Impact of Your Support

Your Climb at Work

A group of people gathered at Everest Base Camp
Team Everest Base Camp in 2022. Luke Timmerman

Everest Base Camp 2022 Impact

In 2022, members of Team Everest Base Camp, led by Climb leader Luke Timmerman, raised more than $1.3 million for world-changing research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

This report highlights just a few of the many projects supported by this dedicated community of climbers and donors through their contributions to our general fund.

We thank them for helping fuel science with the potential to bring new options to patients and families and supporting Fred Hutch’s mission to unite innovative research and compassionate care to prevent and eliminate cancer and infectious disease.

Accelerating Immunotherapy 

Immunotherapies that harness the body’s own resources to fight cancer have shown tremendous potential, particularly among people who have blood cancers. With your support, Fred Hutch is now working to translate these successes into treatments for more types of cancer, including solid-tumor cancers, and to understand why they work for some people and cancers but not for others.

One area of focus is the thymus — a small organ that sits in the throat, just above the lungs. This critical organ helps train disease-fighting T cells to identify friend from foe. However, numerous factors, including environmental assault, age and stress can damage the thymus, robbing our bodies of the ability to continually update the available repertoire of trained T cells.

Jarrod Dudakov, PhD, and his team are uncovering novel ways to reverse that damage and improve the body's natural defense. For example, the team has identified several molecules that help promote thymic generation. Their next step is to adapt one of these molecules into a therapy that will help patients’ bodies speed up thymus repair — and with it, the availability of important T cells — after damage from chemotherapy or other events. Read more about Dr. Dudakov's work.

Across campus, Aude Chapuis, MD, who holds the John C. and Karyl Kay Hughes Foundation Endowed Chair at Fred Hutch, and her team are creating new immunotherapies for solid tumors, like pancreatic and ovarian cancer, while optimizing others that are already being used for blood cancers. In partnership with Phil Greenberg, MD, who holds the Rona Jaffe Foundation Endowed Chair, they explored how some cancers elude initially successful immune-based therapies against leukemia. They found that in patients whose cancers returned, the resistant cancer cells had changed the way they displayed a marker the T cells normally used to identify the tumor cells, rendering the cancer unrecognizable. Using this information, the team is creating new treatments that can potentially save lives. Learn about their efforts to overcome relapse.

Dr. Melody Campbell
Dr. Melody Campbell Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Investing in Basic Science

Basic research at Fred Hutch has been valued since the organization’s inception, and our Basic Sciences division is one of the best in the country. Nearly a third of all senior faculty have been inducted into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Our basic research has yielded landmark advances, including two Nobel Prize-winning discoveries.

Often, basic science also leads to ideas that can later be commercialized by partners capable of translating them into new treatments for more people as quickly as possible. For example, Justin Taylor, PhD, and Jim Boonyaratanakornkit, MD, PhD, are developing a laboratory-designed antibody capable of blocking four different respiratory viruses that pose a significant threat to the lives of cancer patients recovering from blood stem cell transplants. Their approach could lead to a new type of drug that could save thousands of lives each year. Learn more about their work to overcome a common respiratory virus.

Your support also funds groundbreaking new tools that accelerate scientific discovery. Structural biologist Melody Campbell, PhD, for example, is a global leader in the cutting-edge work of cryogenic electron microscopy, or cryo-EM. Thanks to Dr. Campbell’s expertise, Hutch researchers can peer deep into the mechanisms of the body to accurately visualize how individual molecules interact with one another, and discover vulnerabilities unique to cancers. Read more about Dr. Campbell.

Advancing Global Oncology

The COVID-19 pandemic, along with a continued rise in cancers worldwide, have made us more aware than ever of our interconnectedness as humans — and our shared obligation to improve health across borders. In response, Fred Hutch continues to invest in our leading Global Oncology program.

Nina Salama, PhD, holder of the Penny E. Peterson Memorial Chair for Lymphoma Research, is at the forefront of work to understand how infection with the common Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria can lead to stomach cancer, and why this happens more among some groups of people, particularly those living in East Asia. Following groundbreaking work on the link between chronic infection with H. pylori and the later development of gastric cancer, she is digging into the factors that elevate cancer risk after infection. Read more about the Salama Lab's research.

A particularly exciting development from Fred Hutch this year is the work of Andy McGuire, PhD, to develop a vaccine for the common Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The virus causes mononucleosis, certain lymphomas (particularly a form of lymphoma that most commonly affects children in sub-Saharan Africa), and some cancers of the head and neck. It has also recently been linked to multiple sclerosis. Dr. McGuire and his team are partnering with basic researchers at Fred Hutch and the University of Washington to create novel nanoparticle vaccines for EBV. After encouraging early work, the team is conducting preclinical trials to see if the approach is effective and safe enough for human trials. Read about their latest advances.

Dr. Rachel Issaka
Dr. Rachel Issaka Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

A Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Our Everest Base Camp teams modelled diversity and gender parity. We appreciate the commitment this team has made to cultivating diverse expertise and voices in the sciences, because it’s a commitment Fred Hutch shares. 

Improving access to care is just one aspect of this commitment.

Rachel B. Issaka, MD, MAS, and holder of the Kathryn Surace-Smith Endowed Chair in Health Equity Research, and Project Manager Ari Bell-Brown are working to reduce racial and socioeconomic disparities and improve outcomes for colorectal cancer by increasing access to screening. One area that prevents people from completing a colonoscopy screen is lack of support following the procedure, while they are still coming out of sedation. Could ride-sharing services help? To explore options the team talked with stakeholders at a local Seattle hospital, doctors and nursing leaders, and industry representatives from the ride-share industry. Their findings informed a cross-sector partnership between the health care system and the ride-share industry to pilot a program for patients needing a colonoscopy. As the work progresses, it may provide a new option in the Seattle area and a scalable model for use nationwide. Read more about their pilot study.

Another of Fred Hutch’s DEI initiatives has been to hire new groups of diverse researchers, including those who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color. By 2022, the first group was fully onboarded, bringing eight new researchers to Fred Hutch. Here are just a few of these leading experts.

  • Folashade Otegbeye, MBChB, MPH, specializes in blood stem cell transplantation and serves as facility director for the Therapeutic Products shared resource to produce life-saving immunotherapies.
  • Daniel Blanco-Melo, PhD, studies our body's immune defenses against rapidly evolving, as well as novel, viruses using a combination of molecular biology, genomics, and advanced computational techniques to uncover these dynamic interactions.
  • Richard Adeyemi, PhD, studies how our cells maintain the integrity of their genetic material in the face of errors during normal cell cycles or in the presence of stressors that can damage DNA, such as radiation.

Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion includes a mission to establish Fred Hutch as a national exemplar in academia for its core DEI approaches and practices. We invite you to read more about our approaches and guiding principles and to explore our progress and goals, on our website.

United to Improve Lives

Our Climb to Fight Cancer community is helping Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center expand the boundaries of science, improve cancer care, and bring more treatments to more people. We are grateful for their dedication.