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Dr. Jay Sarthy receives Damon Runyon-Sohn Pediatric Cancer Fellowship Award

He will use the funding to study brain tumors in children

Aug. 2, 2018

Dr. Jay Sarthy

Dr. Jay Sarthy is a pediatric hematology/oncology fellow at Fred Hutch.

Fred Hutch file

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has named Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Dr. Jay F. Sarthy as one of five outstanding young scientists to receive the prestigious Damon Runyon-Sohn Pediatric Cancer Fellowship Award. He will receive $231,000 over four years to study pediatric brain cancers.

Under the mentorship of geneticist Dr. Steven Henikoff and pediatric neuro-oncologist Dr. Jim Olson of the Hutch, Sarthy will aim to develop new, easy-to-use and affordable methods for studying DNA packaging and epigenetics (modification of gene expression) in pediatric cancer with a special focus on glioma and neuroblastoma. These methods may help explain what drives pediatric malignancies and allow clinicians to better monitor treatment response. His ultimate goal: to develop new drugs that restore the ability of cells to package DNA correctly.

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Drs. Siddhartha Mukherjee and Gary Gilliland in conversation

Watch: Author and physician-scientist discusses the next chapters in cancer research — and his book ‘Emperor of all Maladies’ — with Hutch President and Director

Aug. 2, 2018 | Video by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Drs. Siddhartha Mukherjee and Gary Gilliland discuss progress in cancer research and care, and more.
Video by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

During a recent visit to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, physician-scientist and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee sat down with Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland to talk about the recent strides in cancer research and care. They also discussed how scientists should communicate the excitement — and caveats — of that progress, which Mukherjee plans to chronicle in new chapters for a 10th anniversary edition of his bestselling book, "The Emperor of All Maladies."

Right now, Mukherjee said, cancer researchers “are grappling with some of the most interesting ideas of our times.”

Watch as Mukherjee shares his thoughts on keeping “the spark alive” for scientists just starting their careers and the need to integrate big data with bench science to make meaningful advances for patients.

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Protein plays traffic cop during sex-cell formation

Hutch scientists solve 88-year-old genetic mystery: how sex cells avoid having the wrong number of chromosomes

Aug. 2, 2018 | By Sabrina Richards / Fred Hutch News Service

Mystery of the Crossing Chromosomes

Image by Kimberly Carney / Fred Hutch News Service

A team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has solved an 88-year-old mystery: how cells shield a specific segment of DNA so that sex cells — eggs or sperm in humans — end up with the right number of chromosomes.

Published Thursday in Molecular Cell, the work, done in fission yeast, reveals that a certain protein acts a like a traffic cop. This traffic-cop protein shields a key region of DNA from the wrong molecules while ushering the right ones over. The findings shed light on what may have gone awry when cells end up with too many or too few chromosomes, which can lead to spontaneous miscarriage or certain developmental disorders.

Swi6, the protein in question, “is a key regulator,” said senior author Dr. Gerald Smith, who worked with first author Dr. Mridula Nambiar to outline Swi6’s dual roles in proper chromosome sorting. “Mridula’s critical insight was that it has both positive and negative roles.”

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Improving cancer vaccines with T-cell programming nanoparticles

Dr. Matthias Stephan receives grant to develop cancer vaccine–optimizing, TCR-programming nanotechnology

July 31, 2018 | By Sabrina Richards / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Matthias Stephan in his office at Fred Hutch

Dr. Matthias Stephan

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center immunobioengineer Dr. Matthias Stephan has received a 2018 Investigator’s Award in Cell and Gene Therapy for Cancer from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy to support the development of a combined T-cell programming, cancer-vaccine strategy to treat cancer. His proposed method, which unites nanoparticles that carry cancer vaccine–specific T-cell receptor genes with a vaccine designed to trigger an immune response to a patient’s tumor, aims to improve the effectiveness of therapeutic cancer vaccines by guaranteeing that the patient has cancer-specific T cells capable of responding to the vaccine.

“We’re making sure that there’s a small population of vaccine-specific, T-cell receptor–engineered T cells [to respond to the vaccine],” Stephan said. He will receive $500,000 over three years to support the project.

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3 new projects map out immune responses to cancers

Scientists aim to gather knowledge that improves future immunotherapies

July 30, 2018 | By Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service

Three T cells, in green, attack a cancer cell (in blue).

Three T cells, in green, attack a cancer cell (in blue).

Fred Hutch file

The immune system has the potential to eradicate cancer. But cancers are expert escape artists, with numerous tools for shutting down or hiding from immune attack. Three research teams at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have launched new projects aimed at revealing some of these secrets and laying the groundwork for developing better immune-harnessing cancer therapies, or immunotherapies.

The one- to two-year, early-stage research projects cover a range of malignancies: colorectal cancer, blood cancers and certain sarcomas. They were funded by Fred Hutch immunotherapy spinoff Juno Therapeutics, a Celgene company, through a competitive process overseen by the Hutch’s Immunotherapy Integrated Research Center.

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Acclaimed author and oncologist Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee visits Fred Hutch

'If you are not preventing, curing and treating cancer, you are off target. You have not achieved the mandate.'

July 24, 2018 | By Sabin Russell / Fred Hutch News Service

Author Siddhartha Mukherjee speaking during his seminar at Fred Hutch

Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee addresses hundreds of Fred Hutch faculty members and staff during his seminar on July 23.

Photo By Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Columbia University physician and author Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee packed the house at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle on Monday to talk about his research and his views on what he called “a mandate” to prevent, treat and cure the disease he famously labeled "The Emperor of All Maladies.”

That book, a comprehensive history of cancer, won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2011 and inspired the Ken Burns documentary, "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies," which aired on PBS in 2015.

Mukherjee said that cancer researchers must understand the urgency that patients have to translate the dazzling discoveries in the lab into useful therapies.

“There is an impatience that’s growing in all communities, including in me, to bring therapeutics to human beings,” he said, and he called for more focus on the needs of patients.

“The mandate for the national cancer project was not to sequence genomes. It was to prevent, cure and treat cancer. That’s why we got the money we’ve got, that’s why we have the ambitions we have. … If you are not preventing, curing and treating cancer, you are off target. You have not achieved the mandate,’’ he said.

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