I'm at Fred Hutch because ...

Hutch Magazine

I'm here because ...

Fred Hutch researchers share what motivates them

By Fred Hutch staff

Visitors Center note board

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

The reasons a scientist spends countless hours pursuing potential cures or ways to prevent cancer are myriad as cells in the body. For some, it’s simple curiosity. For others it’s the challenge of solving a seemingly impossible problem. Some want to use their lives to change the world. For others, it’s also deeply personal.

“We’re here because we want to contribute to the cure! And one of us is benefiting from it!”

“I’m here because improving outcomes of treatments for children and adults with leukemia matters to me.”

“I’m here because I want do my part in making cancer a thing of the past.”

Our newly opened Visitor Center, located in the lobby of the Robert M. Arnold Building on our Seattle campus, showcases the life-changing work happening at Fred Hutch. But it also gets to the heart of why we do what we do by inviting those whose lives have been touched by cancer or other life-threatening diseases to use our interactive photo kiosk and share how these experiences have affected their lives.

Fred Hutch Visitors Center

Photo courtesy of Studio Matthews

Fred Hutch Visitors Center

Photo courtesy of Studio Matthews

Fred Hutch Visitors Center

Photo courtesy of Studio Matthews

On the curving walls are hundreds of photos with messages left by patients, family members, researchers and others that encourage, inspire or remember. They wrap around the room like an embrace, each telling its own story.

In the gallery below, you’ll see some of the photos made by our researchers, learn about their work and read why they are at Fred Hutch.

Thompson Studies Group

Thompson Studies Group — Public Health Sciences Division

The Health Disparities Research Center, under the direction of Dr. Beti Thompson, works to reduce the unequal and unjust burden of cancer in African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asians, the elderly, Hispanics and Latinos, LGBTs, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, people of low socioeconomic status, people with disabilities and rural populations — all groups more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage disease and/or die from preventable cancers that might have been detected with early screening. Fred Hutch is currently conducting projects on breast cancer screening and prevention, childhood obesity, cancer screening, smoking cessation, HPV vaccination and more.

Dr. Colleen Delaney (and her son, Ian)

Dr. Colleen Delaney (and her son, Ian) — Clinical Research Division

Dr. Colleen Delaney founded Fred Hutch’s Cord Blood Program in 2006. Cord blood offers a lifesaving option to the thousands of patients each year who cannot find a matched adult donor of blood-forming stem cells for transplant. By developing a technique to multiply the number of blood stem cells in each unit of cord blood, Delaney and colleagues made cord blood a viable alternative to adult bone marrow. This advance also led to her team’s development of an off-the-shelf expanded cord blood product that can provide patients with infection-fighting cells while their immune systems recover from transplant or chemotherapy.

Dr. Andrew Taylor

Dr. Andrew Taylor — Basic Sciences Division

Since 1982, Dr. Andrew Taylor has been a staff scientist in Dr. Gerald Smith’s lab, studying the machinery cells use to repair damaged DNA. For most of that time, Taylor worked near his wife of 30 years, Dr. Meg Holmes, who died in 2011 of the brain cancer glioblastoma. Also a longtime Hutch scientist, Holmes uncovered the 3-D structures of proteins, including certain antibodies crucial to many modern therapies — such as the treatment Holmes herself received during a clinical trial for her cancer. Despite the progress in cancer research Taylor has seen in his lifetime, the years he spent by Holmes’ side as she lived with her disease and went through treatment made him realize how far there is to go to overcome some cancers.

McElrath Lab

McElrath Lab — Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division

Under Dr. Julie McElrath, a global leader in HIV/AIDS vaccine and human immunology research, the McElrath Lab focuses on how infection-fighting T cells contribute to the control of HIV. The lab has identified some of HIV’s key mechanisms, including long-running research on the genetics of rare HIV-positive people who can control the virus without treatment. Lab members also develop tests to predict the effectiveness of potential HIV vaccines before they move on to clinical trials so that resources can be focused on the most promising candidates. McElrath, who is a Fred Hutch senior vice president and director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, is the principal investigator and director of the laboratory center for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.

Dr. Cyrus Ghajar (and his son, Grayson)

Dr. Cyrus Ghajar (and his son, Grayson) — Public Health Sciences Division

Dr. Cyrus Ghajar in Fred Hutch’s Public Health Sciences Division approaches the problem of cancer recurrence from an unexpected angle. He seeks to keep cancer cells that have spread — but are dormant — from reactivating. Cancer cells may break away as tumors form and find new homes in distant organs. Often, rather than continuing to divide, tumor cells lie low. They can sit quietly for months, years or decades before rousing and sparking the growth of new tumors. Ghajar has found the blood vessels on which cancer cells alight can send signals that keep the dormant cancer cells in check — or trigger a growth spurt. His laboratory studies exactly what it is about these distant locales that can keep tumor cells dormant for so long — and what changes in those surroundings prompt these far-flung tumor cells to resume growth.

Henikoff Lab

Henikoff Lab — Basic Sciences Division

Scientists in the Henikoff Lab, which is led by geneticist Dr. Steve Henikoff, study epigenetics, the collection of techniques cells use to change their genes’ activity. Like the other lab teams who share their neighborhood in Fred Hutch’s Basic Sciences Division, Henikoff Lab researchers want to understand how cells work at their most fundamental level — with the ultimate goal of better understanding what happens when those fundamentals go awry, as in cancer. Along the way, Henikoff and his team have also invented many computational and lab techniques that are now widely used by other research groups.