Patient Turned Researcher Helps Advance Understanding of Brain Tumors

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 13, 2015

Steven Keating (right) holds a 3-D printed model of his brain.

Interested in seeing images of his brain, Steven Keating, currently a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, volunteered for a research study while attending school in Canada in 2007. When researchers returned his brain scans, they delivered some startling news.

“The researchers told me I had an abnormality near the smell center in my brain, but that lots of people have abnormalities and I shouldn’t be alarmed,” says Steven. However, as a precaution, researchers advised Steven to get his brain re-scanned in a few years.

Steven’s next set of brain scans, performed in 2010, showed no changes. But in July 2014, he started smelling a strange vinegar scent for about 30 seconds each day. He immediately had his brain scanned and learned that the strange smell was associated with small seizures due to the presence of a brain tumor called a glioma. Steven’s glioma had grown to the size of a baseball.

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Five Things You Should Know about Precision Medicine

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 2, 2015

Precision medicine involves testing DNA from patients’ tumors to identify the mutations or other genetic changes that drive their cancer.

When President Barack Obama rolled out his Precision Medicine Initiative, it included increased funding in the 2016 federal budget. Precision medicine is changing the way cancer is studied and treated. Here are five important things to know about it.

1. Precision medicine can improve diagnosis and treatment 

Physicians have long recognized that the same disease can behave differently from one patient to another, and that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Precision cancer medicine makes diagnosis of cancer and other diseases more accurate and evaluates the specific genetic makeup of patients (and, in cancer, of their tumors) to select the safest and most-effective treatments for them.

In cancer, precision medicine involves testing DNA from patients’ tumors to identify the mutations or other genetic changes that drive their cancer. Physicians then may be able to select a treatment for a particular patient’s cancer that best matches, or targets, the culprit mutations in the tumor DNA. While such therapies are not widespread yet, many cancer specialists believe precision treatments will be central to the future of cancer care.

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Countdown to the New Year – Top Ten Posts for 2014

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 31, 2014

The blog team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is counting down to the New Year by revisiting our top 10 blog posts published in 2014, beginning with number ten. We’d also love to hear from you – what were your favorites? Thank you for your comments, questions, and continued interest in HealthHub. We wish you a healthy and happy New Year.

#10 – Video – Comprehensive Spine Care

Certain spinal conditions, such as back pain, are very common. However, treating these conditions can require the expertise and coordination of more than one medical specialty. Often, the first step is conservative, non-operative treatment by physiatrists, pain management physicians, and other specialists. Learn how our surgical and non-surgical spine specialists collaborate on care for patients with spinal disorders.

#9 – Improving Joint Replacement:  Consultation through Recovery

Based on the work of the Care Improvement Team, led by orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Wright, Brigham and Women’s Hospital uses a standardized approach to total knee replacement that guides how patients should be treated, from the time they arrive at the hospital for a consultation to the care they receive after discharge. This process has improved patient outcomes.

#8 – Colorectal Cancer: Do Men and Women Have Different Symptoms

Risk factors for colorectal cancer — which include age, family history of the disease, or having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis — are similar for men and women. However, lifestyle choices that may impact the risk can differ between men and women. These include obesity, lack of physical activity, low vitamin D, and consuming a high amount of red meat.

 

#7 – Should You Go without Gluten?

Many people are becoming increasingly concerned about eating foods containing gluten. Gluten is responsible for the reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine in celiac disease. It also has been linked to less serious gastrointestinal complaints, such as diarrhea and bloating. Read more about how gluten can affect your health and the benefits of avoiding it.

 

#6 – Keys to Preventing Lyme Disease

Dr. Nancy Shadick, a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and her team have developed entertaining, interactive programs to increase people’s knowledge about Lyme disease, the consequences of the disease, and prevention techniques. Play the game to learn how you can prevent Lyme disease, a tick-borne infection that can cause neurological and joint problems.

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Women and Lung Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 13, 2014

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the United States. For women, it accounts for more deaths than breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer combined. Consequently, medical researchers have been working hard to increase our understanding of lung cancer and help us better prevent, diagnose, and treat the condition.

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Lung Cancer Screening Helps Current and Former Smokers

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 5, 2014

Dr. Francine Jacobson

Lung cancer, the most frequent cause of cancer death in this country and around the world, continues to be an important public health epidemic. The American Cancer Society projects that by the end of this year alone, there will have been 224,000 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in the U.S., and 159,000 Americans will have died from the disease.

Most, but not all, cases of lung cancer are attributable to smoking. Thus, the most important thing that people can do to reduce their risk of developing lung cancer is to quit smoking, or better yet, never start.

For current or former long-term smokers, lung cancer screening should be a priority. Research has shown that new screening guidelines for the use of low-dose computed tomography (CT)  should significantly reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer by improving early detection. In the following video, thoracic radiologist Dr. Francine Jacobson provides more details about the benefits of low-dose CT scans and who should get screened.

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OR of the Future – Merging Precise Imaging with Precise Surgery

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 4, 2014

AMIGO houses a vast array of advanced imaging equipment and interventional (minimally invasive) surgical systems.

The Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) suite at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is a state-of-the-art medical and surgical research environment that houses a vast array of advanced imaging equipment and interventional (minimally invasive) surgical systems. Multidisciplinary teams of specialists use the suite’s advanced technology and unique design to efficiently and precisely guide treatment — before, during, and after surgery — without the patient or medical team ever leaving the operating room.

The AMIGO suite gives physician-researchers an optimized setting for innovatively merging imaging and surgery to improve standard clinical procedures and to develop new therapeutic approaches. With the primary goal of improving the effectiveness of patient care, success already has been demonstrated in several treatment areas, including: image-guided therapy in open brain surgery, radiation treatment of prostate cancer and gynecological tumors, breast-conserving therapy, MRI-guided cryoablation (destroying diseased tissue via extreme cold), treatment of atrial and ventricular fibrillation, and brain tumor laser ablation (destroying diseased tissue with focused heat). In the following video, Dr. Steven Seltzer, Chair of the Department of Radiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Dr. Michael Zinner, Chair of the BWH Department of Surgery, offer an inside look at the AMIGO suite and detail its potential for improving the effectiveness of image-guided therapy.

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Five Things Young Women Should Know about Breast Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 29, 2014

Cancer experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) work together to provide cancer patients the latest therapies, including access to innovative clinical trials through Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. Today’s post originally appeared on Insight, the blog of DFCI.

While the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer are age 55 or older, about 14,500 women age 45 and younger are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. each year. Here are some facts about breast cancer all young women should know.

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Prostate Cancer Care – Determining Risk Is Key

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 14, 2014

Dr. Anthony D'Amico

Prostate cancer  is the second most common and deadly cancer among American men. About 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, and about 1 in 33 men will die from the disease.  Yet, despite the disease’s potential dangers, many men diagnosed with prostate cancer shouldn’t be treated aggressively, and others shouldn’t be treated at all (but still be closely monitored). This is why Dr. Anthony D’Amico, Chief of the Prostate Cancer Radiation Oncology Service at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, says that determining a prostate cancer patient’s risk level is critical to determining their treatment. Watch the video below to learn more.

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Imaging Technique May Reduce Need for Follow-Up Breast Cancer Surgery

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 2, 2014

The researchers' new breast imaging approach will be tested in the AMIGO suite.

Currently, up to 40 percent of patients undergoing breast-conserving surgery to treat cancer require re-operation because of a failure to remove all of the cancerous tissue during the initial operation. Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers, however, have successfully tested an innovative tissue imaging approach that accurately distinguishes cancerous breast tissue from normal breast tissue and precisely defines the margins between the two – an advance that could significantly decrease the need for follow-up surgery.

The tool the researchers used for their study is called desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) mass spectrometry imaging, a technology that allows physicians and researchers to promptly evaluate human tissue. It works by electrically charging (ionizing) molecules in a tissue sample through the application of a microscopic stream of solvent. The mass of these ionized molecules is then measured and their distribution within the tissue is mapped.

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Five Things You Need to Know About Glioblastomas

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 9, 2014

Glioblastoma is the most common type of primary brain tumor.

The Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center brings together cancer experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to offer state-of the-art treatment for patients with brain tumors, spinal cord tumors, and neurologic complications from cancer. Today’s post originally appeared on Insight, the blog of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Glioblastomas are the most common primary cancer of the brain. Although it is a fast-moving cancer, doctors know a lot about this type of tumor and are finding ways to fight it.

Here are five things you need to know about glioblastomas:

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