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How to be a curestarter

A longtime Fred Hutch booster helps a promising genetic researcher parlay $100K into a $2.2M grant to explore innovative new therapies

Feb. 24, 2017 | By Diane Mapes and Rachel Tompa / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Jason Bielas

"This just came at the perfect time," said Fred Hutch geneticist Dr. Jason Bielas of the $100,000 gift from the Washington Research Foundation, which led to a $2.2 million federal grant to explore new cancer therapies.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Every scientist runs into it at some point: that moment when there’s a new discovery to pursue but instead of funding, there are only fumes.

For Dr. Jason Bielas, that moment came in the summer of 2015. A Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center geneticist who develops novel technologies and studies cancer mutations, Bielas had just launched CypherSeq, a promising method to more accurately pinpoint genetic mutations. Bielas believes the technology will not only help researchers understand how environmental agents — think cigarette smoke, air pollution — cause cancer, but can also be used to detect cancers much earlier.

It’s one of many new research tools that the entrepreneurial scientist helped develop since coming to Fred Hutch in 2008.

“We follow the biology,” Bielas said of the work done in his lab. “And because of that we’re a little more diverse than you otherwise would be.”

Because his team members often start their progress toward answering difficult scientific questions with the development of new methods, their work “more often than not reveals new insights into biology that exceed the scope of the hypothesis being tested, driving us down new and exciting pathways of discovery,” Bielas said.

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Can we talk about doing science and raising children?

Researchers open up about the unique challenges of starting families during training — and offer tips for juggling the dual demands

Feb. 22, 2017 | By Rachel Tompa / Fred Hutch News Service

When I was writing my Ph.D. thesis, all I could think about was babies.

This is undoubtedly not what I am supposed to write, as a working mother, as a former scientist, as a feminist.

I will be the first to admit that my growing dissatisfaction with laboratory research spurred some of those baby fantasies.

I was reaching the end of a Ph.D. program that I’d long assumed would lead to a postdoctoral fellowship, the standard next step on an academic research career track, and then a faculty position leading my own lab, like the scientists I’d worked for in my career to date. But at some point during graduate school, that path stopped making sense to me. I’d fallen out of love with science — or at least, with doing science.

It was a weird feeling, to be making progress on such a well-defined career track and then to just suddenly — not be. 

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Good News at Fred Hutch

Celebrating faculty and staff achievements

Feb. 16, 2017

Dr. Keith Jerome

Dr. Keith Jerome

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Keith Jerome, collaborators awarded amfAR grant for HIV cure research

A Fred Hutch and University of Washington team of virologists and bioengineers led by Dr. Keith Jerome has received a $200,000 grant — the first phase of up to $1.5 million in milestone-driven funding over four years — to develop nanocarrier technology to deliver therapies to reservoirs of dormant, HIV-infected cells.

The grant is from the New York-based amfAR, or Foundation for AIDS Research, as part of its “Countdown to a Cure for AIDS” initiative, which aims to achieve the scientific underpinnings of a cure by 2020. The hard-to-reach reservoirs are a key barrier to curing HIV.

Almost immediately upon infection, HIV begins to integrate itself into the DNA of some of the longest-lived cells of the body. There the virus lies dormant, unaffected by the lifesaving antiretroviral drugs that keep actively replicating HIV in check. But stop the medication, and the reservoirs rekindle infection. 

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Love in the time of cancer

Getting dumped after diagnosis isn’t the only story out there; meet three couples who found romance despite disease

Feb. 14, 2017 | By Diane Mapes / Fred Hutch News Service

Happy couple Susan and Jeff

Susan, a stage 4 breast cancer patient, and her brand new husband Jeff, shortly after their wedding in July 2016. The pair met via an online dating site while Susan was going through treatment. "When I told him I was hesitant to tell him about the cancer because I wasn’t sure if he would want to see me anymore, his answer was, ‘Can I see you again?’”

Photo courtesy of Jeff Salmore Photography

Six years ago, I spent Valentine’s weekend lurching around Seattle trying to come to terms with the fact that I was now a cancer patient. I was sort of dating someone at the time, but we weren’t tight enough to be a true couple so there were no roses, no romantic dinner, not even a lousy chocolate kiss.

Instead, I got the cancer kiss-off a few days later, although in capping our fledgling relationship, the guy swore up and down “It’s not the cancer, it’s you.”

Uh … thanks?

If you’ve lived in Cancerland for any length of time, you’ve probably heard stories of patients getting kicked to the curb after a diagnosis. Maybe you’ve even lived through it yourself. It’s a common enough occurrence that it’s been studied, most recently by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center clinical researcher and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance neuro-oncologist Dr. Marc Chamberlain.

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Cake, candles and a wish for more HIV cures

An HIV workshop pays tribute to Timothy Ray Brown, whose cure 10 years ago fueled research — and hope

Feb. 13, 2017 | By Mary Engel / Fred Hutch News Service

Timothy Ray Brown

Timothy Ray Brown celebrates his 10th "birthday," marking the anniversary of the stem cell transplant that made him the first and so far only person in the world to be cured of the virus that causes AIDS.

Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

“It happened, and it was a hard survival. But I’m here.”

With these words, Timothy Ray Brown blew out 10 candles on a chocolate birthday cake as a room full of researchers, activists and people living with HIV cheered.

A decade has passed since the first of two stem cell transplants cured Brown of both leukemia and HIV, making him the first and so far only person to be cured of the virus that causes AIDS. Sunday’s “birthday” celebration, a tradition among transplant cancer survivors, capped a day-long workshop on HIV cure research on the eve of a major HIV scientific meeting, the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, or CROI, being held in Seattle.

The Seattle-born Brown flew in for the workshop and celebration from Palm Springs, California, where he now lives. Later this week, he’ll mark his original birthday, albeit a little early, with his mother. He turns 51 in March.

Dr. Gero Hütter, the German doctor who cured Brown, could not attend Sunday’s party in Seattle but sent a videotaped greeting. At the time of Brown’s transplant, scientists had considered a cure for HIV so unlikely that it took Hütter a year after first reporting the case to get a paper published in a medical journal.

“I think that you all agree with me that Timothy’s case, as a proof of principle, has changed a lot of the field of HIV research,” Hütter said in the video. “Timothy is the motivation for hundreds of researchers, fundraisers and activists to go forward to the big target that HIV/AIDS can be cured.”

But if Brown’s cure inspired the field of HIV cure research, he is also a reminder of the challenges that remain. 

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Good News at Fred Hutch

Celebrating faculty and staff achievements

Feb. 9, 2017

MarCom statuettes

The Fred Hutch Communications & Marketing team has received MarCom awards in seven different categories for all 12 projects submitted for consideration, including three honorable mentions, five gold awards and four platinum awards.

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Hutch Communications & Marketing wins 12 awards for creativity in 7 categories

Several teams from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Communications & Marketing Department were recognized for their recent work with 12 2016 MarCom Awards, which recognize outstanding work by creative professionals in the marketing and communications fields.

The awards are administered by the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals and are one of the most longstanding and largest creative competitions in the world. The 2016 competition received more than 6,000 entries. The Hutch team received awards in seven different categories for all 12 projects they submitted for consideration, including three honorable mentions, five gold awards and four platinum awards.

“Just as our world-class researchers have a great passion for their work, we too are passionate in driving a wider and deeper understanding of Fred Hutch,” said Kathryn Sweyer, Fred Hutch’s director of marketing. “To be recognized for doing what we love and to be doing it in service of the Hutch is incredibly rewarding.”

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