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Good news at Fred Hutch

Celebrating our achievements

April 16, 2015
Dr. Jonathan Bricker

Dr. Jonathan Bricker, a psychologist at Fred Hutch, demonstrating his smartphone app.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

We want to recognize the excellent work and achievements of our staff and faculty and will be regularly highlighting them in this space. Here are some recent notable accomplishments:

Vote today: Dr. Jonathan Bricker a finalist for ‘Geek of the Year Award' for using technology to make a positive impact

Dr. Jonathan Bricker, a psychologist at Fred Hutch who studies acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, to help people quit smoking and other unhealthy behaviors, has been selected as one of five finalists for GeekWire's annual “Geek of the Year Award" for using technology to make a positive impact.

Community online voting for the Geek of the Year Award begins today. Click here to cast your vote and rally others to vote for this special award. Tweets, Facebook and blog posts are encouraged. Hashtag: #gwawards.

An internationally recognized scientific leader in ACT, Bricker and his colleagues in the Public Health Sciences Division have received more than $10 million in federal research funding to build smoking-cessation programs around ACT and test them in randomized, controlled trials via multiple platforms, from telephone coaching sessions to a Web-based tool called WebQuit.org to smartphone apps. Preliminary studies show that Bricker’s programs are 50 to 300 percent more effective than traditional quit-smoking approaches. Evidence suggests the ACT model could help adults cope with many other addictions and harmful behaviors. For more about Bricker’s work, check out his TEDxRainier talk about “The Secret to Self Control.”

Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland also is up for a GeekWire Award this year; he is among five finalists in the “Hire of the Year” category. Community voting for that award will take place April 27. More details on how to vote will be available in a future issue of “Good News at Fred Hutch.”

Now in its seventh year, the GeekWire Awards, which will take place the evening of May 7 at the EMP in Seattle, is one of the most hotly anticipated events in the Seattle tech community, bringing together hundreds to celebrate innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit. Winners will be chosen in more than a dozen categories, including "Startup of the Year" and "Tech Titan of the Year."

Women’s Health Initiative receives 2015 Team Science Award

The Women’s Health Initiative just received the 2015 Team Science award, presented each year by the Association for Clinical and Translational Science or ACTS. The award was given in recognition of the WHI team’s success in the translation of research discoveries into clinical applications and, eventually, widespread clinical practice.

“WHI has been an amazing engine for translational science,” said Dr. Garnet Anderson, director of Public Health Sciences and principal investigator of the WHI’s Clinical Coordinating Center, which is housed at Fred Hutch. “The WHI resources were developed over the last 20-plus years by hundreds of investigators and staff and they have evolved to support a broad range of studies. This award acknowledges the contributions of so many, and I believe it helps to highlight some of the advances made possible through population-science research programs.”

The WHI’s groundbreaking studies have changed the way health care providers prevent and treat some of the major diseases impacting postmenopausal women. Results from the WHI Hormone Trials have been estimated to have already saved $35.2 billion in direct medical costs in the U.S. alone.

Women's Health Initiative group

Members of the Women's Health Initiative pose for a group photo at Fred Hutch in Seattle on April 9, 2015.

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service


To date, the WHI has published more than 1,000 articles and approved 340 ancillary studies. Funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the WHI is currently collecting annual follow-up data from participants in the WHI Extension Study 2010-2015 as well as developing and participating in several ancillary studies, such as the Life and Longevity After Cancer (LILAC) study.

The ACTS Team Science Award was presented April 16 at Translational Science 2015, a joint meeting of the ACTS/American Federation for Medical Research held in Washington, D.C. WHI Steering Committee Chair Dr. Jean Wactawski-Wende accepted the award on behalf of the WHI investigators.

"[This is] a very well-deserved recognition for a landmark study, a superb group of NIH staff that have been wonderful public stewards and a terrific team of investigators who have been pathfinders for transformative science,” said Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  

Dr. Michael Schmitt

Dr. Michael Schmitt

By Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Hutch-UW team develops new method to detect rare mutations

Rare mutations in a group of genetically diverse cells stay hidden from current genetic sequencing technologies, a needle-in-a-haystack problem that has significant consequences for efforts to treat cancer patients with genetically targeted treatments or monitor the progress of their disease.

Scientists at Fred Hutch and the University of Washington have developed a cost-effective new sequencing method that can detect these rare mutations with millions-fold better accuracy than other methods and could potentially be integrated into cancer care and research.

Fred Hutch fellow Dr. Michael Schmitt, senior author Dr. Lawrence Loeb of UW and colleagues published a demonstration of their new method April 6 in the journal Nature Methods.

The authors wrote that potential applications include:

  • Determining whether patients have pre-existing mutations at the time of cancer diagnosis that would lead to resistance to specific treatments. This would allow doctors to choose the best treatment for individual patients and avoid toxic therapies that are unlikely to work.
  • Detecting rare bits of cancer DNA in the bloodstream that would indicate whether a patient is in the early stages of relapse, giving doctors more time to intervene.
  • Sequencing DNA in situations where only very tiny samples are available, such as from a fossilized animal or from a crime scene.

The team’s ongoing laboratory research is delving further into the cancer applications listed above and testing whether the amount of genetic heterogeneity within tumors is linked to patient outcomes.

For technical details on how the method works, see the published paper (linked above) or this article in BioTechniques.

Dr. Beti Thompson

Dr. Beti Thompson, head of the Health Disparities Research Center

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Beti Thompson named 2015 Health Champion for health disparities work

Dr. Beti Thompson, head of the Health Disparities Research Center at Fred Hutch, has been named a 2015 Health Champion by the Washington State Public Health Association. The announcement was made last week in commemoration of National Public Health Week during the first full week of April. She was among seven individuals and organizations recognized by the WSPHA.

Thompson, also a member of Fred Hutch's Public Health Sciences Division and a professor in the University of Washington School of Public Health, was recognized for working tirelessly during the past 25-plus years to improve the health of medically underserved populations by collaborating with diverse community partners to conduct community-based, participatory research.

She has received numerous federal grants to spearhead programs that build community and research capacity to improve population health. Most of her research focuses on reducing health disparities in the incidence of cancer, diabetes, pesticide exposure and obesity among Latino communities in the lower Yakima Valley of Washington state.

“What we have learned from her is to uphold the highest standards of intervention research while maintaining a humble heart for communities in need,” the WSPHA announcement stated.

Thompson’s other awards and honors include the AACR Distinguished Lecture on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities Award, which she received in 2013.


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