What’s New in Research for Blood Cancer Treatments?

The past two years have seen a surge of new treatments for blood cancers, such as lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma. Research on the genetic flaws underlying specific cancer types has led to new precision drugs such as ibrutinib and idelalisib and new immunotherapy agents that are improving outcomes in many patients with difficult-to-treat forms of blood cancers. Just in the last year, four new therapies have been approved for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common adult leukemia. An estimated 15,700 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with CLL last year, most of them elderly – the …

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What Is a Checkpoint Inhibitor?


Immune checkpoint inhibitors are drugs – often made of antibodies – that unleash an immune system attack on cancer cells. They’ve scored some impressive successes in recent years, particularly in some patients with metastatic melanoma or Hodgkin lymphoma, and are showing promise in clinical trials involving patients with other types of cancer. Checkpoint inhibitors seek to overcome one of cancer’s main defenses against an immune system attack. Immune system T cells patrol the body constantly for signs of disease or infection. When they encounter another cell, they probe certain proteins on its surface, which serve as insignia of the cell’s …

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A Special Curriculum: Teachers Tell Their Students About Cancer

lymphoma, teaching

Gina Johnson and Connie Grayson have a combined 53 years teaching in the public school system. Last year, however, their cancer diagnoses prompted them to incorporate a new element into their lesson plans. “When I was diagnosed with lymphoma in September 2014, one of my student’s moms had just passed away from cancer,” says Grayson, a fourth-grade teacher at the Arthur T. Cummings Elementary School in Winthrop, Mass. “I wanted to teach my students about cancer and let them know that not everyone who has cancer dies from it.” Grayson gathered books and videos to help explain her diagnosis to …

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A Life-Saving Bridal Shower

bridal shower blood drive

Before Alden Coldwell and her fiancé, Peter Dearborn, were married in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire at the end of June, the couple opted for a different kind of bridal shower. On June 14, family and friends of the bride and groom gathered at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center in Boston to give blood instead of material gifts. The blood collected was donated to help save the lives of patients at Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We’ve never done anything quite like this,” says Malissa Lichtenwalter, supervisor for donor recruitment at the Kraft Center. “But we are …

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One Teacher Aims to Climb His Own ‘Everest’ to Help Fight Cancer

During a year in which both his wife and mother battled cancer, Andrew Macrae often felt as if he were summiting a mountain. Now, to honor their journey and support Dana-Farber, Macrae is scaling the 29,029 feet needed to reach the peak of the world’s tallest mountain – Mount Everest – without nearing the Himalayas. Starting today, Macrae will hike to the top of Mount Washington in North Conway, New Hampshire, six times in six days, an endurance test totaling the height of Mount Everest. A Scottish-born fifth-grade teacher at the British International School of Boston, he hatched the idea …

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What Is the Difference Between Hodgkin Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Checking lymph nodes

Although the diseases may sound similar, there are a variety of differences between Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. We spoke with Arnold Freedman, MD, of the Adult Lymphoma Program at Dana-Farber, to learn more. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are malignancies of a family of white blood cells known as lymphocytes, which help the body fight off infections and other diseases. Hodgkin lymphoma is marked by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, which are mature B cells that have become malignant, are unusually large, and carry more than one nucleus. The first sign of the disease is often the appearance of enlarged …

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How a Cure for Hodgkin Lymphoma Changed the Course of Cancer Treatment

ASCO, George Canellos, Hodgkiin lymphoma

To mark its 50th anniversary, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) invited physicians, patients, and the public to name the most important advances in clinical cancer research in the past half century. From more than 2,000 responses, the top choice was a cure for advanced Hodgkin lymphoma developed by scientists at the National Cancer Institute in the mid-1960s. The treatment used a combination of chemotherapy agents known by the acronym MOPP and represented the first time that combination chemotherapy had cured a non-leukemic solid tumor in adults. Its success led to the development of other combinations of chemotherapy drugs …

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How Her ‘Cancer Family’ Helped One Young Adult Through Treatment

young adult cancer, lymphoma

By Christina Dixon Cancer turned my world upside-down overnight. I had just graduated from college, moved to Boston after finishing undergrad at Washington and Lee in Virginia, and started my dream job on an interest rate derivatives sales desk.  Suddenly, instead of working, spending time with my friends, and playing sports, my life was filled with PET scans, chemotherapy, and pain management to treat stage IVB Hodgkin lymphoma. I was just 22 and facing my mortality in a very real way. From the very beginning, I decided I wanted as much good as possible to come from cancer. I did not want to …

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Immunotherapy, Ovarian Cancer Treatment Top List of 2014 Cancer Developments


Immunotherapy, treatments for ovarian cancer, and investigating game-changing drug therapies topped the list of the most important cancer research and clinical developments at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 2014. Here are some highlights from the last year in research: Hodgkin lymphoma Some of the most dramatic evidence of potential of immunotherapies was in the treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma. In an early-phase clinical trial, research showed nivolumab, a drug that unleashes the immune system to attack cancer cells, achieved complete or partial remissions in Hodgkin lymphoma patients with resistant forms of the disease. The success of nivolumab in this study prompted the …

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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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