When most people think about breast cancer, they don’t often think about the small, pea-sized structures that dot the body and help fight infections and other foreign substances.  But it’s top-of- mind for many patients who undergo surgery for breast cancer.

Lymph nodes are sites for cancer spread, and certain nodes are removed during surgery depending on a number of factors.  Data published originally in the Annals of Surgery in September 2010 and today in the Journal of the American Medical Association show that certain nodes in select patients may not need to be removed.

Continue reading “Breast Cancer Patients: Lymph Nodes – Leave Them Alone?” »

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Whether it’s making a sticky, rubbery substance like Flubber, turning a clear solution blue, or figuring out how a normal cell turns into a cancer cell, it’s all science.

Those of us at the Kimmel Cancer Center think science is cool, and we’re hoping, with the right introduction, young students will begin to think so too; or a least become inspired to think about it a little more. 

To help in this cause, each year, our doctors, researchers, and nurses host fifth graders from the East Baltimore Community School to give them a hands-on glimpse of what it’s like to be a scientist. The children conduct experiments and play games to learn about the kind of work researchers do. 

Continue reading “Science is Cool!” »

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Cancer is now the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.  It crosses all boundaries, gender, ages, ethnicities and strikes both the wealthy and poor.  Thus, it will take a global effort to reduce the burden of cancer on our societies. 

Stand Up to Cancer released the video below to ask each of us to stand together on this World Cancer Day and pledge our support to fight cancer.  Our Stand Up to Cancer-funded researchers live this battle each day in their work to find better treatments.  Each of us can join the effort too.  Find your individual way to battle cancer, like quit smoking, eat more fruits and veggies, get screened, or donate to research organizations or advocacy groups.  Add them all up, and we may find our group effort can have a big impact.

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This month's Cancer News Review podcast with Kimmel Cancer Center director Bill Nelson begins with updates on the field of head and neck cancer in light of the encouraging news that actor Michael Douglas' cancer is in remission. Nelson says that there is an emerging story in oropharyngeal cancers (those that are in the back of the throat, tongue, soft palate and tonsils).  An increasing number of these cancers are associated with certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), the same virus that causes cervical cancer.  Patients with HPV-associated head and neck cancers fare better than patients whose cancers are causes by alcohol or tobacco use.  He says the molecular details of why this infection causes cancers and why these patients fare better is still not understood. 

Continue reading “Cancer News Review” »

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Ivelisse Page

Ivelisse Page

This post is written by Shaun Morris, Public Relations Intern, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center

The Gerstell Academy varsity girls’ basketball team delivered 50 hand-painted Believe Mugs to cancer patients and family members in the Weinberg Building on January 5th.

This is the first year that the students have delivered the mugs, expanding on the work of cancer survivor Ivelisse Page, food service manager at Gerstell. She created and delivered similar hand-painted mugs to fellow patients during her stay. The students hope to continue the mug delivery as an annual event.

Continue reading “Students Offer Handmade Hope” »

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It is truly an exciting time in cancer discovery.  Discoveries in cancer genetics, immunology, and cancer stem cells are leading us to new, personalized therapies that target the specific cells and cellular alterations that drive the cancer.  For children, this represents a huge step forward, as this new generation of treatments will not be as toxic to healthy tissue and cells, and, therefore, may spare young patients the lasting side effects that often result from cancer treatment.  These discoveries also offer new opportunities to better understand and make real progress against those pediatric cancers that do not respond to existing treatments.

Pediatric Cancer Research Advances of 2010

BREAKING NEWS – First Pediatric Cancer Genome Mapped

Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers have led the world in mapping the genetic blueprints of several common adult cancers, and now, our scientists have become the first to decipher the genetic code of a pediatric cancer. Their findings were reported in the December 16, 2010, issue of the journal Science. Using sophisticated new gene sequencing technologies, the team mapped the genetic sequence of medulloblastoma, the most common type of pediatric brain cancer. As suspected, this analysis clearly shows that genetic changes in pediatric cancers are remarkably different from adult tumors. The work revealed fewer genetic alterations than are typically found in adult tumors, and the researchers believe this may make it easier to use the findings to develop new therapies. The research also uncovered epigenetic alterations, biochemical variations that occur to the environment of genes and have the ability to turn genes on and off without mutating them, as a more significant culprit in pediatric cancer than commonly thought.  Using drugs to block the abnormal biochemical activity can return normal gene function and stop the development of cancer cells. Information like this, gained from gene sequencing technology, could potentially help our team change the course of some relentless childhood cancers. As a result, we hope to continue this work in other pediatric cancers.

Continue reading “Promise, Progress, and Hope for the Youngest Cancer Patients” »

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There are few cancers that are as tough to beat as pancreatic cancer.  When it is found, the disease has usually spread, and only about 20 percent of newly-diagnosed patients are eligible for surgery.

But if there is ever a time when there are high hopes for new ways to detect and treat it, the time is now.  Scientists at Johns Hopkins decoded the pancreatic cancer genome, revealing more clues to how the disease develops and spreads.  These same scientists sequenced the genomes of patients with pancreatic cancer and uncovered a new genetic link to one patient's cancer, setting the stage for developing ways to personalize pancreatic cancer therapies.  More recently, these scientists found that the time it takes for a pancreatic cancer to develop, grow and spread is far longer than previously thought -- around 10-20 years -- providing a window of opportunity to catch these cancers earlier and intervene with life-saving treatments.

It was this discovery of the timeline of pancreatic cancer that was mentioned at the beginning of a recent episode of the Dr. Oz Show.  Wednesday's program featured a discussion with Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee, who is working with Dr. Daniel Laheru and other colleagues at Johns Hopkins, to develop a new treatment for pancreatic cancer that uses the body's immune system to attack the disease.  With new evidence about the genetics of pancreatic cancer and rapid improvements in medical and scientific technology, these dedicated clinicians and scientists are working harder than ever to make an impact in this relentless disease.

Watch the Dr. Oz Show

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Elissa Bantug

Elissa Bantug

Five weeks into radiation, I decided that the hair on my legs had become so long that an intervention was necessary.  Going somewhere to have my legs waxed was too overwhelming in my current state, and cutting myself while shaving seemed like a small risk, as I’d internalized my doctors’ advice about the compromised nature of my immune system.  I enlisted my sister to help; although neither of us had ever done anything like this before, we decided the best thing would be an at-home waxing party…This very quickly became one of those situations where the task at hand seemed like a good idea in principle but turned out to be a very, very bad idea.  The wax was either too hot or not hot enough, we put the strips on backwards, and we had only minimal results.  Wax went everywhere; we made a huge mess; and ended up in nothing but our t-shirts in fits of hysterical laughter on the kitchen floor.  We managed to sort-of passably wax a small piece of my shin before I had to throw in the towel and retreat to my room for a nap. 

My fatigue hit an all time low towards the last week of treatment.  During this time, I had one burst of energy—a precious state of mind and body that had felt on hiatus for many weeks—and I decided that I needed to go grocery shopping. 

Continue reading “Fatigue” »

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It’s the time of year when we think about New Year’s resolutions…typical ones might include losing weight, spending more time with family, quit smoking.   But our Cancer Center nurses have given new meaning to the New Year’s theme – their recent trip to Guatemala to give their time and talents to help people build a new life, is something we can all admire.

Continue reading ““New” Resolutions” »

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The Top Ten of 10

As we look ahead to a 2011 filled with new cancer discoveries, let’s take a moment to revisit the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center’s top advances of 2010:

#1:  Personalized Cancer Medicine Becomes a Reality

World renowned investigator Bert Vogelstein, M.D., and team pioneered the science that has led to personalized therapies for cancer patients. Within the next few years all cancer patients at the Kimmel Cancer Center will have their tumors analyzed to reveal a unique genetic “fingerprint” that represents the combination of genetic and epigenetic alterations specific to their cancer.  Targeting these alterations, say the scientists, will improve treatments outcomes, thwart cancers before they develop, and speed new cancer drug discoveries.

Continue reading “The Top Ten of 10” »

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