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Infections in immune-compromised patients: 5 new frontiers

Infectious disease experts gather in Seattle to find solutions for patients with compromised immunity

June 17, 2019 | By Sabin Russell / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. David Fredricks

Dr. David Fredricks chaired a session on the microbiome during the 3rd Symposium on Infectious Diseases in the Immunocompromised Host, held in Seattle June 10-11.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Cancer and infectious disease researchers convened in Seattle last week to focus on one of the most complex challenges in medical science: stopping infections in patients whose immune systems are knocked down by disease or by an organ or blood stem-cell transplant.

Sponsored by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the 3rd Symposium on Infectious Diseases in the Immunocompromised Host, held June 10-11, revealed a vibrant medical landscape marked by rapid changes in cancer treatment and in the management of infections that can accompany these therapies.

Symposium participants focused on new ways to diagnose, prevent or treat the infections that may accompany both traditional transplants and new therapies that boost or modify a patient’s immune system.

“We have shown here how complicated things get when we treat our patients,” said Dr. Michael Boeckh, head of Infectious Disease Sciences at Fred Hutch and organizer of the conference, which drew more than 225 doctors, researchers, pharmacists, advanced-practice providers and medical trainees from six continents.

“There is not always one answer, and sometimes we have to put together everything we ever learned in medicine to understand complexities at this intersection of infection and the immune system,” Boeckh said.

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New insights into advanced bladder cancer

First-of-its-kind rapid autopsy program helps reveal deadly disease’s potential vulnerabilities

June 11, 2019 | By Sabrina Richards / Fred Hutch News Service

Drs. Navilon De Sarkar and Brian Winters

Drs. Navonil De Sarkar, left, and Brian Winters co-authored a recently published paper that shows that metastatic bladder cancer that arises in different areas of the body may have different drivers and potentially targetable vulnerabilities.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

A first-of-its kind rapid autopsy program is helping reveal the molecular characteristics of advanced bladder cancers — and point the way toward better treatment strategies for these deadly, understudied tumors.

In a new study, researchers described molecular differences in two different types of bladder cancer that had spread, or metastasized, through the body. The team’s analysis revealed potential therapeutic vulnerabilities in these metastatic tumors. They discovered that for 70% of potentially druggable targets, a biopsy of a single metastasis may be enough to help oncologists tailor a treatment regimen that targets all of a patient’s tumors. Their work also illuminated how bladder cancer can metastasize, showing that small areas of the original tumor can seed new tumors.

The study was published in final form on June 11 in JCI Insight by researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington.

“The ultimate goal is to know the disease better so we can precisely treat it,” said Dr. Andrew Hsieh, a Fred Hutch physician-scientist who studies cancers of the genitourinary system and led the study.

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Breaking down HIV exclusions in cancer clinical trials

As an eligibility barrier cracks, a lung cancer patient gets a new lease on life

June 7, 2019 | By Fred Hutch News Service staff

illustration of patient opening door to clinical trials

For reasons that date back to the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, HIV-positive people with cancer have often been excluded from cancer clinical trials. Now, that may be changing.

On Sunday, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the nation’s top cancer doctors learned the results of a new study led by physicians at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. It showed that patients with HIV and one of a variety of potentially deadly cancers could be safely treated with the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab, also known by its brand name, KEYTRUDA®.

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