Young Investigators Exploit Patient Samples for Cancer Studies

In their search for better treatments for breast, ovarian, and other cancers, young investigators Jennifer Guerriero, PhD, and Sarah Hill, MD, PhD, rely on a precious commodity — patient tissue samples obtained by surgeons in Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. Studies of these normal and cancerous tissues, which are collected, banked, and … Continued

For Breast Cancer Patient, Positivity Is Everything

On a sunny July afternoon, Michelle Lemieux ran onto the field at Fenway Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch during a Boston Red Sox home game. While the crowd of over 36,000 people continued to applaud as Lemieux ran back to her family, only a handful in attendance could truly appreciate what she … Continued

Study Implicates Failure of DNA Damage Repair in BRCA1 Breast Cancer

Medically reviewed by David Livingston, MD It’s been known for decades that a mutated BRCA1 gene in a woman’s breast cells sharply increases her lifetime risk of breast cancer. What has eluded scientists, however, is a detailed understanding of how the loss of BRCA1 function leads normal breast cells down the path to malignancy. Now, … Continued

A Cancer Researcher’s Personal Story

By Ellen Lori Weisberg, PhD The discovery of a lump came about as the result of a complete accident — a sweeping of my finger past a swelling as I mindlessly adjusted the ribbed shirt I was wearing during an otherwise mundane evening of television watching. My husband, a pediatrician, tried to reassure me that … Continued

Young Mom with Metastatic Breast Cancer Fights for Other Patients

Julia Maues was excited to find out she was pregnant — and then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through chemotherapy and delivered a healthy baby boy, but shortly after the birth, she learned that the cancer had spread throughout her body. She would need lifetime of treatment for metastatic breast cancer. The … Continued

Metastatic Breast Cancer: A Comprehensive Guide

Medically reviewed by Sara Tolaney, MD, MPH Metastatic breast cancer (also referred to as advanced stage or stage IV breast cancer) is breast cancer that has spread (or metastasized) from the breast and adjacent lymph nodes to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, bones, brain, or liver. Why does breast cancer spread? … Continued

Is BRCA-Positive Breast Cancer Treated Differently From BRCA-Negative?

About 5 to 10% percent of women with breast cancer have an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, which puts them at greater risk for developing breast and ovarian cancers. For most women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, having a BRCA mutation doesn’t affect how the cancer itself is treated. But the presence … Continued

Questions for your oncologist when you’re diagnosed with breast cancer

Learning that you have breast cancer can be overwhelming. In the shock of a diagnosis, it may be hard to organize your thoughts or plan out your questions. But those questions are important, and there are likely to be many of them. The answers will have an impact on your treatment and the preparations you … Continued

Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Tips for Sorting Fact From Fiction

Media reports on the effect of diet and physical activity on breast cancer risk can be head-spinning. One report may suggest that eating a particular food—broccoli, for example—can help prevent breast cancer. Another may conclude that a substance within that same food actually promotes the disease. How can you sort out the often conflicting and … Continued

Tips for Coping with Breast Cancer as an Older Woman

Like many forms of cancer, the risk of developing breast cancer increases with age: 30 percent of breast cancer patients in the United States are age 70 or older. For many older patients, the issues and challenges associated with the disease are quite different from those that arise in younger women. Older women are more … Continued

Patient Spreads the Word on Breast Cancer: Never Ignore the Signs

Kaitlyn Zonfrelli thought she was too young to have breast cancer, even though she showed a common sign of the disease. Now that she’s in treatment, she wants to spread the word: don’t ignore the signs, no matter what. Two years ago, when she was 26, Zonfrelli felt a lump on her breast during a … Continued

Living for Today, Metastatic Breast Cancer Patient Has ‘All I Need’

Krista Lawrence likes to joke with her two adult children that they don’t need to get married and have their own kids just because she has metastatic breast cancer. In fact, thanks to her excellent response to a clinical trial at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, Lawrence is enjoying each … Continued

Targeting Tumor Heterogeneity To Reduce Treatment Resistance

One of the biggest challenges in treating cancer is that the cells making up a tumor – say a breast or lung tumor – are enormously diverse, or heterogeneous. This tumor heterogeneity can be both genetic, meaning the DNA in the tumor cells differs from one cell to the next, and epigenetic, meaning that the … Continued

Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer: One Mom’s Story

When Stacy Hanson was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in early 2017, she immediately assumed she had no viable treatment options. Now that she is living a full, active lifestyle with her incurable yet treatable disease, she wants others to know that they can, too. Hanson, 49, is on a clinical trial that she began … Continued

Personalizing Treatment: The Latest in Breast Cancer Research

One of the primary goals of breast cancer research is to personalize the treatment of the disease, tailoring therapies to the specific characteristics of each patient’s cancer.  “The future of breast cancer therapy is tied to the idea of individualizing treatment for each patient—not only to the stage and subtype of the cancer but also … Continued

5 Common Breast Cancer Myths

By Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH 1. I can’t get breast cancer because it doesn’t run in my family.  This is a very common myth. Although family history is very important in understanding one’s risk for breast cancer and although having multiple family members with breast cancer may elevate your risk, most breast cancer is not … Continued

Breast Cancer Survivor Looks To the Future—And a Potential Family

In the summer of 2018, Kelli O’Hara was diagnosed with breast cancer—a difficult diagnosis for her to grapple with, since she lost her own grandmother to breast cancer when she was a child. But because of advancements in cancer research, as well as the care she received at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s … Continued

Immunotherapy Shows Benefit in Hard-to-Treat Breast Cancer

While immunotherapy has brought an impressive new option to several types of cancer, drugs that harness the immune system to fight cancer haven’t shown a significant benefit in treating breast cancer—until now. According to a new clinical trial report, published in Th­­e New England Journal of Medicine, a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy achieved better … Continued

Cancer Fails to Stop Dream of Motherhood

Monica Jones was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2015, at the same she was dealing with infertility issues. Thanks to one very special friend and support from the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, Monica and her husband Matthew had the best possible outcome: Their daughter, Ella, now … Continued

Mother and Son Support Each Other Through Each Other’s Cancer

Anne Palmer never thought she’d face a tougher challenge than aggressive breast cancer. Then, shortly after finishing treatment, she learned her 25-year-old son, Kevin, had an inoperable brain tumor. The two diagnoses, which came in 2012 and 2014, allowed mother and son – who were already close – to bond even more deeply during their … Continued