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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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Dr. Jay Sarthy receives Damon Runyon-Sohn Pediatric Cancer Fellowship Award

He will use the funding to study brain tumors in children

Aug. 2, 2018

Dr. Jay Sarthy

Dr. Jay Sarthy is a pediatric hematology/oncology fellow at Fred Hutch.

Fred Hutch file

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has named Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Dr. Jay F. Sarthy as one of five outstanding young scientists to receive the prestigious Damon Runyon-Sohn Pediatric Cancer Fellowship Award. He will receive $231,000 over four years to study pediatric brain cancers.

Under the mentorship of geneticist Dr. Steven Henikoff and pediatric neuro-oncologist Dr. Jim Olson of the Hutch, Sarthy will aim to develop new, easy-to-use and affordable methods for studying DNA packaging and epigenetics (modification of gene expression) in pediatric cancer with a special focus on glioma and neuroblastoma. These methods may help explain what drives pediatric malignancies and allow clinicians to better monitor treatment response. His ultimate goal: to develop new drugs that restore the ability of cells to package DNA correctly.

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Drs. Siddhartha Mukherjee and Gary Gilliland in conversation

Watch: Author and physician-scientist discusses the next chapters in cancer research — and his book ‘Emperor of all Maladies’ — with Hutch President and Director

Aug. 2, 2018 | Video by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Drs. Siddhartha Mukherjee and Gary Gilliland discuss progress in cancer research and care, and more.
Video by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

During a recent visit to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, physician-scientist and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee sat down with Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland to talk about the recent strides in cancer research and care. They also discussed how scientists should communicate the excitement — and caveats — of that progress, which Mukherjee plans to chronicle in new chapters for a 10th anniversary edition of his bestselling book, "The Emperor of All Maladies."

Right now, Mukherjee said, cancer researchers “are grappling with some of the most interesting ideas of our times.”

Watch as Mukherjee shares his thoughts on keeping “the spark alive” for scientists just starting their careers and the need to integrate big data with bench science to make meaningful advances for patients.

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Protein plays traffic cop during sex-cell formation

Hutch scientists solve 88-year-old genetic mystery: how sex cells avoid having the wrong number of chromosomes

Aug. 2, 2018 | By Sabrina Richards / Fred Hutch News Service

Mystery of the Crossing Chromosomes

Image by Kimberly Carney / Fred Hutch News Service

A team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has solved an 88-year-old mystery: how cells shield a specific segment of DNA so that sex cells — eggs or sperm in humans — end up with the right number of chromosomes.

Published Thursday in Molecular Cell, the work, done in fission yeast, reveals that a certain protein acts a like a traffic cop. This traffic-cop protein shields a key region of DNA from the wrong molecules while ushering the right ones over. The findings shed light on what may have gone awry when cells end up with too many or too few chromosomes, which can lead to spontaneous miscarriage or certain developmental disorders.

Swi6, the protein in question, “is a key regulator,” said senior author Dr. Gerald Smith, who worked with first author Dr. Mridula Nambiar to outline Swi6’s dual roles in proper chromosome sorting. “Mridula’s critical insight was that it has both positive and negative roles.”

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Improving cancer vaccines with T-cell programming nanoparticles

Dr. Matthias Stephan receives grant to develop cancer vaccine–optimizing, TCR-programming nanotechnology

July 31, 2018 | By Sabrina Richards / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Matthias Stephan in his office at Fred Hutch

Dr. Matthias Stephan

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center immunobioengineer Dr. Matthias Stephan has received a 2018 Investigator’s Award in Cell and Gene Therapy for Cancer from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy to support the development of a combined T-cell programming, cancer-vaccine strategy to treat cancer. His proposed method, which unites nanoparticles that carry cancer vaccine–specific T-cell receptor genes with a vaccine designed to trigger an immune response to a patient’s tumor, aims to improve the effectiveness of therapeutic cancer vaccines by guaranteeing that the patient has cancer-specific T cells capable of responding to the vaccine.

“We’re making sure that there’s a small population of vaccine-specific, T-cell receptor–engineered T cells [to respond to the vaccine],” Stephan said. He will receive $500,000 over three years to support the project.

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3 new projects map out immune responses to cancers

Scientists aim to gather knowledge that improves future immunotherapies

July 30, 2018 | By Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service

Three T cells, in green, attack a cancer cell (in blue).

Three T cells, in green, attack a cancer cell (in blue).

Fred Hutch file

The immune system has the potential to eradicate cancer. But cancers are expert escape artists, with numerous tools for shutting down or hiding from immune attack. Three research teams at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have launched new projects aimed at revealing some of these secrets and laying the groundwork for developing better immune-harnessing cancer therapies, or immunotherapies.

The one- to two-year, early-stage research projects cover a range of malignancies: colorectal cancer, blood cancers and certain sarcomas. They were funded by Fred Hutch immunotherapy spinoff Juno Therapeutics, a Celgene company, through a competitive process overseen by the Hutch’s Immunotherapy Integrated Research Center.

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