Exploring New Frontiers from Cancer to HIV
While improving bone marrow transplantation remains central to the Center's research, it is now only part of our efforts. The Hutch is home to five scientific divisions, three Nobel laureates and more than 2,700 faculty and staff members who are working to eliminate cancer, HIV and other related diseases.
In 1982, Fred Hutch established the Cancer Prevention Program, which has made key contributions to understanding how diet, exercise and other factors influence the likelihood of acquiring the disease. Today it is the oldest and largest such program in the nation.
Our researchers have continued to develop innovative treatments for leukemia and other blood cancers, and are making further progress toward the next generation of cancer therapies. Fred Hutch's Nobel prize-winning work on bone marrow transplantation provided the first example of the power of the human immune system to cure cancer. Later, Dr. Rainier Storb and colleagues developed a radically different approach to bone marrow transplantation that offers hope for older or otherwise medically unfit blood-cancer patients whose bodies cannot withstand the rigors of a conventional transplant. This treatment, called the non-myeloblative stem cell transplants or "mini" transplant, does not wipe out bone marrow and involves minimal radiation. Studies have shown patients are as likely to survive after a reduced intensity transplant as after a more intense transplant.
Today, we are spearheading a revolutionary treatment, called immunotherapy, that yields effective cancer treatments with far fewer side effects than conventional drugs, radiation or surgery. In 2008, Dr. Cassian Yee demonstrated that he could use a patient's own infection-fighting T-cells to put advanced melanoma into long-term remission.
Our scientists are also leaders in using antibodies either alone or attached to radioactive molecules or chemotherapy to treat cancer. Antibody-based therapy uses small proteins to directly attack tumors or to allow therapeutic agents to be delivered to cancer cells, sparing health cells and thus minimizing harmful side effects.
Our work extends to infectious disease research, reflecting a growing understanding that eradicating certain infections can lower the world’s cancer burden. In 1988, investigators from our Basic Sciences Division began researching HIV. This laid the groundwork for national HIV vaccine trials, which the Center began conducting in collaboration with the University of Washington in 1994. Today, our Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division is home to one of the world’s largest HIV research units and is the hub of the international HIV Vaccine Trials Network, a global effort to develop and test a successful HIV vaccine.
To expedite our research, the Center joined forces with the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s to form Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) in 1998. One of the country’s most comprehensive adult and pediatric cancer-care organizations. SCCA opened a 150,000 square-foot outpatient clinic on the Hutchinson Center’s Seattle campus in 2001.
Pursuing the Next Wave of Breakthroughs
Hutch researchers are uniquely poised to contribute to the next wave of breakthrough treatments and prevention strategies. Their visionary approach ensures that Fred Hutch remains one of the world’s leading research organizations, coming ever closer to eliminating cancer and related diseases as causes of human suffering and death.