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Celebrating faculty and staff achievements

Dec. 14, 2017

Dr. David MacPherson

Dr. David MacPherson is one of two Hutch researchers who have received Evergreen Fund grants for the second consecutive year; the other is Dr. Taran Gujral. Both are based in the Human Biology Division.

Fred Hutch file photo

Nine Fred Hutch scientists win Evergreen Fund grants to promote commercialization of research

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has announced awards totaling $1 million to nine of its scientists through the Evergreen Fund, a unique grant program that supports homegrown research projects deemed attractive to potential commercial partners.

This is the second year of Evergreen Fund awards. Fred Hutch’s Business Development & Strategy office created the program in 2016 to encourage scientists to pursue creative ideas with commercial appeal. Roughly $1 million in awards are distributed each year. The ultimate goal is to speed research from the bench to the bedside by advancing discoveries along a milestone-driven path that better positions the foundational science for licensing or venture funding. 

Hilary Hehman, director of Strategic Partnerships and Alliances within Business Development & Strategy, said the program highlights the Hutch’s commitment to funding bold innovations that demonstrate commercial potential.

“We are committed to forging partnerships with industry and venture firms as a means of getting our science to the patient as quickly as possible,' she said.

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Experimental drug makes some pancreatic cancers more vulnerable to chemo

Early trial shows possibility of knocking down a ‘daunting’ cancer’s defense

Dec. 12, 2017 | by Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service

Photo of Dr. Sunil Hingorani

Dr. Sunil Hingorani led a clinical trial of an experimental drug called PEGPH20 that lowers the extremely high pressures within pancreatic tumors that keep chemo out.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Editor's note: This story was first published in June 2017, when the results of this study were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology. It has been updated to reflect the researchers' publication of their results in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Researchers like Dr. Sunil Hingorani who have chosen to take on pancreatic cancer face an intimidating foe, one that swiftly claims patient lives as it races through the body like wildfire and mounts tough defenses against cancer-killing therapies.

“No cancer,” said Hingorani, “is more daunting than pancreas cancer.”

An experimental drug Hingorani helped develop to knock down one of the many defenses that make this cancer so fearsome shows continued potential today as his team publishes the results of their Phase 2 trial of the strategy. Hingorani and colleagues reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that in certain metastatic pancreatic cancer patients, adding the drug to a standard chemo regimen lengthened the time patients had before their cancer progressed by an average of four months ― a notable increase in this cancer.

The team's results, Hingorani said, reassure him that it was the right move to advance the drug, called PEGPH20, into the worldwide Phase 3 trial that opened last year.

“We still haven’t fully proven anything yet, strictly speaking,” cautioned Hingorani, who is the Phase 2 trial’s leader and a faculty member at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “But I think [this strategy] is very rational. Let me put it this way: I think it would be irresponsible not to finish the global Phase 3 trial as the most rigorous test of this hypothesis. I think we’re obligated now to answer the question.”

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New insights into CAR T-cell therapy's potential side effects

Detailed study of cytokine release syndrome and neurologic toxicities could help make emerging cancer immunotherapies safer

Dec. 11, 2017 | By Fred Hutch staff

Dr. Cameron Turtle

Dr. Cameron Turtle and his colleagues led detailed studies of the potential side effects of a Fred Hutch-developed CAR T-cell therapy, a type of immunotherapy in which immune cells are engineered to target a patient's cancer.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 11, 2017 and has been updated to reflect a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology on Dec. 11.

New research from teams at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center provide the most comprehensive data yet reported on side effects of the emerging cancer immunotherapy strategy known as CAR T-cell therapy.

Based on their data from 133 adult participants in one clinical trial, the researchers identified potential biomarkers associated with the development of the toxic effects, known as cytokine release syndrome and neurotoxicity. They also created algorithms aimed at identifying the rare patients whose symptoms were most likely to turn life-threatening. 

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Health disparities may affect end-of-life experiences of minority blood cancer patients

A new study finds ethnic and racial minorities with leukemia or lymphoma are more likely to die in hospital, receive aggressive care in last weeks of life than white patients

Dec. 11, 2017 | By Rachel Tompa / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Kedar Kirtane in front of his computer

Fred Hutch and University of Washington fellow Dr. Kedar Kirtane led a study of racial minorities with blood cancer and how they may have different end-of-life experiences than do white patients.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

When it comes to cancer, racial minorities face higher barriers to care than do white patients. Now, research shows that those health disparities might extend even to where and how patients die.

A new study of nearly 9,500 blood cancer patients who were treated at a UW Medicine hospital and later died revealed that racial and ethnic minority patients have a different experience at the end of their lives than do their white counterparts.

The study found that these patients were more likely to receive aggressive care in the last 30 days of life and to die in the hospital than non-Hispanic white patients. They were also less likely to have documents on file detailing their end-of-life wishes.

These findings are disturbing but not necessarily surprising to those in the health disparities research field, said Dr. Kedar Kirtane, a blood cancer researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington and lead author on the study. Other researchers had made similar observations of health disparities at end-of-life in patients with solid tumors, but for hematologic malignancies, which include leukemias and lymphomas, there’s less research on how minority patients with these diseases die.

Slowly over the last couple years, there’s been more of a recognition of trying to figure out if those disparities exist [for patients with blood cancer] and subsequently to figure out what to do about them,” said Kirtane, who is a fellow in the UW/Fred Hutch Hematology-Oncology Fellowship Program.

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‘Remarkable’ distinctions in pediatric leukemia point toward improved treatment

Big new study in pediatric and young adult acute myeloid leukemia warns against ‘trickle-down therapeutics’

Dec. 11, 2017 | By Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service

gif animated illustration depicting stylized child figures constructed out of DNA double helices. In the animation, portions of the children's DNA lights up in different colors. In the background are larger adult figures.

A new study shows "amazing, distinct patterns" in the genomes of young patients with acute myeloid leukemia that have major implications for how the cancer is treated in children and young adults.

Animated illustration by Kim Carney / Fred Hutch News Service

Editor’s note: Look for a follow-up story next week about how big data is advancing cancer research studies like this one.

The first-ever comprehensive effort to characterize acute myeloid leukemia in children and young adults found key differences between the molecular signatures of the disease in these young patients and the cancer of the same name that affects the old.

With such differences in play, researchers said, it doesn’t make sense to assume that AML therapies developed for the elderly will work for younger patients — as doctors have been doing for four decades.

These differences are “remarkable,” said lead researcher and pediatric AML specialist Dr. Soheil Meshinchi of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “The whole idea of ‘trickle-down therapeutics’ — where you identify drugs in 60- or 70-year-olds and eventually this will help the 25-, 35-year-olds — this really does not hold true because those [targetable mutations] that are prevalent in older adults are either nonexistent or very rare in the younger population.”

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Poor quality of life in 1 in 5 caregivers of bone marrow transplant survivors

Largest-ever study IDs risk factors, paves way for interventions to help

Dec. 9, 2017 | By Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service

photo of Benny Juarez with his arm around Kristin Kleinhofer

Benny Juarez was a primary caregiver of his girlfriend, Kristin Kleinhofer, during her treatment for relapsed leukemia.

Photo courtesy of Kristin Kleinhofer

“When I heard you were doing a caregiver survey, I thought, ‘Finally — someone cares.’”

“There are times when you want to say ‘I’m done!’ but you have to keep going.”

“Being a caregiver was one of the most challenging and rewarding roles I’ve played in my life. It truly brought my husband and me closer, and we share something special from what we faced in our later 20s to early 30s.”

Being the caregiver of a loved one with a serious illness can be a tough job, both physically and emotionally. And as revealed by these quotes from anonymous caregivers in a new study, it’s a role that’s often under the radar despite its importance for patients’ well-being.

Today, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center presented the results of this study, the largest ever, on the well-being of informal caregivers — mostly spouses — of cancer survivors who had received a blood stem cell or bone marrow transplant.

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