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Cancer update is focus of 'Aging Successfully' panel

"Cancer: Update and Outlook" is the topic of the 13th annual Catherine N. Stratton "Aging Successfully" seminar, which will take place in Wong Auditorium (Building E51) on Thursday, April 13 from 9:30am-noon. The seminar is sponsored jointly by MIT Medical and the Women's League.

National attention has galvanized around this topic with the death from colon cancer of "Peanuts" creator Charles Schultz, and the frequent appearance in the media of studies on the effects of diet, environment and heredity on the incidence of cancer adds to our awareness. MIT Medical itself devoted the March issue of "Health at MIT" to colon cancer.

"Cancer: Update and Outlook" will be moderated by Dr. William M. Kettyle, an internist, geriatrician and associate director of MIT Medical. He will introduce the panelists and, using a case study of a 42-year-old male with a family history of colon cancer, focus the discussion on cancer prevalence, detection, prevention and treatment, as well as future approaches to the disease.

Panelists are Dr. William C. Hahn, medical oncologist and cancer researcher at the Whitehead Institute and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Dr. Frederick P. Li, research physician and epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and Dana-Farber; and Dr. Helen M. Shields, gastroenterologist at the Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Li is the recipient of the fourth American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in cancer epidemiology and prevention. He will review his current research on cancer risk reduction based on new knowledge of the genetic and environmental causes of cancer.

As the director of the 1986-87 Massachusetts Colon Cancer Screening Project at Beth Israel involving 23,000 subjects, Dr. Shields will share some of the pertinent data gleaned from this far-reaching project. She will cover methods of screening for colon cancer and who to screen, how vigorously and how often, as well as the limitations of current tests. Dr. Shields is hopeful about "virtual colonoscopy" as a diagnostic tool, which would be especially beneficial to the aging population.

Dr. Hahn will cover what's new and down the road in drugs and approaches to cancer. His success in creating cancer cells in the laboratory for the first time was reported in the July 1999 issue of Nature and reported widely in the press, including Time magazine.

A question period will follow the presentations. The program is free and open to the public. Coffee will be available in the lobby before the seminar at 9am.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 5, 2000.

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