Research Highlights

2006 Key Findings

Improving quality of life for cancer survivors
The Hutch was awarded $1.7 million from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to establish a LiveSTRONG Survivor Center of Excellence, a comprehensive survivorship center including clinical care, education and access to research. The grant will help integrate and enhance four existing survivorship programs at the Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance with the goal of improving outcomes and developing new models of care for cancer survivors.

New Cancer Prevention Clinic opens
The Hutch and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance launched a new Cancer Prevention Clinic, which offers personalized cancer screening and prevention services, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, for Western Washington residents. The clinic will also provide individuals with an opportunity to take part in Center research studies aimed at warding off cancer or spotting it at its earliest stages, when cure rates are highest. The clinic offers an unprecedented opportunity to directly link the Center's outstanding research in cancer prevention and early detection with clinical care.

Leading research to develop vaccines to prevent HIV/AIDS
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded two grants totaling $40 million to the Hutch as part of a larger international effort to speed the development of effective HIV vaccines. The Center will play a pivotal role—including overall data management and analysis—in this project collectively known as the Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery, which brings together more than 165 investigators from 19 countries.

Improving outcomes for patients with lymphoma
Dr. Oliver Press and colleagues demonstrated that traditional chemotherapy followed by treatment with a radiation-carrying antibody offers unprecedented five-year survival rates of 87 percent for patients with follicular lymphoma, compared to 67 percent survival rates for patients with traditional chemotherapy alone. Although follicular lymphoma is a slow-growing cancer, traditional medicines have not been able to cure the disease or prolong patients' survival. The results of this study offer new hope to the roughly 15,000 Americans diagnosed with follicular lymphoma each year.

Regular, moderate physical activity can combat the common cold
Dr. Cornelia Ulrich led a study that found postmenopausal women who exercised regularly for a year had about half the risk of developing the common cold compared to those who did not work out routinely. Dr. Ulrich emphasized that regular exercise in moderation—such as 30 to 45 minutes of brisk walking each day—is the key. Other studies have shown that excessive, exhaustive exercise can deplete immune function and increase the risk of colds. The researchers also found that the ability of moderate exercise to ward off colds seemed to increase over time.

New initiative to detect cancer early
A $5 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation will accelerate the Hutch's progress toward early detection of breast and prostate cancer through an innovative "proof-of-principle" project that will set new standards for the field. This project seeks to demonstrate that proteins in the blood can be correlated with the presence of cancer in a mouse, yielding a blueprint for future discoveries relevant to early cancer detection in humans.

Exercise can reduce a man's risk of colon cancer
Dr. Anne McTiernan found that regular, moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise significantly reduces a risk factor associated with the formation of colon polyps and colon cancer in men. The effect was strongest in men who worked out vigorously an average of four hours a week or more.

Guidelines to help cancer patients preserve fertility
Dr. Stephanie Lee helped develop guidelines for physicians and patients about fertility preservation for those undergoing cancer treatment, which may help cancer patients retain their ability to have children. The guidelines provide information about which chemotherapy agents may have the most impact on fertility, how best to protect reproductive organs during radiation therapy, and methods of preserving fertility, such as embryo cryopreservation for women and sperm cryopreservation for men.

Pinpointing cancer-related genetic changes
A technique developed by Dr. Steven Henikoff for pinpointing small changes in plant genes shows great promise for uncovering hard-to-find gene defects in human cancer cells, paving the way for the discovery of new drug targets. In addition to finding genetic mutations that increase the risk of cancer, researchers hope to look for the genetic changes that arise in tumor cells and cause them to lose control of growth and division.

Healthy living helps fight cancer
Dr. Anne McTiernan and colleagues found that postmenopausal women who had the lowest body-mass index and the highest physical-activity levels had the lowest levels of circulating estrogens, sex hormones that can fuel breast-cancer growth. The study, part of the Women's Health Initiative, was the first of its kind to examine the dual impact of body weight and physical activity on circulating hormones thought to affect cancer risk.

Understanding the risks faced by childhood-cancer survivors
Dr. Debra Friedman co-authored a study revealing that adult survivors of childhood cancer face a high risk of a second cancer or other serious illness due to effects of cancer therapy. Findings from this multi-center study will help doctors monitor survivors more carefully to prevent or minimize such complications.

Genetic "signatures" to improve treatment for leukemia patients
By charting the sets of genes that are turned on or off as chronic myeloid leukemia advances from early to more aggressive phases, Dr. Jerry Radich and colleagues found genetic "signatures" that could form the basis for tests to predict prognosis and match patients with the best treatment for their illness. The study also identified genes that may be promising targets for new drugs to benefit patients whose disease is advanced and incurable with currently available therapies.