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Rethinking an old viral foe

Why does a common virus plague bone marrow transplant patients? New study challenges dogma, opens door to new therapies.

Jan. 17, 2019 | By Jake Siegel / Fred Hutch News Service

illustration of antibodies specific for individual CMV strains

Y-shaped antibodies specific for individual CMV strains (depicted by same color) can prevent the virus from reactivating after transplantation. Other CMV strains (depicted in black) can escape.

Image courtesy of Dr. Mariapia Degli-Esposti, Lions Eye Institute, Perth, Western Australia

You may not have heard of cytomegalovirus, but the two of you have likely met.

In fact, odds are it’s dozing inside you right now.

Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, infects at least half of all adults worldwide. Most are unaware they’re infected because their healthy immune system keeps it in check. The virus slips into dormancy, becoming a passive and lifelong passenger.

But CMV can roar back to life in anyone with a compromised immune system. The results can be life-threatening, and the virus has plagued bone marrow transplant patients for decades.

A new study in Science may rewrite the story of why the virus wreaks such havoc — and hint at how to stop it.

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Dr. Kristin Anderson receives research grant from Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance

Anderson will use funds to expand research in boosting anti-tumor immune responses

Jan. 14, 2019 | By Jill Christensen / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Kristin Anderson

Dr. Kristin Anderson

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Kristin Anderson, a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Philip Greenberg’s lab at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has received the Ann and Sol Schreiber Mentored Investigator Award of $75,000 for one year from the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance. The funding will support Anderson’s research in developing strategies to improve the ability of the immune system’s T cells to kill ovarian cancer.

Anderson is among 23 scientists from 14 medical centers across the nation to receive a total of $5.25 million in new OCRA funding. Anderson’s research focuses on developing molecular engineering strategies that improve the function, persistence and migration of genetically engineered anti-tumor cells. For this project, Anderson and her team are working to boost anti-tumor immune responses by genetically engineering large numbers of T cells that could better target cancer-associated proteins. 

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US cancer death rate has declined for at least 25 years

Fred Hutch experts weigh in on milestone report from American Cancer Society

Jan. 10, 2019 | By Fred Hutch News Service staff

Graphic showing decline in cancer mortality

Graphic by Jim Woolace / Fred Hutch News Service

Here’s a milestone worth celebrating: The U.S. cancer death rate has dropped 27 percent over the past 25 years.

The encouraging stats come from the American Cancer Society’s latest annual report. The steady decline in smoking rates and better screenings and treatment helped drive the drop in cancer deaths.

But troublesome trends lurk in the data. Obesity-related cancers are increasing, as is a gap between rich and poor Americans. Deaths in certain kinds of cancers — notably prostate — are no longer dropping.

The report offers a moment to reflect on the benefits of public health and research efforts over the years — and look ahead to what’s next. We asked a few experts at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to dive deeper into the data and explain how we can accelerate progress against cancer for everyone. 

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