Acceleration Fund in Action

Hutch Holiday Gala


Acceleration Fund in Action

A report to our donors

A tradition of generosity

The Hutch Holiday Gala is the single largest fundraising event benefiting Fred Hutch. For more than 40 years, the Gala has inspired caring people like you to give generously in support of our lifesaving research on cancer and related diseases — and last year was no exception.

Thanks to our remarkable donors, our 2017 Hutch Holiday Gala raised more than $8.3 million for pioneering medical research at the Hutch. Gifts from last year’s Gala benefited the Acceleration Fund, a source of funding for urgent, paradigm-shifting research on cancer and other prevalent diseases.

These funds are fueling groundbreaking studies with the potential to accelerate cures. This page provides a summary of the important research being funded by our incredible community of supporters.

Gala gifts, put to work

Projects being supported through the generosity of 2017 Hutch Holiday Gala guests include the following:

Dr. Trevor Bedford is using leading-edge computational tools to help the World Health Organization determine which influenza strains they should protect against in their upcoming seasonal vaccines. His lab is also continuing to build out Nextstrain, a software tool that allows researchers to share and track real-time genomic data related to viral disease outbreaks. This data could help scientists better understand new disease outbreaks and inform public health efforts to contain them.

Dr. Aude Chapuis is exploring new ways to help a patient’s immune system more effectively target cancer. One area her lab is focusing on is improving the ability of modified T-cell therapies to target specific cancer-associated molecules, thereby minimizing unwanted side effects. They are also working to develop new methods to improve the survival, growth, and cancer-fighting ability of these T cells once they’ve been reinfused into a patient. Collectively, these efforts could lead to the development of newer, more effective T-cell therapies that safely eliminate cancer in patients.

Dr. Neelendu Dey is examining how the interplay between the microbes in our gut and our diet may affect our overall health. As part of this work, Dr. Dey is exploring how gut microbial metabolism regulates growth signals channeled through our intestinal nerves, as this process may change the way our gut cells function. The combination of these interactions may also offer new insights into how colorectal cancer grows and spreads, and thus provide novel strategies for preventing it.

Dr. Cyrus Ghajar is investigating why metastatic cancer cells, which can spread to many organs, lie dormant in certain areas of the body. As part of this effort, his lab is working to pinpoint the factors or conditions that prevent metastatic cells from growing in skeletal muscles. They are also studying whether it is possible to recreate the environment that promotes dormancy, and potentially stop cancer cells from growing, in vulnerable organs such as bone or lung.

Dr. Taran Gujral is studying the signaling pathways that are frequently hijacked in cancer. A signaling pathway triggers molecules to carry out normal cell functions, such as growth and division. Different cancers manipulate different pathways in unique ways to either promote the growth of cancer cells or to shield the cells from treatment. By studying the larger interconnected system of these signaling pathways, researchers can create a “map” of the genetic mutations that drive a patient’s cancer. Using genomic sequencing technology, Dr. Gujral is analyzing tumor samples to further explore which signaling networks have been compromised and how they may inform individualized cancer therapies.

Dr. Andrew Hsieh is examining the ways in which the process of protein synthesis may drive the development of bladder cancer and prostate cancer. Proteins are molecules that help determine the structure and function of every cell in our body, and protein synthesis is the process by which proteins are formed in our cells. Dr. Hsieh is exploring how rogue mutated cells may assume control of the protein synthesis process to drive the growth of cancer. Better understanding how this process is co-opted in cancer could potentially spur the development of innovative next-generation therapeutics.

Dr. Rachel Issaka is exploring factors related to disparities in colorectal cancer screening and outcomes. Using the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research database, Dr. Issaka is investigating why colorectal cancer mortality is higher among American Indians, Alaska Natives, and African Americans compared to non-Hispanic whites in counties surrounding the Hutch. She is also working with colleagues to launch an outreach program to improve colorectal cancer screening rates among Medicare enrollees in Seattle.

Dr. Andrew McGuire is working on strategies to prevent and treat the Epstein-Barr virus, a pathogen that’s associated with 200,000 new cases of cancer and 140,000 deaths each year. This virus can also cause life-threatening complications in people with compromised immune systems. Dr. McGuire is focusing on creating a first-of-its kind vaccine to prevent the virus while simultaneously developing immunotherapies to treat people with EBV-infected tumors.

Dr. Evan Newell is exploring a diverse array of cancer-specific T cells — a form of white blood cell that fights cancer — to determine how cancer cells are able to evade detection by the immune system. This type of T cell is highly adaptive and can modify its attack strategy to detect and destroy newly formed cancer cells. However, not all T cells are able to successfully fight off cancer cells in this manner. Dr. Newell is studying these variances in cancer-specific T cells to determine whether they reflect how the immune system is responding to cancer — knowledge that could potentially lead to more effective treatment options.

Dr. Newell is conducting this research via our new state-of-the-art mass cytometry system, which was purchased with Gala funds and is available for use by all Hutch scientists. This sophisticated technology allows researchers to better characterize and analyze the T-cells present in a patient’s body, offering a fuller picture of the current state of the patient’s immune system.

Dr. Robert Pierce is investigating the composition of solid tumors to improve our ability to treat them. When solid tumors form, they often utilize surrounding cells to form a “microenvironment” that allows them to evade cancer-killing attacks from our immune system. Using state-of-the-art imaging and staining technology, Dr. Pierce is analyzing different tumor samples to further explore the mechanisms that shut down immune responses to cancer. Understanding which cells are supporting a patient’s tumor could help us identify the best treatments for their cancer while also minimizing side effects.

The equipment systems Dr. Pierce is using for this research were purchased with Gala funds. Collectively, these systems allow researchers to conduct in-depth biological analyses of tumor samples to better inform treatment decisions.

Dr. Justin Taylor is focusing on better understanding B cells, the workhorses for generating antibodies that recognize foreign pathogens like viruses. The pathway by which B cells are stimulated to produce antibodies has remained elusive. By uncovering these steps, Dr. Taylor’s lab aims to inform vaccine design for dangerous viruses, such as HIV and influenza. Most vaccines provide protection by triggering the B cells to produce antibodies that help block infection. Unfortunately, some of these vaccines fail to trigger that response. A greater understanding of why this occurs could help us develop more effective vaccines.

Thank you!

If you are interested in learning more about any of these scientists or their lab priorities, please let us know and we’d love to arrange a visit.

Thank you for your shared commitment to finding cures. We are humbled and honored to count you as a partner in this worthy endeavor.