Research Focus

Global Oncology

Research Focus

Dr. Edus "Hootie" Warren working in his laboratory.

Photo by Fred Hutch

Working to develop new vaccines for cancer-causing infections, exploring the role of HIV in cancer and developing news ways to diagnose, predict, prevent and treat cancer.

Current research highlights:

Understanding how infectious diseases lead to cancer

We are investigating why 70 percent of people worldwide carry at least one infection that can cause cancer, but less than one percent will develop cancer.  By following children from birth, we are studying factors that inhibit the development of cancer. This research is contributing work on new vaccines as well as new diagnostic tools to predict the development of cancer.

Developing new therapeutic approaches

Our researchers in Seattle and Kampala, Uganda, are characterizing new drug targets for cancers caused by infections and conducting clinical trials.  By investigating the genetic material contained within infection-related tumors, we can better understand the molecular signals that differentiate a tumor from normal tissue. Our work also aims to evaluate more effective, less toxic treatments.

Studying the role of HIV in cancer

People infected with HIV have an extremely high risk of developing cancer and greatly reduced odds of surviving cancer.  We are studying how HIV increases the risk of cancer and why HIV treatments sometimes reduce cancer risk.  We are also comparing the outcomes of cancer patients with and without HIV to discover the role of the immune system in preventing cancer or enhancing cancer survival and to develop new immunotherapies against cancer.

Diagnosis

preparing blood specimens

Preparing blood specimens for analysis

Photo by Fred Hutch

By promoting early diagnosis and by developing and implementing improved diagnostic tools, we seek to ensure early and accurate cancer treatment. We are also using technologies such as polymerase chain reaction, proteomics and immunogenetics to develop highly accurate predictive tests for infection-related cancers.

In Uganda, up to one-third of cancer diagnoses have later been found to be incorrect when read by expert international pathologists. We are working with Ugandan partners to improve diagnosis, expand access to diagnosis and develop faster and more accurate diagnostic tools, including simple blood and saliva tests. Improved diagnosis not only improves clinical outcomes but also attracts participants to clinical trials that can lead to novel treatment approaches.

Our diagnosis-related projects currently focus on Burkitt lymphoma, Kaposi sarcoma, breast cancer and cervical cancer. Future projects will address liver, bladder and stomach cancers. 

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Prevention

Dr. Denise Galloway

Dr. Denise Galloway, Fred Hutch scientist, conducts research on the human papillomavirus and its cancer-causing role.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

We aim to reduce the incidence of cancers caused by infectious diseases by developing tools such as new vaccines and researching the role infections play in cancer, how those infections are transmitted, risk factors for developing cancer and ways to predict and prevent the development of cancer.

We are poised to pursue a vaccine against Epstein-Barr virus, an infection that all Ugandans and many other Africans acquire within the first two years of life and that can cause Burkitt lymphoma. We are also researching ways to prevent the progression of chronic diseases that can lead to cancer. For example, we are exploring the impact of antiretroviral therapy to prevent HIV-associated malignancies.

Our current projects focus on Burkitt lymphoma and Kaposi sarcoma. Future prevention projects will address Epstein-Barr virus, malaria, hepatitis C and parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis.

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Treatment

Dr. Charles Ssendikandiwa, UCI

Dr. Charles Ssendikandiwa reviewing patient charts at the Uganda Cancer Institute

Photo by Jacqueline Koch

We conduct innovative research to evaluate more effective, less toxic cancer treatments and to identify new drug targets. We are also developing ways to improve the delivery and affordability of cancer care in resource-limited settings.

We have developed a set of protocols for treating cancer in low- and middle-income countries, many of which have no national cancer treatment guidelines. Treatment protocols used in the United States and other developed countries are often inappropriate in those settings because of cost, complexity or underlying health issues in the patient population.

Our current treatment protocols focus on Burkitt lymphoma and Kaposi sarcoma. Future treatment plans will be developed for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other solid tumor cancers.

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