Finding Happiness Despite Stage IV Lung Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 29, 2016


Joann (center) with her daughters, Mei and Lia.

Today’s post is written by Joann Totten, a patient at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

As a non-smoker, I never imagined I would be diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, let alone at age 50. But that’s what happened on Aug. 5, 2015, just six weeks after I started experiencing a non-productive cough. The doctors felt certain it was bronchitis, but as a radiation therapist for more than 20 years, I advocated for myself and insisted on a chest x-ray, which came back a bit abnormal. After additional testing for tuberculosis and pneumonia, I began experiencing shortness of breath and had another chest x-ray and CT scan. When I saw the scan, which was hard to believe was mine; I knew immediately I had cancer. A few days later, a biopsy confirmed my diagnosis: non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV.

Although it’s been more than a year, it’s still so hard to believe I have lung cancer. I never smoked, I exercise, and I eat very healthy; I thought I took pretty good care of myself. But cancer doesn’t discriminate; all you need are lungs to be diagnosed with this disease. Read More »

Adult Brain Tumors: The Latest Research and Treatment

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

Patrick Wen, M.D. and David Reardon, M.D. look at a computer with an image of an MRI. Photographed for BWH onclolgy advances.

Patrick Wen, MD, (left) and David Reardon, MD, are exploring new treatment options for adult Contrbrain tumors.

Contributor: David Reardon, MD, is Clinical Director in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

Historically, brain tumors have been some of the most challenging types of cancers to treat. A protective barrier around the brain – called the “blood-brain barrier” – can prevent cancer treatments from reaching the tumor. Recently, increased interest in immunotherapy has given new hope to overcoming this challenge.

“We know the immune system can get into the brain to fight infections and inflammatory conditions,” says David Reardon, MD, Clinical Director in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “Our current research is moving forward to a level where we’re critically confirming that these immunotherapy drugs are getting into the brain and making a difference.”

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New Immunotherapy Vaccines Show Promise in Treating Brain Tumors

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 7, 2015

Dr. David Reardon

Researchers in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center are now launching attacks on glioblastomas from a new angle – by turning the patient’s immune system against the cancer cells. Where targeted chemotherapy uses drugs to disable proteins that cancer cells need to grow, immunotherapy drugs stimulate the patient’s immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells.

Traditional drugs and even targeted chemotherapy agents have had little success in treating glioblastoma – a very aggressive type of brain tumor.

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Face Transplants – New Key to Managing Rejection?

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

This image of a rejection episode demonstrates significant activity by donor immune cells (red) and recipient immune cells (green).

Physicians and researchers commonly have believed that the key to ensuring the long-term success of a face transplant is to prevent the recipient’s T cells (immune cells) from attacking T cells in the donated tissue. Recent Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research, however, has shown that donor T cells transferred as part of the face transplant may attack recipient T cells and, thus, also contribute significantly to rejection episodes – not just the other way around.

The BWH Restorative Surgery team, led by Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, has had great success in pioneering face transplantation, but they also acknowledge that there is much to learn. Determining how a recipient accepts or rejects a donated face and how to address rejection episodes are considered to be among their most important challenges.

Following a face transplant, or any type of human organ/tissue transplant, T cells from the recipient mount an immune response to the donated tissue, threatening its survival. Thus far, rejection episodes following face transplants at BWH have been controlled successfully through immunosuppression medication, enabling all our recipients to maintain acceptance of their transplanted face.

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