Treatment Research - Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Treatment Research

The Next Generation of Lifesaving Treatments

Fred Hutch researchers are developing the next generation of lifesaving treatments for cancers, HIV and many other diseases. These experimental treatments range from HIV vaccines to "optide" molecules that attack cancer cells without harming the healthy cells nearby. Many of the innovative treatments we're pursuing build on our Nobel-prize winning work on bone marrow transplantation – a breakthrough procedure that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.


Dr. E. Donnall Thomas

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas pioneered bone marrow transplantation

Bone Marrow Transplantation: Evolution of a Cancer Cure

Fred Hutch has been the world leader in bone marrow transplantation research since Dr. E. Donnall Thomas pioneered it more than four decades ago.

Our scientists helped make bone marrow transplants standard treatment for many diseases and have spearheaded breakthroughs that improve the transplantation process. For instance, our discoveries have improved long-term survival among transplant patients by reducing patients' risk of serious infections, organ damage and other potentially deadly complications. Now Fred Hutch scientists are pursuing innovative transplantation projects to make the procedure even safer and more widely available, bringing new hope to patients worldwide.

Dr. Colleen Delaney

Dr. Colleen Delaney's team is pursuing cord blood cures

Cord Blood Transplantation: A Transplant for Every Patient

Forty percent of all stem cell transplant candidates can’t identify a suitably matched donor. Dr. Colleen Delaney is overcoming this through research on the healing power of umbilical cord blood transplants.

Because cells in cord blood are less developed than adult blood stem cells, they don’t need to be as closely matched to a patient, allowing nearly all patients to find a donor. Recent results using cord blood as a source of cells for hematopoietic (blood) cell transplant are quite promising. However, the biggest hurdle to overcome in the use of cord blood for transplant is the small number of blood stem cells found in a cord blood unit. Delaney’s team broke through this barrier by developing a way to multiply the number of umbilical cord blood stem cells 200-fold so they can be more safely used for cord blood transplant.

Dr. Stanley Riddell

Dr. Stanley Riddell leads Fred Hutch's immunotherapy research

Immunotherapy: Using Immune Cells to Defeat Cancer

Bone marrow transplantation demonstrated that the human immune system could be harnessed to cure cancer. Now Dr. Stanley Riddell and other Fred Hutch researchers are developing successful treatments that use the immune system to fight a variety of diseases, much as it eliminates everyday infections like the common cold.

This revolutionary approach, called immunotherapy, yields effective cancer treatments with far fewer side effects than conventional drugs, radiation or surgery. Our treatment arm, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, is using immunotherapy in treatments for a variety of cancers. Our goal is to have the same impact on these cancers that bone marrow transplantation has had on leukemia.

Dr. Jim Olson

Dr. Jim Olson's team is developing compounds that could dramatically improve on traditional cancer treatments.

Optides: New anti-cancer compounds

Dr. Jim Olson and his colleagues are developing a fundamentally new class of anti-cancer compounds: molecules engineered to attack cancer cells without harming the healthy cells around them. These new compounds, called optides, could dramatically improve on traditional chemotherapies. And Olson's approach is potentially less expensive and more powerful than other next-generation techniques.

Optides address one of cancer treatment's most vexing problems: chemotherapies usually destroy healthy tissue alongside the cancerous cells they target. This can exact a heavy toll on patients, with many suffering such severe side effects that they must limit their chemotherapy dosage or stop treatment early. 

Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem

Pursuing HIV prevention, vaccines and cures

Fred Hutch researchers have spent more than two decades unraveling how HIV/AIDS works and conducting groundbreaking research to end its deadly march. A cornerstone of these efforts is the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), the world's largest clinical trials program. HVTN is testing and evaluating experimental vaccines designed to prevent HIV.

Hutch scientists are also trying to cure HIV.  in In 2011, a research collaboration led by  Drs. Keith Jerome and Hans-Peter Kiem received a $20 million federal grant to  develop cell and gene therapies for making an HIV-infected person's own immune cells resistant to HIV infection. As that research continues, the group received a second, $23.5 million grant to tackle three new approaches that build on this work: exploring CAR T-cell therapy, a type of immunotherapy, against HIV; using gene therapy to induce production of a synthetic “super antibody” to target HIV; and adding a therapeutic vaccine to boost the proliferation and function of genetically modified HIV-resistant cells.