Masonic Cancer Center leaders unveiled a permanent tribute to the center's founding director, John Kersey, M.D., in the new Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building on May 13. The display is prominently featured in the lobby of the building, which is open to the public--a rarity for research facilities.
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When scientists talk about "environmental" causes of cancer, they don't mean that carcinogens lurk in every tree and stream. They're referring to anything that enters or interacts with the human body--sunshine, food, water, alcohol, radiation, cigarette smoke--and examining them for their potential to cause renegade cell growth. And as they now know, environmental factors are linked to as many as two out of every three cancers diagnosed.
Brad Hoyt fell in love with racing as a boy when his father took him to see the movie "Grand Prix." So when he found himself the winner at the finish line of the premier Historic Grand Prix of Monaco in 2008--in a 1969 Formula One Ferrari similar to the one in the movie--he had to pinch himself. After returning home to Minnesota, all Hoyt wanted to do was get back to Monaco and win again. But a diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) in April 2011 threatened that plan--and his life.
At 78, volunteer Hinda Litman now has a shock of snow-white hair but retains the same joyful energy she brought to University of Minnesota hospitals more than 35 years ago, when she first volunteered as a patient visitor. Since then, she's worked in the surgery lounge, with hospice patients, and now in the Masonic Cancer Clinic--wherever there has been a patient in need, Litman has shown up.
Since scientists now know that between 5 and 10 percent of all cancers are caused by abnormal genes inherited from a parent--often called hereditary cancers--Masonic Cancer Center researchers and clinicians are increasingly focused on making sure that patients understand their family history to minimize their cancer risk.
"Mutant variants of human cells": the phrase conjures up images of a bad sci-fi movie. But Reuben Harris, Ph.D., has been studying cell mutations for more than 20 years, and his recent finding is more akin to an Oscar-winning blockbuster. So remarkable is his work that the prestigious journal Nature in February published his discovery that a protein that occurs naturally in the body appears to be a driver for more than half of breast cancers he studied. This breakthrough could lead to new diagnostic tools and, potentially, new treatments for breast cancer.