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Celebrating Fred Hutch’s shared successes toward ending cancer

October 4, 2013

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center released its annual report for 2013, which is now available for reading and PDF download.

The report’s theme, “ending cancer together,” focuses on the collaboration of Fred Hutch’s scientists, colleagues, physicians, study participants and thousands of private supporters to save lives.

Highlights of the report include:annual report

Read about these and other inspiring stories, along with profiles of several of the Hutch’s benefactors here.

 

New paper on hormone therapy represents a shattering of long-held dogma regarding women’s health

October 4, 2013

By Andy Koopmans

A paper published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association details the integrated findings of the Women’s Health Initiative Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy Trials, two long-term, federally funded, randomized clinical studies of hormone therapy use in postmenopausal women.

Dr. Garnet Anderson

Dr. Garnet Anderson is Director of Public Health Sciences at Fred Hutch and principal investigator of the Hutch-based WHI Clinical Coordinating Center.

The trials, which ran from the early 1990s to the early 2000s and were run by the WHI Clinical Coordinating Center based at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, studied hormone therapies that had been prescribed and in use among older women for decades with the hope the drugs might improve health outcomes for a number of issues. However, both trials stopped early due to an unanticipated increased incidence of negative health effects among women who took hormones as compared to those who received a placebo. Such negative consequences included heart disease, stroke and breast cancer.

Results from the trials have been extensively cited in more than 100 different publications over the years, but the JAMA article, authored by 30-plus scientists, including Fred Hutch scientists Drs. Garnet Anderson, Ross Prentice, Andrea LaCroix, Shirley Beresford and Charles Kooperberg, is the first publication of an integrated, side-by-side overview of findings of both trials with extended postintervention follow-up. Read more…

Fred Hutch and Cornish celebrate ninth annual art loan partnership

September 26, 2013

By Mary Hazen, with photos by Bo Jungmayer

In 2005, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Cornish College of the Arts forged a partnership that has become a core component of Fred Hutch’s culture.

Each year, the walls and common areas of Fred Hutch’s Robert M. Arnold Building become a blank slate for a new exhibit of paintings, prints, photographs and sculptures on loan from Cornish Art Department graduates.

The collaboration, brainchild of Cornish art professor Bonnie Biggs and former Fred Hutch employee Scott Sutherland, a member of the Public Health Science’s Art Task Force, was primarily initiated to give young emerging artists a public forum for their work. It also complements Fred Hutch’s permanent collection of donated art, which includes works by August Rodin, Dale Chihuly and Morris Graves.

Bonnie Biggs and Georgia Green

Cornish art professor Bonnie Biggs and PHS Art Task Force Chair Georgia Green

“Although Fred Hutch and Cornish College have very different missions, they share common values, such as exploring new directions, encouraging creativity and making the world a better place, whether through lifesaving science or life-affirming art,” said Georgia Green, chair of the PHS Art Task Force.

This year, 56 pieces of art from 35 Cornish seniors adorn the interior of the Arnold Building.

Green and her fellow PHS Art Task Force members chose the art from a display of select works from the seniors’ thesis projects. These pieces of art were officially unveiled at a reception in the building’s atrium on Sept. 20 and will remain on exhibit for a year. Read more…

New drug ‘a potential game-changer’ for preventing CMV infection in transplant patients

September 25, 2013

By Deborah Bach

Michael Boeckh

Michael Boeckh is head of the Infectious Disease Sciences Program at Fred Hutch.

A new drug shows promise in preventing a common but sometimes serious virus in stem cell transplant recipients, according to a paper published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The Harvard University-led study, which involved researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and other institutions, found that patients who took the antiviral drug CMX001 after undergoing stem-cell transplantation were significantly less likely than those who took a placebo to develop cytomegalovirus (CMV). A type of herpes virus, CMV can cause potentially life-threatening problems including pneumonia, gastrointestinal disease and encephalitis in patients who undergo transplantation to treat serious blood diseases such as leukemia. Read more…

Washington state collaboration in basic research yields powerful tool in cancer fight

September 20, 2013

By Andy Koopmans

A collaboration that began several years ago among researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington and Washington State University has resulted in the engineering of a new “designer” protein enzyme developed by San Diego-based company Tocagen for use in a phase 1 clinical trial. The trial, conducted at University of California San Diego Medical Center, is testing the safety of the drug to treat malignant glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer.

Dr. Barry Stoddard

Dr. Barry Stoddard is a structural biologist in Fred Hutch’s Basic Sciences Division.

Dr. Margaret Black, a professor in WSU’s School of Molecular Biosciences, initiated the protein engineering project in the early 2000s. The idea was to improve the properties of a yeast enzyme called cytosine deaminase (or yCD), which Black had studied for years because of its potential in cancer therapy. The trouble with the native form of yCD is that it prefers cool temperatures and becomes unstable at room or body temperature, impeding its use in human treatments. Black wanted to re-engineer the enzyme to be stable at higher temperatures without changing its basic activity.

Re-engineering nature

Black brought the problem of re-engineering the yCD enzyme to Dr. Barry Stoddard of the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutch and his collaborator at UW, Dr. David Baker, a professor of Biochemistry. In Stoddard’s lab, Dr. Aaron Korkegian, then a doctoral student at UW doing graduate work at Fred Hutch, used computational protein engineering software called RosettaDesign to successfully endow the enzyme with increased stability and improved longevity at higher temperatures by replacing three amino acids within it. Read more…

Six charities will receive donations from Game It Forward’s first-release ‘Quingo,’ which combines trivia questions and bingo

September 19, 2013
Quingo combines bingo and trivia to benefit charities.

Quingo combines bingo and trivia to benefit charities.

By Kristen Woodward

Six charities, including five based in Seattle, will receive funds from a new iPad game created by local startup Game It Forward. “Quingo” combines the fun of bingo with the challenge of trivia questions and is now available for free on iTunes. Game It Forward will share a portion of revenue generated by Quingo through advertising and in-app purchases to specific projects managed by each charity.

Projects from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Kiva, PAWS, Seattle Children’s, Splash and The Martinez Foundation will benefit from the new game.

“Players worldwide spend 3 billion hours a week playing games. If those games donated just one penny an hour, we’d raise $30 million a week for people in need,” said Game It Forward founder and industry veteran Brandon Bozzi. “Game It Forward will help make that happen by producing free-to-play games where money generated from ad and in-game purchases is donated to charities.” Read more…

Unlocking the mechanisms underlying aspirin’s effects on cancer

September 17, 2013

By Andy Koopmans

Dr. Brian Reid

Dr. Brian Reid of Fred Hutch’s Human Biology and Public Health Sciences divisions

Could something as simple as aspirin be a major weapon against cancer? Dr. Brian Reid and his colleagues in the Human Biology and Public Health Sciences divisions at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center researchers have been awarded almost $1.9 million over the next four years from the National Cancer Institute’s Provocative Questions Project to find out.

The project grew out of a series of workshops led by NCI director Dr. Harold Varmus to define new directions for cancer research in the United States, with the goal of ultimately funding more challenging and creative research and urging researchers to tackle the perplexing questions of cancer research.

Reid’s group will tackle one of 20 perplexing questions

The group of cancer research veterans assembled came up with 20 such perplexing questions, and Reid’s group will be looking into one interrogating the mechanism underlying the link between cancer and aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs:  “What is the molecular mechanism by which a drug (such as aspirin or metformin) that is chronically used for other indications protects against cancer incidence and mortality?” Read more…

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