Good News at Fred Hutch

Dr. Amanda Paulovich wins proteomic sciences award; Dr. David Coffey receives ASH research training award; endowed chair named in honor of the late Dr. Stephen Petersdorf

Dr. Amanda Paulovich
"It's really a team award," said Dr. Amanda Paulovich, a clinical researcher at the Hutch. Photo by Susie Fitzhugh / Fred Hutch file

Dr. Amanda Paulovich wins 2015 Distinguished Achievement in Proteomic Sciences Award 

The Human Proteome Organization has announced Dr. Amanda Paulovich as the winner of its 2015 Distinguished Achievement in Proteomic Sciences Award.

“This is a great honor and a testament to the hard work of my interdisciplinary team over the past 12 years. It is really a team award,” said Paulovich, who is a member of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Clinical Research Division, director of the Hutch’s Early Detection Initiative, and an associate professor in the Department of Medicine/Division of Oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The award recognizes a scientist for distinguished scientific achievements in the field of proteomics. It will be presented at HUPO 2015 Vancouver, the organization’s 14th annual worldwide meeting.

Paulovich and her lab have played a major role in the development of an efficient, high-powered, precise method to detect and measure proteins in biological samples, called multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry. Named “Method of the Year” for 2012 by Nature Methods, MRM-based proteomic assays have the potential to overcome a serious problem in biomedical research: a lack of reliable, standardizable tests for studying human proteins.

Proteins carry out most biological functions in the body –  including driving cancer –  and are the targets of most drugs. However, a lack of robust assay platforms for studying proteins has rendered the human proteome largely inaccessible to clinical research, which is an obstacle to developing novel diagnostics and therapeutics.

Widely available MRM-based proteomics assays, Paulovich envisions, will transform the research enterprise, increasing the reproducibility of preclinical research and greatly advancing the development of precision-medicine approaches to detect and treat disease.

Dr. David Coffey
Clinical researcher Dr. David Coffey aims to use his ASH award to help develop more effective treatments for Burkitt lymphoma in sub-Saharan Africa. Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch file

Dr. David Coffey receives 2015 ASH Research Training Award for Fellows

Dr. David Coffey, an acting instructor and senior fellow in the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch, has received a 2015 American Society of Hematology Research Training Award for Fellows, or RTAF. He is among seven new RTAF recipients announced this week by ASH, the world’s largest professional society concerned with the causes and treatment of blood disorders. 

Coffey will receive a one-year, $55,000 grant that will help support his clinical research in the laboratory of his mentor, Dr. Edus “Hootie” Warren.

He will use the grant to help fund a xenograft project in which he will transfer tissue from one species to another to create a disease model that can be studied in the laboratory.

Specifically, he plans to establish the first patient-derived xenograft mouse model of African Burkitt lymphoma, a highly aggressive, non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where its distribution is closely associated with malaria. While in the U.S. Burkitt lymphoma is highly curable, in Africa the survival outcomes are significantly worse, he said.

To build this xenograft mouse model, Coffey and colleagues plan to inject Burkitt lymphoma tumor cells from patients in Uganda into immunodeficient mice. Once they have gotten the cells to grow in the mice, they will perform molecular studies to evaluate how closely the xenograft mirrors the biology of the human tumors. Since cell lines grown in tissue-culture systems poorly resemble the original cancer, they hope this mouse model provides a more realistic representation of the disease in humans.

Additionally, since the tumor cells can be transferred from mouse to mouse, the xenograft can potentially provide the researchers with an unlimited supply of tumor cells for future experiments.

“In the end, we believe that an improved understanding of the biology of African Burkitt lymphoma will enable more effective therapy for this disease, the most common pediatric cancer in sub-Saharan Africa,” Coffey said.

Dr. Stephen Petersdorf
Dr. Stephen Petersdorf was a faculty member at UW Medicine and practiced at Fred Hutch's treatment arm, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, where he specialized in the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma.

Endowed Chair in Cancer Care renamed after Dr. Stephen H. Petersdorf

The Endowed Chair in Cancer Care at UW Medicine was recently renamed to honor its previous holder, Dr. Stephen H. Petersdorf, who passed away from colon cancer in June 2014.

“Nobody’s more deserving to have a chair named after them; he left a huge legacy here and it’s a true honor,” said Dr. Oliver Press, acting senior vice president and director of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch, and Petersdorf’s colleague and friend of 30 years.

The Stephen H. Petersdorf Endowed Chair in Cancer Care recognizes the qualities of an outstanding physician and teacher: excellence in patient care, teaching and communication.  UW Medicine renamed this chair to honor Petersdorf’s commitment to high-quality patient care.

“He became the doctor who most doctors went to,” Press said. “He had a tremendous fund of knowledge both in hematologic malignancies and for a while he managed a lot of solid tumors as well. It’s amazing the number of UW Medical School faculty members who went to him. I think that speaks volumes about the quality of his care and his ability to interact with patients.”  

Petersdorf was a faculty member of UW Medicine for more than 25 years and practiced at Fred Hutch’s treatment arm, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, where he specialized in the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma. His wife, Dr. Effie Wang Petersdorf, is a faculty member in the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch and a medical oncologist at UW. All three of their sons have interned at the Hutch.  

This chair is the second to be named after a Petersdorf physician, the first being the Robert G. Petersdorf Endowed Chair in Medicine, named after Stephen Petersdorf’s father, who was the chair of the Department of Medicine at the UW School of Medicine for 15 years. They are the only father and son to both have chairs in their name at the medical school.

“It is heartening to know that my father will be recognized for his resolute dedication and service to others,” said his son, Andrew Petersdorf.. “I am grateful that the University of Washington is remembering him and my grandfather with such distinguished honors.”

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