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Public health researchers get $4 million grant to study aggressive type of colorectal cancer; Core Center of Hematology designated as national core resource

July 30, 2015 | By Fred Hutch staff

Dr. Polly Newcomb

Dr. Polly Newcomb and her team just received a $4 million grant to investigate serrated colorectal cancer.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Newcomb team gets over $4 million grant to investigate aggressive, understudied type of colorectal cancer

Dr. Polly Newcomb, head of the Cancer Prevention Program in Fred Hutch’s Public Health Sciences Division, has just been awarded over $4 million from the National Institutes of Health to investigate a newly recognized, biologically distinct subtype of colorectal cancer known as serrated colorectal cancer.

“About 20 to 30 percent of all colorectal cancers have this subtype,” said Newcomb, a longtime public health researcher. “It’s more difficult to find and there’s evidence that these are particularly aggressive cancers. Patients are more likely to have a poorer outcome.”

Much like breast cancer and its various subtypes, colorectal cancer is biologically heterogeneous. Newcomb said serrated colorectal cancer was “a high-risk type, such as triple-negative breast cancer.”

And it hasn’t been studied much.

“There hasn’t been a lot of work done on this,” said Newcomb. “This project will definitely be one of the largest studies of serrated colorectal cancers.”

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Gut microbiome may have interfered with experimental HIV vaccines

Inoculating infants instead of adults could bypass problem, researchers say

July 30, 2015 | By Dr. Rachel Tompa / Fred Hutch News Service

HIV vaccine

A promising experimental HIV vaccine may have failed to protect against infection due to interference from the gut microbiome, according to a new study.

Stock photo by FeaturePics

From the day a child is born, two systems in that tiny body begin an intricate dance: Bacteria seeded during childbirth set up shop in the gut, and the baby’s untested immune cells start to learn what is foreign (immunologically speaking) in part from those helpful bugs.

How the gut microbiome shapes the human immune system is complex and still somewhat mysterious, but our microbial partners do more than just train our cells not to reject them — the gut seems to also teach the immune system how to distinguish helpful bugs from potentially harmful pathogens.

Now, a new study published Thursday in Science suggests that the gut microbiome’s influence on the childhood immune system may be the reason that a promising experimental HIV vaccine failed to protect people from infection with the virus in recent clinical trials conducted by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and other vaccine research groups.

The largest of those trials, HVTN 505, was the most recent HIV vaccine efficacy study in the world and was halted in 2013 because the candidate vaccine did not protect study volunteers against infection.

These findings point to several new directions vaccine researchers can take to develop a working HIV vaccine — including possibly vaccinating earlier in life, before the microbiome has had the chance to fully shape the immune system, said Duke Medicine immunologist Dr. Barton Haynes, who led the study along with Duke’s Dr. Wilton Williams.

This is the first hint that a healthy microbiome could interfere with a vaccine, Haynes said.

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Best intentions: What to do when your ‘train’ gets derailed

#BoOnABike week three

July 29, 2015 | | By Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Bo Jungmayer

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Editor’s note: This is part of weekly series chronicling a novice-cyclist’s ramp up to riding in Obliteride, an annual bike ride, held this year Aug. 7-9, that raises money for Fred Hutch.

Three weeks have gone by and I am now realizing that it isn’t the training that is difficult, it’s finding the time to do it. Since my last post, I still have not found the time to train any more than my two previous rides.

Unless you count training as tending to a teething baby who is also at the cusp of major milestone and crawling around EVERYWHERE. Then check!

Like many people who are “too busy” to ride Obliteride, family and work take up most of my time. This week, in addition to my daily morning, work and evening routines, I had to throw in a couple of weekend work events, help my brother move and take care of some other family obligations.

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For one climber, the best way through breast cancer is over a mountain

'It’s all about moving forward and not letting something bring me down,' says Marybeth Dingledy, longtime Fred Hutch supporter

July 28, 2015 | By Diane Mapes / Fred Hutch News Service

Marybeth Dingledy

"I very rarely sit on the couch," said Dingledy. "We got rid of cable TV because I never watched it. I don’t have an 'off' button. I keep hoping one will show up, but no."

Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Life is all about mountains for Marybeth Dingledy — not just the kind you scale, but the rugged terrain you have to slog up, over, around or through when life goes sideways.

An accomplished outdoorswoman with a dozen major peaks under her belt, Dingledy has been hit by a car while bicycling (she landed on her face and bounced), suffered a close call with pulmonary edema and been blindsided by both an inherited BRCA2 gene mutation and breast cancer. The bike accident left her with a broken nose, broken teeth and a concussion. The BRCA mutation and cancer diagnosis took her ovaries, her uterus and her breasts.

It’s enough to make anybody curl up in a fetal position, but Dingledy just keeps climbing. As do the unsolicited donations her tenacity inspires. At last count, the 46-year-old Snohomish County Superior Court judge has brought in more than $100,000 for Fred Hutch’s Climb to Fight Breast Cancer, no small feat considering she hasn’t been able to ask anyone for a dime since being appointed to the bench in early 2012.

“For me, it’s all about moving forward and not letting something bring me down,” she said. “It’s about counteracting the bad with the good. I signed up [to climb] Denali the same day I scheduled my hysterectomy because it would motivate me to start working out as soon as that surgery was done. I focused on training to climb Denali instead of feeling sorry for myself.”

On July 18, Marybeth added another notch to her backpack by summiting Mount Shuksan, a stunning alpine peak located in North Cascades National Park.

“It was spectacular,” she said. “Surreal. And there was a wonderful surprise twist.”

We caught up with Marybeth while she was training for Shuksan — and again after the climb — to pick her brain about breast cancer, backpacking and her all-around audacity — and, of course, to learn more about that amazing surprise atop Mount Shuksan.

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Fertility after cancer: Young women less likely to be told about options

New study finds young male cancer patients twice as likely to be counseled on preserving fertility

July 27, 2015 | By Sabin Russell / Fred Hutch News Service

Rose Ibarra and son, August

Rose Ibarra, a 29-year-old cancer survivor, shown with her 2-month-old son, August. While she was counseled on options to preserve her fertility before starting chemotherapy, many young women aren’t, a new study finds.

Photo by Lynette Johnson

Sometimes you’ll find a gender gap where you least expect it.

For young men and women diagnosed with cancer, many face the prospect of chemotherapy that can leave them infertile for life.

Yet a new nationwide study by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s reveals that young male patients were twice as likely as young women to be counseled on ways to preserve their fertility, such as freezing sperm or eggs.

And while about one-third of the male cancer patients in the study went on to bank their sperm, that fertility preservation rate was four to five times higher than that of young women cancer patients choosing to have their eggs harvested and stored, found the study, which was published online Monday by Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society.  

“It was disappointing to hear that, but I’m not surprised,” said Rose Ibarra, a 29-year-old Seattle woman who had her eggs frozen in 2011, just two days before she began chemotherapy for stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

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‘Made a difference’: Stem cell donor meets her tiny recipient

Canadian woman’s stem cells helped cure severe immune disorder in baby Savanna

July 27, 2015 | Bill Briggs / Fred Hutch News Service

Pam Dicaire holds Savanna

Savanna, 23 months old, is hugged by her stem cell donor, Pam Dicaire during Fred Hutch's Bone Marrow Transplant Survivor Reunion on Saturday. Savanna's mom, Athena Gomez, left, holds flowers as Dicaire's daughter and husband look on.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

On stage, the spunky girl cradled flowers, a thank you present for the woman who traveled 3,500 miles just to meet her.

Then, that woman stepped on the stage. Pam Dicaire immediately glimpsed the bouquet – and the toddler headed her way.

Dicaire wept. For the first time, she could see the living results of her own gift, a stem cell donation. She had saved Savanna.

“She’s so beautiful,” Dicaire said Saturday night at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. Their meeting offered an emotional conclusion for the seventh Bone Marrow Transplant Survivor Reunion, an event hosted by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 

“I’ve always wanted to say thank you for saving my daughter’s life,” Savanna’s mother, Athena Gomez, said before the event. “Without it, Savanna wouldn’t be here.”

In January 2014, Savanna had received Dicaire’s donated stem cells. The transplant eventually cured an immune disorder that otherwise would have killed the girl.

Under the rules of donation, their identities were kept mutually anonymous – until Saturday when, finally, they shared a hug.

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