms that landed me in my primary care doctor’s office. At the age of 50, I felt like I was going downhill fast.
By Christine Cleary The 21st century has seen great strides in treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow once considered a death sentence. In fact, thanks to research by Dana-Farber scientists, this blood cancer that took the lives of Geraldine Ferraro and Leonard P. Zakim has become a chronic disease for many patients.