Research Highlights


Mid-morning snacking may sabotage weight-loss efforts
Women dieters who grab a snack between breakfast and lunch lose less weight compared to those who abstain from a mid-morning snack, according to a study led by researchers at Fred Hutch.

Age alone no longer should be a barrier to stem cell transplantation for older patients with blood cancers
Age alone no longer should be considered a defining factor when determining whether an older patient with blood cancer is a candidate for stem cell transplantation.

Research team clarifies the mechanics behind the first new cell cycle to be described in more than two decades
An international team of researchers led by investigators in the U.S. and Germany has shed light on the inner workings of the endocycle, a common cell cycle that fuels growth in plants, animals and some human tissues and is responsible for generating up to half of the Earth’s biomass. This discovery, led by a geneticist at Fred Hutch and reported Oct. 30 in Nature, leads to a new understanding of how cells grow and how rates of cell growth might be increased or decreased, which has important implications in both agriculture and medicine.

Researchers map genome of advanced, lethal prostate cancers and discover 'hypermutations'
A team of researchers at Fred Hutch and the University of Washington has conducted the first comprehensive assessment of every gene in the genome of advanced, lethal prostate cancer. Until now, the genetic composition of such tumors had been poorly defined.

Researchers discover blood proteins associated with early development of lung cancer
A research team led by Fred Hutch has discovered proteins in the blood that are associated with early lung cancer development in mice and humans. The advance brings the reality of a blood test for the early detection and diagnosis of lung cancer a step closer.

Researchers discover five inherited genetic variants that could help identify the most lethal prostate cancers
An international team of researchers led by Fred Hutch has identified five inherited genetic variants that are strongly associated with aggressive, lethal prostate cancer. The discovery ultimately could lead to the development of a simple blood test that could be given upon diagnosis to determine which men should receive aggressive treatment versus a more conservative “watchful waiting” approach.

Using a 'systems biology' approach to look under the hood of an aggressive form of breast cancer
Using a “systems biology” approach – which focuses on understanding the complex relationships between biological systems – to look under the hood of an aggressive form of breast cancer, researchers for the first time have identified a set of proteins in the blood that change in abundance long before the cancer is clinically detectable. The findings, by co-authors Christopher Kemp, Ph.D., and Samir Hanash, M.D., Ph.D., members of Fred Hutch’s Human Biology and Public Health Sciences divisions, respectively, are published online ahead of the Aug. 1 print issue of Cancer Research.

Hutchinson Center to lead a $20 million research project to explore a potential cure for HIV infection
Whether a stem cell transplant using an HIV-infected person’s own genetically modified immune cells can become a cure for the disease is the focus of a new $20 million, five-year research grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health to Fred Hutch.

Proof-of-concept study of biomarker development in mice provides a roadmap for a similar approach in humans
Researchers at Fred Hutch have demonstrated in mice that the performance of a novel biomarker-development pipeline using targeted mass spectrometry is robust enough to support the use of an analogous approach in humans. The findings, by principal investigator Amanda Paulovich, M.D., Ph.D., an associate member of the Hutch’s Clinical Research Division, are published in Nature Biotechnology.

The hidden cost of survival: Study finds bankruptcy rates among cancer patients increase along with survival time
An analysis linking federal bankruptcy court records to cancer registry data from nearly 232,000 adult cancer cases in western Washington during a 14-year period has found a hidden cost to survival: Insolvency rates increase along with the length of survival.

Losing more than 15 percent of body weight significantly increases vitamin D levels in overweight/obese women
Overweight or obese women with less-than-optimal levels of vitamin D who lose more than 15 percent of their body weight experience significant increases in circulating levels of this fat-soluble nutrient, according to a new study by researchers at Fred Hutch.

Gene-modified stem cells help protect bone marrow from toxic side effects of chemotherapy for brain cancer
Although chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells, it can also have a strong toxic effect on normal cells such as bone marrow and blood cells, often limiting the ability to use and manage the chemotherapy treatment. Researchers at Fred Hutch reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy in Seattle that one possible approach to reduce this toxic effect on bone marrow cells is to modify the cells with a gene that makes them resistant to chemotherapy.

Hutchinson Center scientists discover new drug target for squamous cell carcinoma
Researchers at Fred Hutch have discovered a new drug target for squamous cell carcinoma – the second most common form of skin cancer. Scientists in the laboratory of Valeri Vasioukhin, Ph.D., have found that a protein called alpha-catenin acts as a tumor suppressor and they also have unlocked the mechanism by which this protein controls cell proliferation.

Most patients recover from 'chemo-brain' by five years after marrow or stem cell transplant for cancer
Many patients who undergo bone marrow or blood stem cell transplantation to treat blood cancers or a "pre-leukemic" condition called myelodysplasia experience a decline in mental and fine motor skills due to the toll of their disease and its treatment. A new study led by researchers at Fred Hutch, published in the May 2, 2011 online edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that overall, these effects are largely temporary and that most patients can expect a return to normal motor and memory function within five years.

A high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood is linked to an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer
Analyzing data from a nationwide study involving more than 3,400 men, researchers at Fred Hutch found that men with the highest blood percentages of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, an inflammation-lowering omega-3 fatty acid commonly found in fatty fish, have two-and-a-half-times the risk of developing aggressive, high-grade prostate cancer compared to men with the lowest DHA levels.

Understanding how brain cells migrate during normal development may offer insight on how cancer cells spread
By shedding new light on how cells migrate in the developing brain, researchers at Fred Hutch also may have found a new mechanism by which other types of cells, including cancer cells, travel within the body.

Study in overweight/obese women finds diet plus exercise is more effective for weight loss than either method alone
Everyone knows that eating a low-fat, low-calorie diet and getting regular exercise helps shed pounds, but a new study led by researchers at Fred Hutch has found that when it comes to losing weight and body fat, diet and exercise are most effective when done together as compared to either strategy alone.

Haiti cholera epidemic could have been blunted with use of mobile stockpile of oral vaccine
Had a large stockpile of oral cholera vaccine been available and deployed to inoculate the majority of Haitians most at risk after the outbreak following last year’s earthquake, the illness and death from the cholera epidemic could have been reduced by about half, according to new research.

Study of Yup'ik Eskimos suggests high consumption of omega-3 fats reduces risk of obesity-related disease
A study of Yup’ik Eskimos in Alaska, who on average consume 20 times more omega-3 fats from fish than people in the lower 48 states, suggests that a high intake of these fats helps prevent obesity-related chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

The more times a woman gives birth, the higher her risk of rare but aggressive 'triple-negative' breast cancer
Full-term pregnancy has long been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer, but a new study finds that the more times a woman gives birth, the higher her risk of “triple-negative” breast cancer, a relatively uncommon but particularly aggressive subtype of the disease. Conversely, women who never give birth have a 40 percent lower risk of such breast cancer, which has a poorer prognosis than other types of breast cancer and doesn’t respond to hormone-blocking therapies such as tamoxifen.

Hot flashes associated with a significant reduction in the risk of breast cancer
Women who have experienced hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause may have a 50 percent lower risk of developing the most common forms of breast cancer than postmenopausal women who have never had such symptoms, according to a recent study by researchers at Fred Hutch.