A new frontier that’s changing how we think about our bodies and cancer

Hutch Magazine

A new frontier that’s changing how we think about our bodies and cancer

Gary Gilliland

Dr. Gary Gilliland

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

ONE OF THE BEST THINGS ABOUT BEING A SCIENTIST is knowing that new frontiers are always waiting to be discovered. And sometimes, explorations into unknown or poorly understood areas of human biology lead us to better treatments and cures for disease.

One of these exciting new frontiers is the human microbiome — the many different bacteria, fungi, viruses and more that inhabit our gut, skin, mouths, noses, lungs, and every other nook and cranny of our bodies. Latest estimates show that bacteria alone may make up a full half of our body's cells. In a very short span, a rapid rate of discovery has catapulted us from only a vague understanding of these microscopic ecosystems to detailed genetic catalogs of our microbial passengers — along with tantalizing hints about how our microbiomes affect our everyday health.

As you'll read in this issue of Hutch Magazine, there has been a recent surge in information from our researchers and their colleagues around the globe about how the human microbiome may influence cancer patients' response to antibiotics, chemotherapy and emerging immunotherapies; alter the efficacy of HIV vaccines; play a role in the potentially deadly graft-vs.-host disease in bone marrow transplant patients; and even change a person's risk of developing cancer.

All of these discoveries have implications for the treatments, preventions and cures being developed in our labs and clinics — and, of course, for patients.

Microbiome research is a cutting-edge, early-days field with as yet many more questions than answers. Luckily, this is exactly where Hutch researchers shine — thinking creatively about thorny problems, pulling together hints from all different directions to craft new solutions, deftly sifting through large and complex data sets, and collaborating across diverse disciplines.

At Fred Hutch, we lead the world in expertise on cancer, infectious diseases and the complex role of the human immune system in disease. Because of our long history in these areas, we're uniquely positioned to better understand the intricate interplay between bacteria, cancer and our immune system to the ultimate benefit of patients with cancer and other diseases.

We have our fingers on the many delicate threads that connect our microbial partners to cancer and infectious disease. We are setting our sharpest minds and latest technologies to trace and understand those connections. I hope you'll be as inspired as I am when you read about the exciting research and discoveries being made about these universes within us.

As always, we are thankful for your continued support in these exciting endeavors.

Cures start here,

Gary Gilliland

Dr. Gary Gilliland
President and Director


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