Good News at Fred Hutch

Celebrating faculty and staff achievements, and other notable news
Group photo of bone marrow transplant survivors
Group photo from the Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion held on the Fred Hutch campus this past July. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Fred Hutch Bone Marrow Transplant Program receives top recognition for third consecutive year

The Fred Hutch Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance has earned recognition by the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR) for outperforming its expected one-year survival rates for allogeneic transplant patients — those who receive donated adult blood-forming stem cells. This recognition is held by only 17 of 173 stem cell transplant programs nationwide.

“We are pleased at this recognition for the work being done in Seattle, and to see the science pioneered at Fred Hutch helping thousands of patients each year is incredibly inspiring,” said Dr. Gary Gilliland, president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “Across the nation, this is our hope, as physicians, to see so many patients surviving at high rates.”

This top ranking is reported in the 2015 Transplant Center-Specific Survival Report, published by CIBMTR. The report is based on survival outcomes gathered over a three-year period from the National Marrow Donor Program registry.

Stem cell transplantation uses blood-forming cells from a donor who may or may not be related to the patient. Stem cell transplants, including bone marrow transplants, are used to treat a range of leukemia and lymphoma types, as well as other diseases such as severe aplastic anemia and sickle cell disease. 

Fred Hutch researchers pioneered the clinical use of bone marrow and stem cell transplantation more than 40 years ago. The transplant program at SCCA, the Hutch’s patient care arm, has performed more than 14,000 bone marrow transplants — more than any other institution in the world.

To arrive at its findings, CIBMTR independently examined the survival rates of 22,174 transplant patients treated for blood cancers at U.S. centers in the National Marrow Donor Program network. The most recent reporting period covered Jan. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2013. During this three-year period, 801 allogeneic transplants were performed at SCCA. The report, published annually, is required by federal law and is designed to provide potential stem cell transplant recipients, their families and the public with comparative survival rates among transplant centers.

Fred Hutch bone marrow and stem cell transplant pioneer Dr. E. Donnall Thomas won the Nobel Prize in 1990 for developing the technique as a cure for leukemias and other blood diseases. Many of the current SCCA and Fred Hutch transplantation experts, as well as clinicians and researchers at other transplant programs around the world, were trained by Thomas, including Dr. Fred Appelbaum. A world expert in blood cancers, Appelbaum is executive director and president of SCCA and deputy director and executive vice president of Fred Hutch.
“For the third year in a row, our transplant program provided our patients with a higher chance of survival as compared to the vast majority of transplant centers nationwide,” said Appelbaum, who came to Fred Hutch in 1978 to work with Thomas to steadily improve the transplant process. “This reflects the outstanding work of SCCA and Fred Hutch researchers and staff, and we share this honor with them.”

Over the past four decades, Fred Hutch researchers have not only pioneered transplantation as a cure for many diseases but also have continued to refine the procedure, which has been performed on more than 1 million people worldwide. These refinements include improvements in infection control and the development of new treatments for post-transplant complications. Today, more than 50,000 patients are transplanted annually, about 500 of whom are treated at SCCA.

Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals
Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals is the 51st Hutch Award recipient.

St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright named 51st Hutch Award winner

Adam Wainwright, a Major League Baseball star pitcher who also hurls his energy into humanitarian causes, has won the 51st annual Hutch Award.

A veteran starter for the St. Louis Cardinals, Wainwright will accept the honor at the 2016 Hutch Award Luncheon, which will be held Jan. 27 at Safeco Field in Seattle — home city of big league pitcher and manager Fred Hutchinson and the cancer research center that bears his name. For the 2016 award ceremony, former Boston Red Sox catcher and Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk will deliver the keynote address.

Off the field, Wainwright provides sustainable, safe water for people in developing countries. He lends his time to Big League Impact Inc., a nonprofit organization that raises money to supply food, water, medical care and shelter to reignite hope and health in villages around the world. His assistance has helped people in Uganda, Liberia, the Philippines, Haiti and Honduras.

On the diamond, Wainwright has notched two 20-win seasons and two 19-win seasons — building a 55-32 record since undergoing elbow surgery in 2011. In 2006, his rookie year, Wainwright came out of the Cardinals’ bullpen to save the two games that clinched both the National League Championship Series and the World Series for St. Louis.

The Hutch Award is given each year to a player who exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of Fred Hutchinson. For more information about the Hutch Award, including a list of past recipients, visit

Uganda Minister of Health Elioda Tumwesigye and Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland
Uganda's Minister of Health, Elioda Tumwesigye, visits the Fred Hutch campus in Seattle on Dec. 7, where he met with the Hutch's President and Director, Dr. Gary Gilliland, among others. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Uganda’s Minister of Health visits Fred Hutch

Ugandan Minister of Health Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye visited Fred Hutch Dec. 7, and the visit was personal for him, as both of his parents died of cancer. His mother died of stomach cancer and his father passed away from leukemia, Tumwesigye told Hutch and Ugandan researchers. The roundtable meeting with the minister included Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland; HIV researcher Dr. Julie McElrath, senior vice president and director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division; Global Oncology Director Dr. Corey Casper and visiting Ugandan trainees Drs. Nixon Niyonzima and Margaret Lubwama.

Fred Hutch’s work since 2004 to improve cancer care and treatment in Uganda — and, ultimately, in other countries of sub-Saharan Africa — holds a special place in his heart, the minister said. He’d recently visited the newly opened Uganda Cancer Institute-Fred Hutch Cancer Centre in Kampala, Uganda. So when Tumwesigye planned a visit to Seattle, he knew he wanted to meet some of the people who’d helped build the alliance between the two cancer centers.

“I can’t reach Seattle and not go to Fred Hutch because of what you are doing for Uganda. I came here to thank you for the support that you are giving us, in terms of training and research, but also in terms of infrastructure. This building changed the skyline,” Tumwesigye said, and it gives new hope to the many cancer patients in need in his country. “There’s nothing as precious as saving a person’s life. The work that you are doing is saving thousands of lives, but ultimately will save millions of lives.”

During the meeting, Gilliland, McElrath, and Casper described the Hutch and some of its global oncology and other international research projects to the minister. Casper’s research focuses primarily on infection-associated cancers, diseases like Burkitt lymphoma, which is triggered by the Epstein-Barr virus. Burkitt lymphoma is the most common childhood cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and, despite the existence of effective therapies, is often deadly. Through the Burkitt Lymphoma Project Casper and his colleagues initiated at the UCI in 2012, children with this disease have gone from having a 30 percent chance of surviving a year past treatment to a nearly 70 percent chance, Casper said.

That project’s success is just a stepping stone toward better treatment and prevention strategies for children with Burkitt lymphoma and people with cancers caused by viruses and bacteria all around the world, he said.

“We actually think we have the technology right now to be able to eliminate or better treat these [diseases],” Casper said. “It’s not something that is many decades in our future. We think that if we put a concerted effort into these particular cancers we can really make a difference in all of our lifetimes.”

Ugandan toy drive recipient Musoke Muhamudu, a patient at the Uganda Cancer Institute
Musoke Muhamudu, a patient at the Uganda Cancer Institute, with his new toy helicopter. Photo by Linda Cherepow / Fred Hutch Global Oncology Program

Fred Hutch Global Oncology Program hosts toy drive for pediatric cancer patients in Uganda

This month, the world became a little smaller when children being treated at Fred Hutch’s cancer care and research partner institution, the Uganda Cancer Institute, each received a new toy donated by the Fred Hutch community.  The head of pediatric oncology for the UCI, Dr. Joyce Kambugu, said, “It was an amazing experience. The mood on the ward was high … I just want to say, on behalf of all of us that look after the children here at the UCI a big thank you.”

In November, the Fred Hutch Global Oncology Program hosted a toy drive, asking Fred Hutch colleagues for donations of small- to medium-sized toys that could be carried over to Kampala to bring some holiday cheer to the children with cancer, many of whom come from poor families that can barely afford the transportation costs and food to sustain their children while they are being treated, let alone toys to brighten their spirits. 

The Seattle-based Global Oncology Program staff hoped to collect at least one toy for every child. “We were touched by the strong support from across the Seattle campus and beyond – with toys being donated by Fred Hutch staff, families, and friends far and wide,” said Sarah Ewart, managing director of the program, which is based in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division. “Colleagues from across campus contacted me asking how they could help support us.  As the donations poured in, my office [the collection point] began to look like a toy store. We were overwhelmed by and grateful for everyone’s generosity, and so were our UCI colleagues.”

This month, three Global Oncology staff transported the first round of toys to Kampala – including those given to the children – and the rest of the toys will be delivered in January.  From these donations, the UCI is starting a small play area with some of the toys that they will keep.

“We collected so many toys that every child on the cancer ward will be able to receive a toy for months to come,” Ewart said.

The Global Oncology Program is talking about making this toy drive an annual tradition, she said.

“The Uganda Cancer Institute may be 9,000 miles away from Seattle, but Fred Hutch’s generosity this holiday season brought us a lot closer together.”

For more information about the UCI/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance, click here.

Dr. Ollie Press in his lab
Dr. Ollie Press Fred Hutch file

Dr. Oliver Press editor of hematology textbook

Dr. Oliver Press is among seven editors of the ninth edition of Williams Hematology, the classic textbook of blood disorders, published this month. In more than 2,500 pages, the comprehensive text covers the anatomy and physiology of blood-cell–generating tissues, the structure and function of blood and immune cells, the treatment of blood disorders and more.

A clinician and researcher specializing in blood cancers, Press is acting senior vice president and director of the Hutch’s Clinical Research Division and the Dr. Penny E. Petersen Memorial Chair for Lymphoma Research. He is also a professor of medicine and bioengineering at the University of Washington.

“It has been a pleasure to participate as an editor in the production of this authoritative textbook, which I believe will be a great resource for medical students, residents, fellows, and practicing hematologists and oncologists,” Press said. He is the first Fred Hutch faculty member to edit Williams Hematology.

Press is widely recognized for his immunotherapy research in blood cancers, particularly for his development of targeted therapies known as radioimmunotherapies. Radioimmunotherapy employs molecules called antibodies to deliver radioactive particles straight to cancer cells, killing the cancer cells with high doses of radiation while protecting healthy cells from the toxicity inherent in conventional radiation approaches.

Press has been working on the textbook for three years. He joins an international group of editors who hail from Stony Brook University, the University of Rochester Medical Center, the University of Utah, Prague’s Charles University, the University of Amsterdam, the (U.S.) National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match, and the James Cancer Hospital & Solove Research Institute at The Ohio State University.

In addition to his general editorial role, Press was the main editor for 21 chapters and was an author of four: “General Considerations for Lymphoma,” and one chapter each on Hodgkin lymphoma, follicular lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Drs. Carolina Berger and Stanley Riddell, both clinical researchers at Fred Hutch, also co-authored a chapter on immune-cell therapy. 

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