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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston is one of the top-rated cancer treatment facilities in the country. It is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and also works with other prestigious medical facilities, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dana-Farber is known for excellent patient care, including treatment 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. The National Institutes of Health pays for much of Dana-Farber’s research, including clinical trials for the treatment of cancers, including those caused by asbestos exposure.

About Dana-Farber

The modern Dana-Farber Cancer Institute sees 450,000 patients every year. It has 4,500 employees, including physicians, surgeons, nurses, and specialists. The institute is particularly known for its innovative research and commitment to understanding and curing cancer. It has taken part in nearly 1,000 clinical trials with patients. Dana-Farber is also a Center for AIDS Research, as designated by the federal government.


Dr. Sidney Farber created 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 it was renamed the Sidney Farber Cancer Center to honor its founder. In 1983, to acknowledge ongoing financial support from the Charles A. Dana Foundation, the institute changed to its current name.

Farber and his organization were dedicated to treating cancer, but also to researching it to find better treatments, methods of prevention, and diagnostics. The Institute has been responsible for a number of firsts throughout its history, including the development of a treatment that led to the first cases of complete remission in half of patients with acute myelogenous leukemia. And Dana-Farber discovered the first evidence that a retrovirus was responsible for AIDS. Its 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 get some of the best mesothelioma treatment in the world, because Dana-Farber partners with Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s International Mesothelioma Program (IMP).  IMP is a leader and world-renowned center for mesothelioma treatment. IMP and Dana-Farber treat over 2,000 mesothelioma patients every year. A typical medical facility might see only 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 on individualized treatment plans. They also get the most technologically advanced treatments. Dana-Farber’s Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology, staffed by experts in lung cancer, mesothelioma, and similar cancers also takes part in treatment.

In addition to the best medical and surgical care, mesothelioma patients at Dana-Farber also get 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 a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. The consortium includes over 1,000 researchers and more than $600 million in research funds.

Research here is extensive, but focuses on projects that lead directly to better treatments and outcomes for patients. Examples 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 to determine how best to translate research into real outcomes for patients.

The consortium is also 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 can lead many clinical trials and enroll patients in them. 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, creating true collaboration between researchers and the physicians providing patient care. Actual bridges connect research laboratories to clinicians. The facility also houses an area to test new drugs in clinical trials. 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.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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