Good News at Fred Hutch

Dr. Roland Walter receives two grant awards for acute leukemia research; Dr. Jonathan Bricker to keynote behavioral therapy conference; Dr. Benjamin Anderson chairs NCCN committee that publishes clinical-practice guidelines for cervical cancer
Dr. Roland Walter
Dr. Roland Walter Fred Hutch file photo

Dr. Roland Walter receives grants from Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for acute leukemia research

Dr. Roland Walter, a clinical researcher at Fred Hutch, has received two awards to develop new treatments for acute leukemia: one from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, or ALSF, and another from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or LLS.

From the ALSF, Walter received a 2015 Innovation Award Grant. He is among 22 investigators to receive such funding, which will provide him with $250,000 over the next two years.

From the LLS, he received a Translational Research Program Award for $600,000 over the next three years.

Both awards will support Walter’s research on developing new antibody-based treatments for acute leukemia, which are blood cancers from which many children and adults will eventually die despite aggressive therapies. There is thus a critical need for new drugs for these tumors.

For more than 30 years, proteins (so-called "antibodies") that recognize tumor cells have been envisioned as “magic bullets” for cancer patients but so far have been largely ineffective against acute leukemias. One strategy to render antibodies more active is to modify them so that they recognize leukemia cells and, simultaneously, normal immune cells (typically T-cell lymphocytes), which then selectively kill the attached cancer cell.

Promising results with one "bispecific" antibody, blinatumomab, were recently reported in some patients with acute leukemia who had failed intensive chemotherapy. However, because of their small size, these antibodies are quickly eliminated by the kidneys and need to be given via infusion pump over several weeks. Also, for unknown reasons, about half of the patients still do not benefit from these antibodies.

“Recognizing these limitations, our goal is to develop novel, highly active bispecific antibodies that have longer half-lives and can be given in a simple and safe fashion in the clinic,” Walter said.

Through studying how exactly these bispecific antibodies kill leukemia cells, Walter and colleagues will not only better understand which patients are most appropriate for these agents but also be able to develop combination treatments that may overcome resistance so that more patients can benefit from them.

“Together, by optimizing bispecific antibodies, our investigations have the potential to significantly improve the treatment options and outcomes for patients with acute leukemia,” he said.

Fred Hutch research collaborators will include Drs. Jim Olson, Christopher Mehlin and Colin Correnti from the Olson Lab (Clinical Research Division), Dr. Roland Strong (Basic Sciences Division) and Dr. Benjamin Hoffstrom of the antibody-development facility in Shared Resources.

Initial funding for this work was made possible by a pilot award from the Bezos family (sic) Immunotherapy Initiative.

"Especially at times when federal research funding is very limited, our work depends on support from philanthropic sources and foundations," Walter said.

Dr. Jonathan Bricker
Dr. Jonathan Bricker Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Jonathan Bricker to keynote Washington Innovators in Behavioral Therapy conference

Dr. Jonathan Bricker, a psychologist and scientist in Fred Hutch’s Public Health Sciences Division, will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Washington Innovators in Behavioral Therapy conference, which will take place Sept. 11-12 at the Talaris Conference Center in Seattle.

Bricker, president of the Washington Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, the event sponsor, will speak about the future of the science and practice of behavioral therapy.

The event is geared toward professionals in human resources, mental health, and patient care who are interested in learning about the latest behavioral approaches for helping clients make positive changes.

At the all-inclusive conference, which will be held at an 18-acre retreat near downtown Seattle, attendees will have an opportunity to build and sharpen their clinical skills in leading approaches to behavioral therapies such as Bricker’s specialty, acceptance, and commitment therapy, or ACT.

At Fred Hutch, Bricker is evaluating the effectiveness of such therapy to help people quit smoking and other behaviors. ACT focuses on increasing the willingness to experience physical cravings, emotions and thoughts that trigger such behaviors – to accept one’s cravings and just let them dissipate rather than viewing them as enemies to be conquered.

The conference will also explore the latest innovations in other treatment modalities, including mindfulness and compassion-focused therapy.

Note: For $100 off the registration cost, enter promo code UWASH-2015.

Dr. Benjamin Anderson
Dr. Benjamin Anderson Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Benjamin Anderson chairs NCCN committee that publishes clinical-practice guidelines for cervical cancer

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, or NCCN, has published the NCCN Framework for Resource Stratification of NCCN Guidelines for Cervical Cancer. The NCCN Framework guides evidence-based adaptation to available clinical treatment resources.

The NCCN Guidelines are used widely around the world, including in a number of low- and middle-income countries where certain diagnostic tests and/or treatment approaches may be unavailable. The goal of the NCCN Framework is to define appropriate treatment pathways at four resource levels — basic limited, enhanced and maximal — and deliver a tool for health care providers to identify treatment options that will provide the best possible outcomes given specific resource constraints.

“NCCN is presenting a framework to help health care planners prioritize their use of cancer treatment resources in limited-resource settings and assist policymakers in outlining cancer-control plans that are data-driven, evidence-based blueprints for action,” said Dr. Benjamin O. Anderson, a global oncology implementation researcher in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch and a professor of surgery and global health medicine at the University of Washington who chairs the NCCN International Program Committee. “As such, the NCCN Framework furthers NCCN’s mission to improve the lives of people with cancer around the globe,” he said.

The NCCN Framework outlines a rational approach for building cancer-management systems to provide the highest achievable level of care for stage-specific cancers by applying available or attainable tests and treatments. In addition, the NCCN Framework can be used to define strategic pathways for growth by illustrating how new resources or tools introduced in a stepwise fashion can optimally improve on current best-practice models and cancer outcomes.

The four levels of NCCN Framework resources are defined as:

Basic: Essential services needed to provide a basic, minimal standard of care.

Limited: Services that provide major improvements in disease outcomes, such as survival, which are not cost-prohibitive.

Enhanced: Services that provide lesser improvements in disease outcomes, or services that offer major improvements in disease outcomes but are cost-prohibitive at lower-resource levels.

Maximal: Services that do not provide improvement in disease outcomes but are desirable, or services that provide minor improvements in disease outcomes but are cost-prohibitive in lower-resource settings.

Fred Hutch and its treatment arm, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, are member institutions of NCCN, a not-for-profit alliance of 26 of the world’s leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research and education.

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