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Talking cancer with your child

New research-based intervention helps parents and children better deal with the anguish, fear and uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis

Dec. 16, 2014 | By Diane Mapes / Fred Hutch News Service

Breast cancer survivor Amy Anderson and children

Breast cancer survivor Amy Anderson bakes gingerbread cookies with her children in their Seattle-area home.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

When Amy Anderson was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly four years ago, she didn’t know how she was going to break the news to her two children, ages 5 ½ and 8. So she checked out a book.

“It was a cartoon book that was age-appropriate but very simplistic,” said the 43-year-old Seattle advertising executive. “It introduced them to the cancer – but didn’t carry us through the bumps ahead. I had a lot of surgery and treatment and my coping skills weren’t really there. And now I have an immense amount of guilt about it all. I’ll never know what this did to them.”

Grappling with a cancer diagnosis is hard enough, but how do you share that information with your school-age kids – and then go on to successfully parent them while navigating surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and more?

That very question is at the heart of a six-state randomized clinical trial that examined the efficacy of a new cancer parenting program designed by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington. Called Enhancing Connections, the program is the culmination of 15 years of research into the little-studied field of parenting and cancer.

Designed for moms and dads facing any type of cancer, Enhancing Connections was tailored for families going through breast cancer then tested on 90 recently diagnosed moms and their 8- to 12-year-old children. These moms received five face-to-face counseling sessions and various informational materials while another group of 86 moms received a booklet and follow-up phone call, basic guidance comparable to what’s currently offered by cancer centers. After two months, the moms who received the Enhancing Connections tools reported feeling less depressed and their parenting skills improved while their children’s anxiety and depressed mood had significantly declined. A year later, the kids who received the program remained less depressed than the control group. 

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Closing in on ‘holy grail’ of HIV vaccine

Researchers describe a way to induce long-sought broadly neutralizing antibodies

Dec. 11, 2014 | By Mary Engel / Fred Hutch News Service

HIV researchers Drs. Andy McGuire and Leo Stamatatos

HIV researchers Drs. Andy McGuire and Leo Stamatatos have found a potential new way for a vaccine to induce broadly neutralizing antibodies that work against multiple strains of HIV.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

About three years ago, Dr.  Leo Stamatatos, an internationally known immunologist then at Seattle BioMed, was ready to abandon his efforts to develop the “holy grail” of HIV vaccine research – a vaccine that would stimulate the production of so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies that defend against infection by a wide spectrum of HIV strains.

“Everything had been tried, everything had failed, and I said, ‘Come on, that’s it,’” he said. “There was no reason I was going to keep doing the same thing over and over.”

But a presentation by a visiting researcher gave him a new way of looking at the problem – and sent him and his lab team back to the drawing board to continue their quest.

The results, published today in the journal Science, suggest why previous vaccine formulations haven’t been able to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies and describe a potential way forward to hit exactly the right B cells, which are a type of immune cell.

“This is the next wave,” said Dr. Julie McElrath, senior vice president and director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where Stamatatos and his team moved in October.  “Their findings give us new clues to improve our chances of inducing broadly neutralizing antibodies, which is the holy grail of an HIV vaccine.”

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How climate change, development may be hastening Ebola’s spread

Vaccines and therapeutics are needed, but the ecosystem also plays a key role in stopping the epidemic

Dec. 10, 2014 | By Mary Engel / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Leslie Lobel

Dr. Leslie Lobel, the leading Ebola researcher at Ben Gurion University’s National Institute for Biotechnology, spoke at Fred Hutch on Tuesday.

By Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

When it comes to Ebola, we’ve been worried about the wrong thing, says a renowned virologist.

Media speculation that the virus could mutate to become airborne and be transmitted as easily as the flu caused such public concern that the World Health Organization in the fall felt compelled to issue a statement saying there is no evidence or anticipation that that will happen.

But more than cause panic, the rumors distracted attention from what we really should be worried about: all that we don’t know about the Ebola virus’s natural reservoir and its ecosystem, said Dr. Leslie Lobel, a virologist from Ben-Gurion University’s National Institute for Biotechnology.

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Fred Hutch, China partner to collect samples from all types of cancer

New tumor tissue repository will ‘open the flood gates’ for research

Dec. 9, 2014 | By Mary Engel / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Steve Self, Dr. Yongping Song and Dr. Xin Sun

Fred Hutch’s Dr. Steve Self, center, signs an agreement with Dr. Yongping Song, left, and Dr. Xin Sun, right, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014 on the Fred Hutch campus in Seattle.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center began a new collaboration with Chinese researchers this week by signing an agreement to establish a tumor tissue repository with the Henan Cancer Research Institute in central China’s Henan Province and the China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scientists at the Hutch will be able to use the repository to do research involving the molecular analyses of surgical and other biological specimens and will also have access to demographic and follow-up data.

The collaboration is set to begin in January with a pilot study on breast cancer biomarkers. Eventually, the repository will collect tissue samples from all types of cancers, making it a rich resource for researchers.

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Fred Hutch’s Holiday Gala raises $8.5 million

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo performed at this year’s annual event to raise money for lifesaving research

Dec. 8, 2014 | By Fred Hutch News Service

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo

Iconic singer-songwriter Pat Benatar and musician/collaborator Neil Giraldo performed at Saturday's Hutch Holiday Gala at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel.

Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

The 39th annual Hutch Holiday Gala raised $8.6 million Saturday night for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The contributions will help fuel the critical research needed to create better treatments — and cures. 

Iconic singer-songwriter Pat Benatar and musician/collaborator Neil Giraldo performed her hit songs including her classic anthem “Love is a Battlefield” that features the line “We are strong,” a lyric that resonated with many in the room whose lives have been touched by cancer.

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Flu season will likely be more severe this year, CDC predicts

Strain has mutated, dimming the vaccine’s effectiveness – but it’s still worth it to get one, experts say

Dec. 5, 2014 | By Dr. Sabrina Richards / Fred Hutch News Service

flu vaccine

Jacqueline Dade-Mack holds her son, Antonio Mack, 3, as he gets a flu vaccination shot Oct. 3, 2014 in Tyler, Texas.

Photo by Sarah A. Miller / The Tyler Morning Telegraph file via AP

This year’s flu season may be particularly grim due to an unexpected shift in influenza strains, predicts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most cases of flu this year are caused by a subtype called H3N2, which is covered in the vaccine, but about half those cases are a new strain that the shot doesn’t protect well against, said CDC officials.  

This new player may make the Northern Hemisphere’s 2014-15 flu season particularly deadly — and it’s all down to “bad luck and bad timing,” said Dr. Trevor Bedford of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  

“This year may be more deadly for two reasons: more infections, and a more virulent strain,” explained Bedford, who studies virus evolution.

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