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Closing the rural-urban cancer survival gap

‘Guideline care’ in clinical trials erased cancer death-rate disparities

Aug. 17, 2018 | By Sabin Russell / Fred Hutch News Service

Illustration by Kimberly Carney / Fred Hutch News Service

Cancer patients in rural areas of the United States die of their disease at significantly higher rates than those residing in U.S. cities, and scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle are trying to find out why. Now, they have uncovered an important clue.

This week, they and colleagues at SWOG, a network of cancer researchers from 47 states, published evidence that when rural and urban patients receive identical care — as participants do in carefully controlled clinical trials — those alarming differences in survival rates virtually vanish.

“When patients are enrolled in clinical trials, where patients are uniformly assessed, treated and followed under strict, best-practice protocols, there was almost no difference in survival rates between rural and urban cancer patients,” said Dr. Joseph Unger, the Fred Hutch health services researcher and biostatistician who led the study.

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Fred Hutch receives $1.26M grant to boost science-education efforts

National Institute of General Medical Sciences award aims to attract underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Aug. 15, 2018 | By Tom Kim / Fred Hutch News Service

High school students participate in an education and training program in a teaching lab at Fred Hutch.

Aleksandra Kogalovski of Mercer Island High School (left) and Alberta Gbla of Mariner High School (right) practice an experiment in the training lab at Fred Hutch earlier this month.

Photo by Caren Brinkema / Fred Hutch

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has received a $1.26 million, five-year Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, or NIGMS. The award will fund a new science education and training program called “Frontiers in Cancer Research,” which will focus on:

  • inspiring secondary school students from underrepresented communities to pursue biomedical and clinical research careers;
  • developing and piloting cancer-focused curricula and hands-on science kit resources that highlight ethical issues around genetic engineering, gene therapy, clinical trials and Fred Hutch’s breakthrough research; and
  • providing professional development and mentored research experiences for life science teachers on fundamental biological principles and practices through the lens of cancer research.

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Dr. Geoffrey Hill 3rd recipient of José Carreras/E. Donnall Thomas Endowed Chair for Cancer Research

Endowments provide faculty with freedom and flexibility to pursue critical research endeavors

Aug. 14, 2018 | By Kristen Woodward / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Geoffrey Hill

Dr. Geoffrey Hill says he plans to use the endowment to progress his research into integrating bone marrow transplantation and immune therapies to minimize leukemia relapse and graft-vs.-host disease.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

In 1987, at the age of 40, world-renowned Spanish tenor José Carreras was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia and given long odds of survival. He underwent a bone marrow transplant at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center that would cure his disease. A year later, in gratitude, he established a Barcelona-based foundation to support and promote the kind of research that saved his life. That research was pioneered by Fred Hutch’s Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who received a Nobel Prize in 1990 for developing BMT.

Today, three decades later, the lives of Carreras and Thomas, who died in 2012 at the age of 90, continue to be intertwined through an endowed chair named in their honor that was established in 2007 by the Seattle-based Friends of José Carreras International Leukemia Foundation.

Hematologist Dr. Geoffrey Hill, a physician-scientist who was recently recruited from Australia to lead Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation at Fred Hutch, is the third and most recent recipient of the José Carreras/E. Donnall Thomas Endowed Chair for Cancer Research. The chair provides $425,000 in total funding over five years. Hill is also the third recipient of the brown wooden captain’s-style chair originally owned by Thomas.

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Rolling up the miles for cancer research

Obliteride riders, walkers top $2 million in Fred Hutch fundraiser

Aug. 14, 2018 | By Sabin Russell / Fred Hutch News Service

Walkers begin Olbiteride 5K

Serenaded by the Seattle Sounder's official band, Sound Wave, walkers begin the first-ever 5K walk Saturday at the Obliteride starting line on the University of Washington campus.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

With new routes, a new starting line and — for the first time — an event for walkers, nearly 2,300 bicyclists and hikers rolled and strode into Seattle’s Gas Works Park on Saturday, marking a triumphant finish to this year’s Obliteride, the summertime fundraiser for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

In this sixth annual event, participants have so far raised $2.2 million, a total that is expected to rise as riders and walkers continue to gather donations through Sept. 13. Since the event began in 2013, Obliteride has raised more than $14 million for cancer research.

“It feels fantastic,” said Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland, who attended his third Obliteride event since taking the helm in 2015.

“The thing that feels different to me this year is this groundswell of support from the young people of this community. They care about the future, about trying to make a difference in the long haul,” he said.

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Dr. Yingqi Zhao receives SWOG Coltman Fellowship early-career award

She plans to use the funds to develop new surveillance and diagnostic strategies for immunotherapy trials

Aug. 8, 2018 | By Colin Petersdorf / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Yingqi Zhao

Dr. Yingqi Zhao

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center biostatistician Dr. Yingqi Zhao has been awarded the Dr. Charles A. Coltman Jr. Fellowship, which recognizes and funds prolific early- and mid-career scientists from affiliated institutions within SWOG, a national clinical trials network.

The Coltman Fellowship, which is sponsored by SWOG’s public charity, The Hope Foundation, includes a two-year, $50,000-a-year grant to support the development of cutting-edge clinical trials within an academic environment.

“I’m really grateful that SWOG and The Hope Foundation are interested in my research,” said Zhao, whose work centers on improving immunotherapy trials and patient outcomes. Unlike chemotherapy, which targets fast-growing cells, immunotherapy encompasses a number of different approaches to harness the patient’s own immune system to destroy the cancer. It is an active area of research across many types of cancers; a growing number of immunotherapies have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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Lyani Valle: Leukemia survivor, Obliteride walker

'Cancer was a huge wake-up call to what is important in life'

Aug. 3, 2018 | By Sabin Russell / Fred Hutch News Service

Lyani Valle, Obliteride walker

Lyani Valle, a program manager at Amazon, survived a rare form of leukemia using a therapy made possible by research at Fred Hutch. She is raising money for the Hutch as an Obliteride 5K walker.

Two years ago, Lyani Valle was looking forward to her last infusion of arsenic.

A form of the fabled poison, combined with pills containing a derivative of vitamin A, is the state-of-the-art treatment for her rare type of leukemia, and the therapy was working beautifully. Today her leukemia remains in complete remission.

On Aug. 11, she plans to walk 5 kilometers to raise money for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She’ll be joined at the Obliteride fundraiser by more than 130 walkers and bicyclists from Amazon, where she is a talent acquisition program manager for the Americas.

“I survived because of a research breakthrough, and it became personal once I learned what Fred Hutch did for me,” she said.

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