About Our Program

Program in Immunology

About Our Program

T cells (green) attacking cancer cell.

Graphic by Adriana Lippy

Program in Immunology researchers are learning how to empower a patient’s own immune system to do what it does naturally — fight disease. We continue discovering new ways to give the immune cell army the upper hand against cancer. Our investigators are learning how immune cells respond to disease and how to safely enhance immune responses to better control, cure and potentially prevent cancers and other serious diseases.

Nobel Prize–winning work on bone marrow transplantation began in the 1960s at the Fred Hutch, and provided the first definitive example of the immune system’s curative power. Fred Hutch researchers went on to show that donor immune T cells play a major role in successful transplant outcomes. In the 1990s, Program in Immunology investigators proved that T cells that target specific, disease associated molecules (antigens) can be isolated, expanded in the laboratory and adoptively transferred to transplant patients to augment T cell immunity against dangerous viral infections.

Techniques have since been developed to genetically engineer T cells to enhance their survival and their anti-cancer activities. And, studies are now showing how to use other types of immune cells to boost therapeutic immune responses. With our depth and breadth of expertise, we are advancing a detailed understanding of immunological processes and developing revolutionary immunotherapies to fight disease.

The Fred Hutch team is advancing many immunotherapy approaches. No one strategy is likely to work against every tumor or for every patient with any tumor type and no other team is better equipped to ready them all. Together, we are showing how to use immune cells to produce stable remissions for patients who urgently need effective therapies. Lives are already being saved with ongoing successes in immunotherapy trials for patients with a variety of serious, malignant and non-malignant diseases, from acute lymphoblastic leukemia to melanoma to sarcoma to HIV.

Dr. Phil Greenberg is the Head of Immunology at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He says we can make Tcells see tumors better, kill tumors better, and then persist and eradicate tumors better.