What Are Precursor Blood Conditions?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 26, 2016

Irene Ghobrial, M.D. in her lab with a microscope.

Researchers in the Center for Prevention of Progression of Blood Cancers are seeking to understand why some patients with precursor blood conditions develop cancer and others do not.

Precursor conditions are early phases of blood diseases that may develop into cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia, and multiple myeloma. Most people do not experience symptoms, and since doctors rarely screen for precursor conditions, they are often diagnosed after routine blood tests.

“Many diagnoses are purely incidental,” says Irene Ghobrial, MD, co-principal investigator at the Center for Prevention of Progression of Blood Cancers and medical oncologist in the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

Patients with a precursor condition are often told to “watch and wait.” In other words, the condition is monitored and treatment only begins if it develops into cancer. Not every person diagnosed with a precursor condition will be diagnosed with a blood cancer, but many cases of blood cancer do develop from precursor conditions.

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Persistent Childhood Asthma Linked to COPD

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 21, 2016

Close up image of a cute little boy using inhaler for asthma. A series of asthma related white background studio images.

As many as 20 percent of children with asthma will go on to have potentially severe symptoms in adulthood.

The development of persistent childhood asthma (having trouble breathing on an almost daily basis) is not well understood. In most cases, childhood asthma resolves with time, but as many as 20 percent of children with asthma will go on to have potentially severe symptoms in adulthood.

In the largest and longest United States analysis of persistent asthmatics to date, investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) found a link between persistent childhood asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in early adulthood. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that early lung function predicts lung growth later in life, regardless of asthma treatment and smoking exposure.

“This work tells us that persistent childhood asthma can develop into COPD, something that up until now has not been well described,” said Scott T. Weiss, MD, one of the paper’s senior authors and Co-Director of the Systems Genetics and Genomics Section of the BWH Channing Division of Network Medicine. “Children who had low lung function at the start of the trial followed a series of predicted growth patterns: most had reduced lung growth with time and a significant number would go on to meet the criteria for COPD.”

The study followed 684 participants in the Childhood Asthma Management Program (CAMP) from ages 5-12 until they were at least 23 years old. Each participant reported once a year to one of eight research centers across the U.S. and Canada to complete lung function measurements like spirometry, a test that records how much air a participant can breathe out in one second.

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Newer Surgical Options for Herniated Discs

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 19, 2016

ProDisc_ProDiscC_main_03

In artificial disc replacement (ADR), the damaged disc is removed and replaced with an artificial one that moves and shifts like a real disc.

If you are experiencing numbness and pain in your arms and shoulder, it may be a sign of a herniated disc in your neck (the cervical region of the spine).

“A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner gel that cushions the spine’s vertebrae protrudes into the spinal canal, placing pressure on nearby nerves. This pressure can lead to pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the shoulders and arms,” says Dr. John Chi, Director of Neurosurgical Spine Cancer and a spine surgeon in the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

A herniated cervical disc may be managed with medication, physical therapy, and pain management; however, in cases where patients experience a significant reduction in the quality of life, surgery may be needed.

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Healthy Eating May Help You Maintain Mobility as You Age

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 14, 2016

Fruits and vegetables

BWH researchers found that women who maintained a healthier diet were less likely to develop physical impairments later in life.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found an association between women who maintain a healthy diet and a reduction in the risk of developing impaired physical function as they age. The findings were published this month in the Journal of Nutrition.

“There has been little research on how diet impacts physical function later in life,” says Francine Grodstein, ScD, senior author of the study and a researcher in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH. “Our goal was to look at diet patterns and try to learn how our overall diet impacts our physical function as we get older.”

BWH researchers examined the association between the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, a measure of overall diet quality, with reports of impairment in physical function among more than 54,000 women involved in the Nurses’ Health Study. Physical function was measured every four years (from 1992 to 2008), and diet was measured by food frequency questionnaires, which were given to participants approximately every four years beginning in 1980.

The data indicate that women who maintained a healthier diet were less likely to develop physical impairments later in life compared to women whose diets were not as healthy. They also found a higher intake of vegetables and fruits, a lower intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, trans-fats, and sodium, and a moderate alcohol intake, were each significantly associated with reduced rates of physical impairment.

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Sleeping through Deep Brain Stimulation?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 12, 2016

At BWH, DBS electrode placement is performed in the AMIGO Suite, which enables magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to be obtained directly in the operating room.

Imaging in the AMIGO Suite at Brigham and Women’s Hospital enables patients who are candidates for DBS to have this procedure performed under general anesthesia.

For some people with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, deep brain stimulation (DBS) can offer an effective treatment for symptoms that are not responding to medications. The traditional procedure to place the DBS electrodes, however, has required patients to remain awake during surgery. Patients who are candidates for DBS may now have this procedure performed under general anesthesia.

“This is a huge advance for patients opting for DBS,” said Dr. G. Rees Cosgrove, Director of Epilepsy and Functional Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), the only hospital in New England and one of few nationwide to offer asleep DBS. “The imaging that we use while we perform the procedure enables us to confirm that we’ve reached the exact locations that we are trying to target in the brain while we are in the operating room, without the need to keep patients awake.”

At BWH, DBS electrode placement is performed in the Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) Suite, which enables images, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to be obtained directly in the operating room. During surgery in AMIGO, MRI is used to guide placement of DBS electrodes and confirm the targets to reduce symptoms without adversely affecting language or other key areas.

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Diagnosing Guillain-Barré Syndrome in Zika-Afflicted Haiti

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 7, 2016

GBS Zika

Aaron Berkowitz, MD, PhD, (left), and Roosevelt Francois, MD, (right), spotted symptoms of a rare variant of GBS in a patient with confirmed Zika virus infection in Haiti.

When neurologist Aaron Berkowitz, MD, PhD, arrived in Haiti in early January 2016, the Zika virus had already been identified in many countries in the Americas. Soon after Dr. Berkowitz’s arrival, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would confirm cases of Zika virus infection in Haiti as well.

Dr. Berkowitz, who leads the Global Neurology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), has made frequent trips to Haiti, where he and colleagues from Partners In Health have established the first neurology training program in the country. During his January visit, Dr. Berkowitz and neurology fellow Roosevelt Francois, MD (the first neurology trainee in Haiti), were asked to consult on an unusual case. A young man was unable to move any of the muscles of his face and noted painful tingling in his fingertips and toes. Despite the atypical presentation of symptoms, Dr. Berkowitz quickly recognized what it was: Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). Read More »

Can the Microbiome Offer Clues to New Treatments and a Possible Cure for MS?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 5, 2016

In a recent study, BWH researchers discovered that bacteria living in the gut may influence the activity of brain cells involved in controlling inflammation and neurodegeneration – key factors in the development and progression of MS.

BWH researchers have discovered that bacteria living in the gut may influence the activity of brain cells involved in controlling inflammation and neurodegeneration.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are looking to the gut microbiome, a collection of microorganisms that live inside the intestines, for new treatment approaches and a potential cure for multiple sclerosis (MS).

In a recent study, the research team discovered that bacteria living in the gut may influence the activity of brain cells involved in controlling inflammation and neurodegeneration – key factors in the development and progression of MS. The team’s results, published in Nature Medicine, may point to potential therapeutic targets for patients with MS. Previous research has suggested a connection between the gut microbiome and brain inflammation. How the two are linked and how diet may influence this connection, however, has remained largely unknown.

“For the first time, we’ve been able to determine that food has some sort of remote control over central nervous system inflammation,” says Francisco Quintana, PhD, an Associate Professor in the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at BWH and the senior investigator of the study. “What we eat enables bacteria in our gut to produce small chemicals, some of which are capable of traveling all the way to the brain.” Read More »

Planning for a Safe and Healthy Summer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 30, 2016

Summer has finally arrived and many of us are busy planning celebrations, barbecues, and outdoor activities.  Follow these tips from our experts at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to have a healthy and safe summer.


Summer-3Deceptively Dangerous – Avoiding Burn Injuries from Sparklers

Sparklers can cause serious injury because they can burn at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fireworks are banned in Massachusetts, but you may be traveling to a state where sparklers and other fireworks are allowed. Learn how to avoid injuries and treat burns from sparklers.

 

Summer-2Grilling Food Safely

Use a  thermometer to determine if food has been cooked to the correct temperature. To kill bacteria, hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, ground poultry to 165 degrees, and poultry parts to 180 degrees. Follow these tips and more to safely prepare foods at your next barbecue.

 

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Why Does Cancer Risk Increase as We Get Older?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 28, 2016

Cancer risk increases significantly after age 50, and half of all cancers occur at age 66 and above.

Cancer risk increases significantly after age 50, and half of all cancers occur at age 66 and above.

Today’s post originally appeared on Insight, the blog of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Age is the biggest single risk factor for cancer. Risk increases significantly after age 50, and half of all cancers occur at age 66 and above. According to the National Cancer Institute, one quarter of new cancer diagnoses are in people aged 65 to 74.

The median age of diagnosis varies in different cancer types – 61 years for breast, 66 years for prostate, 68 years for colorectal, and 70 years for lung – but the disease can occur at any age. Bone cancer, for example, is most frequently diagnosed in people younger than 20, and neuroblastoma is more common in children than in adults.

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Take Charge of Your Health: Five Tips from a Physician-Athlete

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 23, 2016

Healthy food and fitness background concept

Wellness includes healthy eating, exercise, and mindfulness.

Dr. Claire Twark is a third-year resident in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Psychiatry and a seasoned triathlete. In this post, she offers some valuable wellness strategies that she uses in her own work and training.

I believe that wellness is a lifestyle. It includes healthy eating and exercise, as well as mindfulness and wellness within relationships. I recommend proactively thinking about your own wellness and setting improvement goals for yourself. I often advise patients to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) goals, such as going to the gym for 30 minutes twice in the next week or increasing their daily step count by a few thousand steps.

Here are five tips to consider:

  • Wellness opportunities are all around you. We are all busy, so use the wellness opportunities that are readily available. Try walking to work, taking the stairs, and choosing healthy food options.

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