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Good News at Fred Hutch

Dr. Jim Olson's Tumor Paint advances to clinical trial for children with brain cancer; Dr. Li Hsu delivers annual Prentice Lecture; Dr. Jesse Bloom receives Burroughs Wellcome award

June 5, 2015
Dr. Jim Olson

Dr. Jim Olson, inventor of Tumor Paint drug BLZ-100.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

First clinical trial of Tumor Paint for children with brain cancer launches this week

The "Tumor Paint" drug, BLZ-100, developed by Blaze Bioscience based on technology licensed from Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s and the University of Washington, for the first time is being tested in children with brain cancer.

Patient enrollment for the phase 1 clinical trial, which is open to infants through young adults up to age 30, launched this week at Seattle Children’s.

Complete removal of a brain tumor in surgery is the greatest predictor of survival. However, tumor cells are difficult to distinguish from healthy cells in surgery, and the removal of healthy brain tissue can lead to serious, long-term side effects. The new drug aims to enable better detection and surgical removal of solid tumors without injuring healthy tissue.

“Tumor Paint has the potential to completely revolutionize surgical oncology,” said inventor Dr. Jim Olson, a clinical researcher at Fred Hutch and co-founder of Blaze Bioscience who is also a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Seattle Children’s. 

“My patients inspired me to invent this technology, because for many, a complete surgical resection means the difference between life and death. It also means that some patients need only half as much radiation to their brain," he said. "We began this work in my lab a decade ago and nothing is more rewarding than seeing this technology reach pediatric patients for the first time through the launch of this clinical trial.”

The drug, which is administered intravenously prior to surgery, acts as a molecular flashlight that binds to tumor cells and makes them glow, providing surgeons with real-time, high-resolution visualization of cancer cells.

”In addition to potentially improving surgical outcomes, BLZ-100 has the added potential to greatly increase the quality of life for children by reducing treatment-related damage to the healthy brain,” said Dr. Sarah Leary, principal investigator of the trial and an oncologist at Seattle Children’s.

“In the future, I think we’ll look back and wonder how these surgeries were ever done without the lights on,” she said.

The study was made possible through funding from Gateway for Cancer Research.

Dr. Li Hsu

Dr. Li Hsu is a biostatistician at the Hutch.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Li Hsu delivers annual Ross L. Prentice Lecture

Longtime Fred Hutch biostatistician Dr. Li Hsu, the 2015 Ross L. Prentice Endowed Professor of Biostatistical Collaboration, presented the annual Ross L. Prentice Lecture Thursday in Pelton Auditorium on the Hutch campus. 

The lecture is a joint presentation of Fred Hutch's Public Health Sciences Division and the University of Washington's Department of Biostatistics and is named in honor of Dr. Ross Prentice, director emeritus of the PHS Division and a biostatistics professor at UW.

A Hutch faculty member since 2005 (she joined as a postdoc in 1994), Hsu said the honor came as a quite a surprise.

“I had no clue I was even being considered as a possible candidate [for the Prentice Professorship],” she said. “When I got the email from the UW, I was shocked.”

Hsu, also an affiliate professor of biostatistics at UW, spoke on “Survival Analysis for Population-Based Case-Control Studies,” a topic near and dear to her heart.

“I’ve been working on this type of data and problem since I’ve worked here at the Hutch,” she said. “And I also wanted to honor Ross’ work. Ross has made seminal contributions on related topics and I thought this would be a nice topic to talk about, particularly for a Prentice lecture.”

Hsu said she loves the challenges the research at Fred Hutch offers.

“I like to solve problems. I like it when there’s a challenge and I don’t know the answers and am trying to figure out what to do,” she said. “And I feel like observational studies like case-control studies have a lot of challenging issues, which give me the opportunity to push just a little bit.”

Hsu has published 140 articles and book chapters in peer-reviewed journals in areas including survival analysis and genetic epidemiologic research for population-based studies. She is the principal investigator of Statistical Methods in Genetic Epidemiologic studies, and a project leader for a program grant on Statistical Methods in Medical Studies, of which Prentice is principal investigator.  

The Prentice Professorship was created at UW in 2005. Past Prentice Professors include Drs. Thomas Fleming, Robert C. Gentleman, Peter Gilbert, Elizabeth "Betz" Halloran, James Hughes, Ira Longini, Margaret Pepe and Steve Self.

Dr. Jesse Bloom

Dr. Jesse Bloom is an evolutionary biologist at Fred Hutch.

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Jesse Bloom receives Burroughs Wellcome award

Evolutionary biologist Dr. Jesse Bloom is among 12 early-stage investigators to win an Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, a private foundation that supports biomedical research and education in the U.S. The awards were announced Wednesday.

Bloom will receive $500,000 over five years to directly support his research on the interplay between the human immune system and the influenza virus. He and his team use computational and sophisticated genetic sequencing approaches to understand flu’s rapid evolution. The award will allow them to comprehensively profile how the human immune proteins known as antibodies target influenza during infection, and better forecast how the virus evolves to escape those antibodies. A better understanding of influenza’s evolution could help guide more-precise vaccine development.

“It's a great honor,” Bloom said. In addition to the funding, the BWF hosts networking meetings for awardees.

“Their funding will be incredibly helpful to my research, and I also look forward to getting to know the other scientists in the program,” he said.


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