Leading the way in immunotherapy: Harnessing the immune system to treat cancer

2011 Annual Report

Leading the way in immunotherapy: Harnessing the immune system to treat cancer

Dr. Mac Cheever

Dr. Mac Cheever

The human immune system has a remarkable ability to seek out, recognize and eliminate abnormal cells in the body. Immune system components such as T-cells and antibodies can selectively kill cancer cells or cells infected with a virus while leaving normal cells intact.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientists were the first to demonstrate the power of the immune system to cure cancer when they developed bone marrow transplantation to treat leukemia and other cancers of the blood. Over the past three decades, we have built a deep understanding of this therapeutic effect and have led the way in developing more techniques to harness the immune system to treat cancers—a field called immunotherapy.

Our leadership in the field was recognized this year by the National Cancer Institute when it selected the Hutchinson Center to direct the new Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network.The network—led by Dr. Mac Cheever, head of the Hutchinson Center’s Solid Tumor Research Program—brings together the collective expertise of 27 research institutions across the country to accelerate clinical trials of the most promising immunotherapies for solid tumor cancers.

As a widely recognized center of excellence in immunotherapy research, the Hutchinson Center is increasingly relied upon to participate in and lead such national and international collaborations. Our ability to seize these opportunities has been significantly strengthened by the financial support of our donors.

A high point was reached this year when many supporters made contributions to complete the Bezos family challenge gift for immunotherapy research. Their extraordinary gift and leadership united the community in funding this potentially transformative cancer treatment.