Chemical biologists create small molecules to boost discoveries or prototype novel therapies
June 10, 2019
Biomedicine always comes down to biochemistry – the exact chemical interplay between the dizzying number of molecules that drive health or disease. In every cancer research center, biochemists study these interactions, develop chemical tools, and collaborate with molecular biologists, genomicists, and other experts in biomedical science.
Within this vast field, chemical biologists focus primarily on designing and synthesizing small molecules for research and treatment. Back in 2006, Dana-Farber launched a bold experiment to accelerate this work: It hired three chemists with ambitious goals and gave them access to resources not usually found in academia.
One hope for the budding Chemical Biology program was that the chemists, in partnership with Dana- Farber physician-scientists, would be able to unlock some of the mysteries that drive cancer.
"A good chemical probe can do a lot for the basic biological understanding of a process, and it's often very complementary to genetic tools," explains Program Director Milka Kostic, PhD. "In genetic research, you usually remove the entire gene. With a chemical compound, you inhibit the activity of the protein, or remove the protein rather than the gene. So that offers you very complementary ways of asking about the function of a protein."
The experiment proved a wild success. By 2015, the first three investigators had published more than 300 papers, filed more than 250 patents, formed eight startup firms, and, most importantly, made major contributions to the creation of six drugs in clinical trials. Two of the drugs, ceritinib and osimertinib, were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 and 2015 for treating non-small cell lung cancer.
Today, the Institute's Chemical Biology program hosts nine principal investigators and more than 100 researchers. Its headquarters, in state-of-the-art facilities at Dana-Farber's Longwood campus, brings together Institute chemists, structural biologists, translational research experts, and other experts under one roof.
Survivorship: DAY ONE
The 'Right Track' to Navigate the Cancer Experience
July 9, 2018
Five leading cancer organizations came together to establish four steps that patients of all malignancies can turn to as they navigate their experience.
“You have cancer.” Those words are often followed by an overload of oncology terms: immunotherapy, precision medicine, genomic testing, clinical trials, progression-free survival, overall survival. It’s an ever-growing list.
But what if there was a roadmap to guide patients before they begin to feel overwhelmed? Five leading cancer advocacy organizations — the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), LUNGevity Foundation, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the Prostate Cancer Foundation — have come to a consensus on four steps that patients of all malignancies can turn to as they navigate their experience.
First, patients need to find the right team. That means locating the best experts and centers with extensive experience in treating their specific cancer. Next, they should ensure they receive the right tests, meaning the right information and a precise diagnosis. The right team and tests can then lead to proper treatment, which will include a plan and potentially identify clinical trials. Finally, patients should share their data throughout their journey. This step can potentially help not only themselves, but others with the same type of cancer.
A recent study published in The Cancer Journal evaluated where gaps in knowledge exist. It was conducted by the Harvard Business School Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator, a multidisciplinary initiative focused on four integrated workstreams to advance precision medicine. The five cancer organizations are working as part of the Accelerator’s Direct to Patient workstream.
“What we found is there is an incredible opportunity to help patients get on the right track with tips on how they can research physicians and arm them with the right information to be proactive and informed,” Lori Marcus, who chairs the Direct-To-Patient workstream of the Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator and has held C-level roles with multiple consumer companies including PepsiCo and Keurig Green Mountain Inc., told CURE in an interview.
The Patient Navigator's Perspective
As The Partnership continues to foster relationships with our partners, we would like to highlight the work of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation through their Financial Assistance Program. Grant applicants must submit their application through a healthcare professional, and oftentimes recipients choose to apply with the help of a social worker. One of our new Board Members, Dana D'Alessandro Haseotes, is a Clinical Social Worker who has a long-lasting relationship with JAF by providing assistance with the grant application process. We look forward to continuing our connections with partner organizations in similar ways, to provide the education and resources to those who need it most.
Learning About Pathology
Medically reviewed by Stuart J. Schnitt, MD, and George L. Mutter, MD
July 17, 2019
A pathology report describes the findings in a tissue sample (biopsy or excision), which are always submitted to a pathologist after being removed from a patient. The tissue is sliced very thin and stained on a glass slide for a pathologist to examine under a microscope to determine if there is disease present, and if so, what kind.
“Pathology is the hub around which oncology rotates; it’s the center of patient management,” says Stuart J. Schnitt, MD, a pathologist at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC).
Oftentimes, the terminology of these reports can be difficult for patients to understand. In particular, be cautious about complicated abbreviations you do not understand, as their meaning may change with context. Google searches also often produce erroneous or misleading interpretations.
Your doctor will explain the results of your pathology report to you and can answer any questions you have.
What are the different components of a pathology report?
Patient and specimen identifiers
This information includes the patient’s name, birth date, and other personal information. It also details clinical history, the type of biopsy or procedure, and the type of tissue being analyzed.
Procedures often generate multiple specimens that are submitted together to the pathologist in separate containers. In these cases, a letter or number is assigned to identify these different samples submitted. The individual container labels are carefully recorded, including any specific designation (such as “cervical biopsy at 3 o’clock position”) that allows the pathologist to know where it is from.