In late 2015, a multidisciplinary research team led by Dr. Johanna Lampe of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was awarded $2.8 million to study how diet modifies cascades of molecular signals in humans and in their gut microbes.
In this four-year study funded by the National Cancer Institute, the researchers will compare a large number of diverse molecular signals between participants eating specific diets. Diet is known to affect cancer risk, but the complex interactions between dietary patterns, cancer risk and gut bacteria are not clear.
The team will analyze proteins and markers of metabolism in blood, including many known to be related to cancer risk. They will also study the microbes present in stool and the genetic signaling switched on within them. The team’s large-scale “omics” approach will also enable them to discern the relationships within these complex signaling networks.
The researchers aim to integrate three different approaches: metabolomics, proteomics and the study of the gut microbial community, said Lampe, a cancer prevention researcher who is a member of Fred Hutch’s Public Health Sciences Division. “We are taking advantage of the 'omics' approach to be hypothesis-generating, finding things we hadn’t thought of as being affected by diet.”
The researchers will analyze stored blood and stool samples from a 2012 study conducted by Lampe, Fred Hutch nutrition researcher Dr. Marian Neuhouser and collaborators. In this earlier study, the research team fed participants two different diets for a month each: a typical American diet featuring a lot of processed carbohydrates, and a high-fiber diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables.
A particular strength of the new study is that it analyzes the effects of entire dietary patterns, not just one particular food, Lampe said. The study also provides “a great opportunity” for the researchers to develop computational methods that could be applied in similar omics studies in the future, she said.
Besides Lampe and Neuhouser, other Fred Hutch faculty members on the multidisciplinary research team are nutritional sciences expert Dr. Mario Kratz, translational researcher Dr. Paul Lampe, microbial ecologist Dr. Meredith Hullar and biostatistician Dr. Tim Randolph. Metabolomics expert Dr. Dan Raftery and biostatistician Dr. Ali Shojaie join the team from the University of Washington.
— By Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service
Dr. John D. Potter, director emeritus of the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch, has been appointed chief science adviser to the New Zealand Ministry of Health. Potter, who is a member of the PHS Division and serves as a senior adviser to Fred Hutch, is also on the faculty of the Centre for Public Health Research of Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand.
Sir Peter Gluckman, chief science adviser to the New Zealand prime minister, in a statement said, “I am delighted that the Ministry of Health has appointed a science adviser -- it adds immensely to the capacity of our evolving science and advisory system. John Potter is an outstanding appointment, with a depth of experience and an ideal skill set for the role. I look forward to working with him as we collectively work to improve the use of evidence in policy development and evaluation."
Potter, an internationally renowned cancer prevention researcher, noted that New Zealand’s health care infrastructure has many strengths, but there are areas where further attention to prevention and early detection are needed. Addressing childhood obesity and improving colorectal cancer screening are examples of where important action is already underway, he said.
“I see this appointment as an opportunity to respond with science input on policy already under consideration and on questions drawn from my own research and experience,” he said, adding, "both of these are in my new job description."
Potter’s research has been aimed at understanding the risk and biology of colorectal, breast and pancreatic cancers, developing biomarkers for screening and early detection, and monitoring cancer progression in high-risk individuals.
Potter, who began his new role today, is also a professor emeritus of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine. His international awards include receiving the 2012 Medal of Honour of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.
— By Kristen Woodward / Fred Hutch News Service
Dr. Julia Maxson, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Clinical Research Division, has been named a recipient of the American Society of Hematology 2016 Scholar Awards. One of ASH’s most prestigious award programs, the ASH Scholar Awards financially support fellows and junior faculty dedicated to careers in hematology research as they transition from training programs to careers as independent investigators.
Maxson, who is co-mentored on this project by Dr. Jerald Radich and Dr. Soheil Meshinchi, will receive $100,000 over a two-year period to study how mutations in different genes work together to cause childhood leukemia.
“This generous funding from ASH allows me to expand upon our exciting new findings regarding the genetic basis of pediatric acute myeloid leukemia and also provides essential support as I launch my independent career,” Maxson said.
The ASH Scholar Awards fund hematologists in North America who conduct basic, translational and clinical research that furthers the understanding and treatment of blood disorders.
The awards are made possible through support from the ASH Foundation as well as from the corporate community, individual donors and funds committed ASH.
“When talented scholars are provided the resources, time and support they need to establish independent careers through programs like the ASH Scholar Awards, their careers thrive, and they are well positioned to make a notable impact on research and patient care,” said Dr. David A. Williams, 2015 ASH president and president of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.
— By Kristen Woodward / Fred Hutch News Service