Adult stem cells may hold key to better health

Sarah Knauss, famous for being among the oldest people in the world until her death at the age of 119, might have had more than just “good genes.” Dana-Farber’s Wayne Marasco, MD, PhD, says that adult stem cells – known for their healing and regenerative properties – might hold the key to a long and healthy life.

Marasco shared his expertise on the subject at the recent International Vatican Conference on Adult Stem Cells in Vatican City, Italy, an event attended by a select group of cardinals, clergy, and leading researchers and physicians from around the world.

“We have learned in the past 10 years that there are all kinds of stem cells that circulate in the blood – they aren’t just found in bone marrow,” said Marasco, of Dana-Farber’s Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS. “There are dozens of studies that support the fact that this is a large and dynamic population of cells that might help us keep our bodies healthy for a longer period of time.”

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What do you say when a friend has cancer?

A year ago today, I went to see my doctor about a lump that was growing scarily fast inside my mouth. Twelve days later, I was in a hospital bed with a cocktail of chemo drugs moving through an IV in my arm.

Over the next few weeks, I adjusted to the fact that I had squamous cell carcinoma; that it was most likely curable; and that I had a long road of chemotherapy and radiation ahead.

But one thing I couldn’t get used to was telling people I had cancer.

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HPV linked to head and neck cancer

Traditionally, patients with oral cancers tended to be older individuals with a long history of smoking and heavy alcohol use. In the past decade, however, that picture has changed dramatically.

Today, infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer in the U.S. and Western Europe. Oropharyngeal cancers affect the back of the throat (i.e. the tonsils and base of the tongue). HPV is the same virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer in women.

Patients with HPV-related head and neck cancers are often relatively young, not heavy drinkers or smokers, and come from all segments of society.

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Dana-Farber’s Cancer Vaccine Center-Do Viruses Cause Cancer?

virus illustrationIn 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.

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The War on Cancer, 40 years later

Friday, December 23, marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a national “War on Cancer.” On that date in 1971, Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, which allocated $1.5 billion over three years for cancer research and control. He declared, “I hope that in the years ahead we may look back on … Read more

Blood cancer research may lead to new treatments

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 … Read more

Breast cancer specialist discusses treatment advances

Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD, a Dana-Farber breast cancer specialist, discusses some of the important studies presented at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. The five-day meeting includes more than 1,000 scientific presentations, seminars, and posters, with a focus on emerging treatments in hard-to-treat populations, patients with metastatic breast cancer, and breast cancer … Read more

Author Siddhartha Mukherjee: “Cancer is a part of us”

Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, was a postdoctoral fellow at Dana-Farber in 2003 when one of his patients asked him, “What is it, exactly, that I am battling?” Mukherjee took this simple, yet profound, question seriously. The answer formed the basis for his 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. … Read more