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Warming trend: holiday drive collects cozy clothing for homeless youth

Socks, gloves, hats and more will help those served by Teen Feed, a Seattle nonprofit

Nov. 27, 2014 | By JoNel Aleccia / Fred Hutch News Service

Rhonda Ellis had three big bags of hats, gloves and socks crowding her office at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, plus more donations filling the back of her car, a tiny blue Honda Fit.

Then came Alphonso Emery, the director of diversity and human resources at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, who offered boxes and bags of shoes and shirts, followed by promises of more warm clothing from co-workers across the South Lake Union campus.

Two weeks before the start of a holiday drive to benefit Teen Feed, a Seattle group that provides meals and supplies to homeless teens and young adults, Ellis was already amazed at the outpouring of generosity.

“It’s been really nice,” said Ellis, an occupational health nurse at Fred Hutch who has started to distribute some of the donations a little early. “They’ve been calling me Santa Claus.”

Still, that’s only the beginning.

The formal drive, coordinated by the Hutch’s Clinical Research Division, will run from Dec. 1 to 19. Ellis hopes to collect enough new socks, hats, gloves and hand warmers to supply the nearly 800 young people reached each year by the nonprofit, which was founded in 1987. 

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Researchers and patients give thanks

From surviving cancer to puppies to Jail House Gin:
Sharing gratitude for things large and small

Nov. 26, 2014 | By Diane Mapes / Fred Hutch News Service

Giving thanks

Fred Hutch's researchers, administrators and patients share what they are especially thankful for this year.

Photo by Sofia Frost / Fred Hutch

For many, Thanksgiving is all about the “three F’s”: food, family and football.

For others, especially those living with and/or working to eradicate cancer and other diseases, it can be a time to give thanks for compassionate caregivers, breakthrough discoveries, lifesaving treatments and in some cases, a cure.

As a breast cancer survivor, I’m incredibly thankful to be nearly four years out from my diagnosis, surgery and treatment. Three Thanksgivings ago, I had the tiniest bit of peach fuzz on my head and a swath of radiation burns down the front of my chest. Wine was just starting to lose its motor oil taste but meat and gravy still made me queasy.

This year, my skin has healed, my hair is down to my shoulders and I’ve finally made it through the gauntlet of breast reconstruction. I’m happy, healthy, loved and feel lucky to be alive and have my appetite back (especially during pie season!). I’m also thrilled to be working at a world-class cancer center, where in the past year researchers have melted away tumors with beefed up T cells, designed swanky, high-tech ways to help smokers kick the habit and, most recently, launched a new study to figure out the most effective method for screening dense breasts.

But I’m not the only one who’s grateful to be here. Read on to hear what our researchers, administrators and patients are especially thankful for this year.

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A more comfortable mammogram

Good communication between patients, providers also can help ease the pressure of the procedure

Nov. 24, 2014 | By Dr. Rachel Tompa / Fred Hutch News Service

A more comfortable mammogram

Up to 35 percent of women report pain from a mammogram, according to a 2008 report, which may cause them to delay or avoid the procedure altogether.

Photo by BSIP / UIG via Getty Images

Julie Clemons has an appointment for her second mammogram this week and she’s really anxious. Her first mammogram, when she was 38, was no walk in the park.

“It was just agonizing,” recalls the 45-year-old farm owner from Canaan, New Hampshire. “It felt like my skin was going to tear. It was an awful, awful panicky feeling … The whole thing still makes me angry seven years later.”

Clemons ended up with bruises covering her chest after her mammogram. Although pain that extreme is on the far end of the spectrum, many women report pain or discomfort from the test.

Studies on mammography pain and discomfort vary, but according to a 2008 review, up to 35 percent of women report pain from the procedure. Although many women deal with it, some may delay or avoid recommended mammograms altogether.  One study found that among women who didn’t return for their second annual mammogram, 46 percent cited a painful first screening as the reason.

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Fred Hutch announces Dr. Gary Gilliland as new president and director

'Everything I've done in my career has pointed here,' says the renowned physician-scientist

Nov. 20, 2014 | By Linda Dahlstrom / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Gary Gilliland

Fred Hutch’s incoming president and director Dr. Gary Gilliland addressed a standing-room-only crowd of staff and faculty Thursday in Seattle. Gilliland said he is excited to be at the Hutch. “This is the perfect time and perfect place to develop curative approaches for cancer,” he said. “Everything I’ve done in my career has pointed here.”

Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

She was only 42 and she was married to a snowplow operator.

The years fall away and the details come into sharp focus as Dr. Gary Gilliland recalls meeting the patient who would shape the trajectory of his career.

She’d been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, then given chemotherapy, went into remission – and relapsed six months later. The follow-up treatment wiped out her leukemia but her bone marrow never came back and the severe fungal infections she developed were killing her.

Gilliland, a young intern at the time, was at her side when her family arrived to say goodbye. He watched her children climb into bed with her for the last time. About 20 minutes later, she died.

“We had all the best intentions, but she died of complications from the chemotherapy we gave her,” he said. “I just thought there has to be a better way. We have got to develop better treatments for people like her.”

Now, all these years later, after decades of research, cures for cancer are in sight -- particularly at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, he said.

On Jan. 2, Gilliland will become the new president and director of Fred Hutch where he’ll play a key role in helping those cures he once dreamed of become reality. The research center announced his new position today, following a national search.

“This is the perfect time and perfect place to develop curative approaches for cancer,” said Gilliland, a physician-scientist. “Everything I’ve done in my career has pointed here.”

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Kicking butt: a look at smoking cessation through the decades

From ‘grandma groups’ to pharmacotherapy to online interventions, people will try just about anything to kick the habit

Nov. 19, 2014 | By Diane Mapes / Fred Hutch News Service

Aversion therapy -- being put in a small room full of cigarette butts and being forced to chain smoke while getting shocked with each puff -- is just one way people have tried to kick the habit over the years.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

When it comes to kicking the smoking habit, people will pretty much try anything. Some go cold turkey. Others try Wild Turkey – bourbon flavored e-cigarettes, that is. Still more turn to hypnosis, nicotine gum, pharmaceuticals or phone lines.

Shawn Burke, a 54-year-old Seattle meter reader who smoked for 23 years, was so desperate to dump his three-pack-a-day cigarette habit back in the mid-1980s he went to the Schick Shadel Hospital for their now-discontinued smoking-aversion therapy.

“They put me in a small room full of cigarette butts and forced me to smoke one cigarette after another for an hour while getting shocked with every puff,” he said. “You weren’t even allowed to put the old ones out. They continued to [smolder] and light the other cigarettes on fire. I thought I was cured but about 10 minutes into my drive home, I lit up.”

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Stopping Stiff Person Syndrome: Alabama woman turns to stem cell transplant for help

Experimental Fred Hutch treatment aims to ease symptoms of rare, debilitating condition that causes rigid limbs, searing pain

Nov. 18, 2014 | By JoNel Aleccia / Fred Hutch News Service

Sally and Spears Rhodes

Sallie Rhodes and her father, Spears Rhodes, share a moment after her stem cell transplant in Seattle.

A young Alabama woman with a rare disorder that leaves her body literally as stiff as a board is the first Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center patient to receive a stem cell transplant in hopes of helping – if not curing – her devastating condition.

Sallie Rhodes, 26, was diagnosed more than a year ago with Stiff Person Syndrome, or SPS, an oddly named neurological autoimmune disease that strikes about one in every million people worldwide and leaves some sufferers so rigid they can’t walk or move on their own.

It’s a bizarre disease in which severe muscle contractions can be triggered by loud noises or sudden scares, sending victims crashing to the ground, unable to break the fall. Rhodes has suffered concussions, cuts and other injuries after what she calls “lock-ups” – searing spasms that make her legs stiff, her head and neck rigid, the muscles in her torso so tense she can barely breathe. 

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