By Maria Pearson
As a technology teacher who had a long career with IBM before going into education, I have encountered all sorts of opportunities to teach – and to learn. The biggest such opportunity of my life occurred at the intersection of cancer, technology, and Dana-Farber.
In August 2010, I was diagnosed with stage III multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. No search engine was adequate in comforting my fears of life expectancy, treatment, or facing a stark life-altering challenge.
by Saul Weingart, MD, PhD
Flu has arrived in the northeast with a vengeance. The City of Boston declared the flu epidemic a public health emergency. Perhaps someone you know has been sick with the flu.
Influenza can be serious for anyone, but for a cancer patient, the stakes are higher. Read more
Although swollen lymph nodes (also known as swollen glands) are usually a sign of an infection or inflammation, they can, very infrequently, be a sign of cancer or a rare disorder.
Rachael Grace, MD, and Christopher Weldon, MD, PhD, co-directors of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center’s Node Assessment Program in Waltham, Mass., offer the following tips for families worried about “lumps and bumps” in their children.
When we are sick, the kindness of others carries us through. Visits from those we love provide comfort, a hand to hold. But for Cindy Hale, healing meant limiting contact with family and friends.
Hale underwent an allogeneic stem cell transplant at Dana-Farber in 2002, leaving her immunocompromised – with a weakened immune system. Cancer patients in general are at risk for acquiring infection as a result of their underlying disease or from chemotherapy. This is why it is so important for patients, visitors, and staff to take an active role in infection prevention, according to Susan O’Rourke, RN, of the Center for Patient Safety at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “This needs to be a team effort,” she says.
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.
In 1958, when scientists linked an aggressive form of leukemia to infection with a particular virus, some researchers took the discovery as evidence that nearly all cancers are caused by viruses. A cover story in Life magazine in 1962 proclaimed, “Cancer may be infectious.”
Today, it is estimated that viruses are responsible for almost 20 percent of cancer cases worldwide. Seven viruses have been connected to specific types of malignancies; it’s now known, for example, that the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer and some types of head and neck cancer.
While viruses can cause cancer in a variety of ways, the actual mechanisms fall into two broad categories. Read more