Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Research and Care for Adults and Children with Cancer

Jim Donovan
Dana-Farber Trustee Jim Donovan

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was founded in 1947 and is today located in a modern medical center in Boston, Massachusetts. Today the Institute is engaged in comprehensive research into the causes of and possible cures for this devastating and dreaded disease. The Institute also reaches out to the general community with information while providing easier access to medical care.

The Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, part of the Dana-Farber Institute, is a cutting-edge research and care facility especially designed to bring the best treatments to patients as quickly as possible. The special care offered by Dana-Farber also reaches beyond the immediate boundaries of the Longwood Medical Area. The Institute networks with satellite centers in several locations throughout Massachusetts, and even as far as Londonderry, New Hampshire.

The Dana-Farber Community Benefits Program reaches out to the greater Boston community to educate, help prevent and reduce the risk of cancer in the area’s under-served populations. One example of the way the program accomplishes its goals is through a mobile mammography program, the only one of its kind in all of Massachusetts. Dana-Farber also supports a community outreach program whose aim is to increase the rates of colon cancer screening among minorities in the Boston area and thereby reducing the rate of death from this disease.

In a recently written article Jim Donovan explains how supporting cancer research has helped him put meaning into the death of a close friend who passed away from cancer. Donovan became a supporter of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, serving on the Board of Trustees, establishing the Christy and Jim Donovan Fund for Prostate Cancer Research at Dana-Farber, as well as supporting Dana-Farber in a myriad of other ways. As Donovan puts it:

“This participation helped me process my grief over losing my friend.  I continue to show my support for him every day through these activities.  And it also changed my perspective on the fight against cancer. I realized it takes much more than doctors in the operating room and researchers in the lab.  It takes regular people devoting their time, talents, and resources, whatever those may be, to champion the cause. I’m thankful I can use my business and financial background to support organizations dedicated to cancer research. I’m also an avid runner, so I also participate in road races to raise money. And, as corny as it may sound, I think of my friend when I run, and I really do feel as though I’m running towards the cure.”

SF Zoo’s Banana-Sam Returned Safely

Officials announced that the squirrel monkey stolen from the San Francisco Zoo has been found and safely returned to his enclosure.

“Although hungry, trembling and thirsty, Banana-Sam is currently back safe,” the zoo said in a statement.

The 17 year-old monkey, known as Banana-Sam, weighs only about 2 lbs and is a foot tall. His disappearance was noticed when zoo workers found two holes cut in the mesh fence of the squirrel monkey exhibit. Upon announcing the missing primate, Banana-Sam’s keepers were careful to warn the public that he is still a wild animal, and can cause serious damage with both his bite and claws. The curator added that monkey’s often carry diseases, and can cause severe infections if they bite a human.

Corrine MacDonald, the curator of primates and carnivores, told KGO, CNN affiliate, that squirrel monkeys can live into their 20s. Banana-Sam’s age could have posed a higher risk for him outside the zoo. He needs a specific diet in order to maintain his health.

According to the San Francisco Police Department, the monkey was found on Saturday night at a park. A passer-by caught a glimpse of Banana-Sam in the bushes, and coaxed him into a backpack before calling the authorities.

The thieves’ motive is still unclear, as common squirrel monkeys are not an endangered species, and are commonly sold in pet trade markets and medical research institutions.

The exhibit has been temporarily closed, with MacDonald stating that the other monkeys were severely shaken by the intrusion and capture. She added that the zoo is now concerned about a “copy-cat” theft, and is not sure when the exhibit will be reopened.


Care Package Tips for the First Sleep-Away Experience

Summer is filled with family activities and endless bonding time, but many parents are also coping with a new kind of separation anxiety triggered by the first-ever departure of a child to sleepaway camp.

For weeks they plan and pack and encourage their child to go enjoy the outdoor experiences, the social environment, the sports, the arts and crafts, the swimming, etc., but when it comes time for their baby to leave, they choke. They suddenly regret their no-cellphone decision and rush to join the staff at their kid’s preferred camp… But it’s too late. And so, they turn to the traditional care packages to show children that they are loved and missed at home.

KJ Dell’Antonia of the New York Times shared her experience, explaining that she sent a care package for her own sake, and not for that of her son, who spent a week at a hockey camp a mere hour from home.

Here are a number of tips she listed in an NY Times blog for parents with the same idea:

  1. Read the rules. Jan Hoffman, who wrote “At Camp, It’s Not Grub, It’s Cuisine,” for the dining section, reminded me to check with the camp before I send a thing. ‘Most camps I spoke with have banned food packages,’ she said. Packages are usually opened at the camp office, in front of the camper. Some camps have even banned packages altogether, except for necessities…
  2. Ask around. What did kids from your child’s camp crave last year? Playing cards, said one fellow parent. Snacks, said another. Glow sticks. Books. (An exception to the ‘no care packages’ rule at some camps) ‘Graphic novels get passed around’, said Ayun Halliday, from the camp where she is working this summer- and ‘the kid with the battery-operated fan will always be the object of admirations.’ Practical jokes, Noise putty, comic books.
  3. Send love and flavor. In our case, younger siblings contributed some art to brighten their brother’s surroundings. Rice Krispies Treats are a house classic (with the added advantage of being nut- and-gluten- free and thus shareable with nearly any friend), and I managed to send him almost a whole batch. And a packet of powdered Starbucks iced coffee is one thing that’s sure to remind him of his loving, slightly iced-coffee-addicted, mother.
  4. Think group fun and solo time. To me, that meant cards and Mad Libs, plus a book of puzzles. ‘Something that can be shared with everyone,’ said Ms. Halliday. Several friends, via Facebook, combined the glow theme with sharing: glow-in-the-dark bracelets in a party pack; a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee.
  5. Sweat the details. I wished I’d taken more time to write my note, instead of scribbling it at the post office: do I have no words of wisdom for my eldest on his first extended stay away from home? Maybe my husband covered it. But at least I remembered that puzzles and Mad Libs are useless without pencils.

Dell’Antonia added one more suggestion to parents in search of creative ideas. “If you are hemmed in by a no-care-package policy,” she wrote, “send letters, send origami swans, send a goofy drawing, send a big crayon heart, and embrace a moment away from consumer culture.”


Caffeinated Coffee May Reduce Skin Cancer Threat

A recent study has revealed that coffee may reduce the risk of basal cell carcinoma- the most common type of skin cancer. According to the data, only caffeinated coffee seems to have an effect on the cancer risk.

Dr. Jiali Han of Brigham and Women’s Hospital explained that the data “indicates that the more caffeinated coffee you consume, the lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.”

He continued, “I would not recommend increasing your coffee intake based on these data alone. However, our results add basal cell carcinoma to a list of conditions for which risk is decreased with increasing coffee consumption. This list includes conditions with serious negative health consequences such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.”

The cancer is known to be a slow developer, but the illness is still great and affects more than 150,000 people in the U.S. and UK each year. Han explains that this figure implies that simple dietary changes like coffee intake are likely to have a significant impact on public health.

The study, which comes from data from the Nurses’ Health Study, also analyzed the effect of decaffeinated coffee on the cancer’s appearance as well. It revealed that de-caf coffee does not decrease the risk of cancer whatsoever.

According to Dr. Han, “these results really suggest that it is the caffeine in coffee that is responsible for the decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma associated with increasing coffee consumption.

This would be consistent with published mouse data, which indicate caffeine can block skin tumor formation. However, more studies in different population cohorts and additional mechanics studies will be needed before we can say this definitively.”


Latest Fitness Pill Boosts Exercise Motivation

Until now, the common supplements to aid with weight loss are those that supposedly suppress the appetite. Surgical treatments take a similar approach by reducing food consumption.

However, scientists may have stumbled upon a new, significantly healthier, way to encourage weight loss, with the help of a hormone that promotes a more energetic mood.

The University of Zurich researchers have discovered that raised levels of the hormone erythropoietin (Epo) in mice resulted in faster, more motivated movements. An additional advantage is that the activity had no effect on red blood cell counts.

The new information can be used to make a hormone pill to treat conditions ranging for obesity to Alzheimer’s disease to depression.

Max Gassman, one of the researchers on the team, said: “Here we show that Epo increases the motivation to exercise. Most probably, Epo has a general effect on a person’s mood and might be used in patients suffering from depression and related diseases.”

Dr. Gerald Weissmann of the FASEB Journal added: “If you can’t put exercise in a pill, then maybe you can put the motivation to exercise in a pill instead.

“As more and more people become overweight and obese, we must attack the problem from all angles. Maybe the day will come when gyms are as easily found as fast food restaurants.”