Annual Report 2014
By Dr. Sabrina Richards
Research technician Andrea Towlerton trekked from Midland, Michigan, to Seattle to join Dr. Hootie Warren's lab at Fred Hutch four years ago. Towlerton had studied everything from bats to nanotechnology, but when she learned of Fred Hutch's lifesaving clinical trials from the cancer patients with whom she volunteered in her hometown, she made it her mission to be a part of bringing cures to the bedside. "Dr. Warren combines passion and compassion: He's enthusiastic about research but also really understands the sacrifices patients make," said Towlerton. "It's truly a gift to wake up each day and know that what you're doing is helping others."
In the Warren Lab, Towlerton and her colleagues focus on developing immunotherapy strategies for cancer patients. Not long after starting her new position, she joined Innovators Network, a group of young professionals committed to funding early-stage research, to get more involved in the Fred Hutch community and learn about the fantastic research being done across her new workplace. "Working in this environment is absolutely awesome: People work here because their motivation in life is to help others. IN helps keep these brilliant minds here."
"It takes teamwork to do science right, and giving back can be part of a team effort too," said Towlerton. Last year, she and her lab mates joined the "T cells" immunotherapy team to ride and raise money for cancer research through Obliteride, Fred Hutch's annual bike riding fundraiser. "It was a whole new — and very fun — way for us to support innovative research together," she said.
Her 50-mile ride supporting cancer research came just three weeks after a 19,340-foot climb. As part of another Fred Hutch fundraiser, the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer, Towlerton summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. That adventure combined two of her loves, mountain climbing and giving to her community, and raised more than $10,000 — half of that in small donations of a few dollars each. Towlerton explained, "My parents instilled a desire to give back, whatever your resources. Over my four years here, I've been able to contribute more than $15,000 to Fred Hutch, and I’m just one person!"
Why give back so much personal time — and a seemingly endless supply of energy — to the same place where she already devotes so many hours in the lab working on cancer cures? "I feel it's important to give back to a place that gives so much to patients," she said. "Every therapy starts with research. In our lab, we understand the importance of research and clinical care working together, and private philanthropy helps support our quest to create lifesaving therapies." Towlerton's dedication to her colleagues and the patients they're striving to help runs deep — and is now an enduring piece of Fred Hutch itself. The engraved brick she bought as a Christmas present "to commemorate the Warren Lab and every amazing scientist who passes through" sits in the courtyard outside her building and serves as a daily reminder of the mission that unites all Fred Hutch supporters.
At Fred Hutch, our sights are set on a cancer-free future. This goal drives us to develop tomorrow's breakthroughs today. By supporting Fred Hutch, you can help propel our lifesaving research. Please give now.