Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center opened its doors 40 years ago with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and U.S. Senator Warren Magnuson, creator of the National Cancer Institute. On Tuesday, the Hutch plans to celebrate 40 Years of Cures with a Block Party, and the world is invited.
Event planners expect at least a thousand people will converge on the South Lake Union campus, for an afternoon of festivities, fun and games, and a science fair by Fred Hutch researchers. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the four decades of progress the Seattle-based research center has achieved since it developed bone marrow and blood stem cell transplantation as treatments for leukemia.
Guests will not want to miss the brand new Visitor Center, which tells the Fred Hutch story with moving tributes by patients, employees, and friends and family members of those who survived or died of cancer.
Dr. Gary Gilliland, who took the helm as president and director of Fred Hutch at the start of this year, will address the crowd and play host to a number of dignitaries who plan to speak at 5 p.m. They include:
Festivities will begin at 4 p.m. and will wrap up by 7 p.m. In addition to speeches, there will be four local food trucks and a cash-only Beer Garden. There are 32 tables with science demonstrations, exhibits, and games with prizes. Visitors will also have a chance to walk through Casper the colossal colon, a 10-foot high, 20-foot long section of inflatable plastic intestine, who spends most of his time at health fairs in Washington’s Lower Yakima Valley promoting colon cancer screening.
Kids of all ages might want the opportunity to take a selfie with Mariner Moose, the official mascot of the baseball team, but only until 5 p.m., when the creature heads off to Safeco Field for a game against the Los Angeles Angels.
Seattle parents with children who have missed school due to the teachers’ strike will have a chance to have them catch up on their science at dozens of exhibit tables.
Dr. Cecilia Moens of the Basic Sciences Division is among many Fred Hutch researchers eager to explain their work. Her table will feature dishes of living zebrafish embryos at different stages of development, as seen through stereomicroscopes that will show beating hearts and blood circulation.
“I’ve done this demonstration in schools and museums, and it never fails to captivate people,” said Moens.
Zebrafish are a fascinating “model organism” used by Hutch researchers in the Basic Sciences division, where crucial discoveries about the inner workings of cells could pay off in unexpected ways in the quest to understand and cure cancers. They are fascinating to study because their developing organs are practically transparent ― a defense that evolved to make them invisible to predators. So scientists can look inside them to how hearts and other organs develop, as they develop.
“With polarized light, you can make out the edges of things,” she said.
Moens studies zebrafish embryos to gain insight on how the central nervous systems of these tiny creatures are developed, processes that are similar to those of all vertebrates, including humans. Every zebrafish gene she studies has a counterpart in human beings.
The 40th Anniversary Block Party will be held at the Fred Hutch campus at 1100 Fairview Ave. N in Seattle, just across the street from the southern shores of beautiful Lake Union. Parking will be extremely limited, so guests are encouraged to plan a trip on mass transit. The campus is served by the South Lake Union Streetcar, and the #70 and #66 bus lines. There is a Pronto bike station nearby, and ADA accessible parking will be available on the campus.