A national search for a new director for the Public Health Sciences Division led home to the Hutchinson Center. Dr. Garnet Anderson, a biostatistician and lead researcher in the Women's Health Initiative will become the new senior vice president and PHS director. She will assume the role Jan. 1, 2013, when Dr. Ross Prentice steps down after 25 years as division director.
Anderson, principal investigator of the Fred Hutch-based WHI Clinical Coordinating Center, joined PHS in 1989 and is a member of its Cancer Prevention Research and Biostatistics/Biomathematics programs.
Among the WHI's many contributions to women's health, the most prominent was its JAMA report in 2002 that combined estrogen-plus-progestin hormone-replacement therapy increases a woman's risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease. This finding quickly decreased the use of hormone therapy nationwide by about 50 percent, which led to a significant, sustained decline in breast cancer rates starting in 2003.
"Through the WHI, Anderson and colleagues have made a major impact on our understanding and prevention of breast cancer and other major diseases," said Dr. Larry Corey, president and director. "The WHI trials led to sweeping changes in clinical practice-changes that have led to about 15,000 fewer women developing invasive breast cancer each year in the U.S." Worldwide, the decreased use of hormone therapy has resulted in additional reductions in breast cancer incidence by tens of thousands of cases per year.
One of the largest U.S. prevention studies of its kind, the WHI was launched in 1991 as a $625 million national program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health to address the most frequent causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in older women. It involved more than 161,000 postmenopausal women in a set of clinical trials and an observational study designed to test the effects of hormone therapy, diet, and calcium and vitamin D supplementation on heart disease, fractures, and breast and colorectal cancer. While those studies ended in 2002 and 2005, more than 93,000 WHI participants continue to provide health information that is being used to investigate a variety of key women's health questions. Last year Anderson and colleagues received $54.5 million from the NIH for continued coordination of the study through 2015.
Anderson has been central figure in the WHI at Fred Hutch since the launch of the study in the early '90s. She has played a major role in clinical-trial design and in overseeing implementation of data-management and quality-control activities for this immense and complex undertaking. She became co-principal investigator of the WHI Clinical Coordinating Center, with Prentice, in 2008 and the sole principal investigator in 2011.
She is also associate director for Cancer Control and Prevention of the Southwest Oncology Group Statistical Center and an affiliate professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Washington.
Anderson, who received her doctorate in biostatistics from UW, will be the third PHS division director in the 37-year history of Fred Hutch. Biostatistician Prentice served in that capacity from the establishment of the division in 1983 until 2002, and again from 2007 until the present. Cancer epidemiologist Dr. John Potter led the division from 2002-2007.