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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is located in Boston and is among the best-rated cancer treatment facilities in the country. It is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and is a partner with other prestigious medical facilities, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dana-Farber is known for excellent patient care and treatment, including for those living with mesothelioma.

Dana-Farber is also a leader in cancer research and is part of a consortium with the Harvard Cancer Center, collaborating on research efforts. The National Institutes of Health provides much of the funding for the research done here, including for clinical trials that are driving important developments in the treatment of cancers that include those caused by asbestos exposure.

About Dana-Farber

The modern Dana-Farber Cancer Institute sees 450,000 patients every year and those patients are served by over 4,500 employees, including physicians, surgeons, nurses, and specialists. The institute is renowned not just for its treatments and patient care, but particularly for its innovative research and commitment to understanding and eradicating cancer. The Institute has been involved in nearly 1,000 clinical trials with patients. In addition to studying cancer, Dana-Farber is a Center for AIDS Research, as designated by the federal government.


Dr. Sidney Farber established the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation in 1947 to help advance care for pediatric cancer patients. In 1969 the Foundation was expanded to include care for patients of all ages. In 1974 the name was changed to honor the founder, and the Foundation became the Sidney Farber Cancer Center. The name was finally changed to its present form in 1983 to acknowledge the ongoing financial support from the Charles A. Dana Foundation.

Farber and his organization were dedicated to treating cancer, but also to researching it to find better treatments, preventions, and diagnostics. The Institute has been responsible for a number of firsts throughout its history. These include the development of a treatment that resulted in the first cases of complete remission in half of patients with acute myelogenous leukemia. It was at Dana-Farber that the first evidence came for a retrovirus being responsible for AIDS. The researchers were the first to achieve remission for a common childhood cancer called Wilms’ tumor. In 2003 Dana-Farber researchers discovered a gene signature that helps predict to which areas of the body a tumor will metastasize.

Treating Mesothelioma

Patients who come to Dana-Farber for care get some of the best mesothelioma treatment in the world. This is because Dana-Farber partners with Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s International Mesothelioma Program (IMP). The IMP is a leader and world-renowned center for mesothelioma treatment. Between the IMP and Dana-Farber, over 2,000 mesothelioma patients are treated every year. A typical medical facility might see one or two such patients each year.

Patients here get the most innovative treatment and care from some of the world’s leading experts in this rare cancer. The expertise begins with diagnosis. Diagnosing mesothelioma is challenging, but Dana-Farber doctors bring combined decades of experience to bear when making accurate diagnoses and when staging. Patients also get the benefit of a multi-disciplinary team of experts who collaborate when developing individualized treatment plans. They also get the most technologically-advanced treatments. Also involved in treating mesothelioma patients is Dana-Farber’s Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology, staffed by experts in lung cancer, mesothelioma, and similar cancers.

In addition to the best medical and surgical care, mesothelioma patients at Dana-Farber also have access to excellent supportive care. This includes access to social workers, patient liaisons, chaplains, counselors, and other professionals who can help assess and address emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs of patients and their families.

Research at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center

The DF/HCC was founded in 1997 as a research consortium and includes five hospitals and two of Harvard’s health science schools. It is designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. Dana-Farber is just one part of this consortium, but together they make up a leading research center for cancer. All together the consortium includes over 1,000 researchers and more than $600 million in research.

The research conducted here is extensive, but is dedicated to projects that lead directly to better treatments and outcomes for patients. Some examples of the types of research done here include genomic studies to better understand how cancer grows, studies to determine how to make cancer cells more vulnerable to radiation, better surgical oncology procedures, immunology cancer treatments, and translational research, determining how best to translate research into real outcomes for patients.

The consortium is also working toward reducing disparities in cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment. The Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities aims to research disparities, increase minority representation in research and medicine, engage diverse communities in cancer prevention, and increase cultural sensitivity in providing cancer care.

Leader in Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma Patients

As part of the consortium and with funding from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health, Dana-Farber researchers are able to lead many clinical trials and to offer participation in them to patients. There are several mesothelioma clinical trials ongoing. These include studies of new chemotherapy drugs for mesothelioma patients who have not responded well to older drugs and studies of trimodal treatment with lung-sparing surgery,

The Yawkey Center for Cancer Care

Dana-Farber has a major commitment to treating patients with compassion and the most innovative clinical treatments. This is embodied in the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, which was developed with guidance from actual patients and their families. The purpose of the Center is to advance patient care, to improve the experience for patients, and to improve patient safety

The Center is also designed to connect researchers to clinicians, so that .there can be true collaboration between researchers and the physicians providing patient care. There are actual bridges connecting research laboratories to clinicians. The facility also houses an area for running clinical trials for novel drugs. The environment is designed to be relaxing and soothing, and even includes live classical music performances.

Few cancer centers are more comprehensive or innovative than the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Through a strategy of collaborating with numerous other organizations and translating advanced research into treatments, diagnostics, and other benefits for real patients, Dana-Farber has become one of the best cancer care centers in the world.

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