Good News: iCMLf honors Dr. Jerald Radich, and more

Celebrating faculty and staff achievements
Dr. Jerald Radich
The iCMLf Prize honors Dr. Jerald Radich and colleagues' development of a low-cost, paper-based blood test for diagnosing chronic myeloid leukemia in those who live in low- and middle-income countries. Fred Hutch file photo

International Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Foundation honors Dr. Jerald Radich

The International Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Foundation has awarded the 2017 iCMLf Prize to Fred Hutch leukemia researcher and diagnostic expert Dr. Jerald “Jerry” Radich in recognition of his “dedication to developing methods to increase access to molecular monitoring” of CML patients in emerging economic regions.

Radich has given his time and expertise through the years to improving outcomes for people living with CML. In particular, the iCMLf Prize recognizes his lab’s development of a low-cost, paper-based blood test for use in low- and middle-income countries, where the diagnosis of CML qualifies for free treatment with tyrosine-kinase inhibitors. Once patients are diagnosed through Radich’s laboratory, they’re connected with treatment through a Seattle-area nonprofit, The Max Foundation, which partners with Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies to provide cancer drugs for free to patients in need outside the U.S.

“I am honored and humbled with receiving the iCMLf Prize,” said Radich, a member of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch and a professor of medicine at University of Washington School of Medicine. “It is a testimony of the inspiring, hard work of my friends and colleagues in our lab, at The Max Foundation, the iCMLf, and the physicians and patients throughout the globe. It is uplifting to know that making a difference together is not just a quaint slogan, it is the truth.”

A world expert in CML, Radich serves as the chair of the CML Guidelines Panels for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and is a member of the European LeukemiaNet, both of which synthesize the best available evidence, including findings from state-of-the-art molecular monitoring, to support optimal decision-making in the medical management of CML patients.

Radich is also chair of the SWOG Leukemia Translational Medicine Committee, co-chair of the National Cancer Institute Leukemia Steering Committee and is on the board of Scientific Counselors, National Institutes of Health Genome Research Institute. He is also on the scientific board of The Max Foundation and the iCMLf.

The iCMLf Prize is one of three prizes awarded annually by the foundation to recognize and reward outstanding achievements and contributions to the management and understanding of CML, a type of cancer most commonly seen in adults that starts in certain blood-forming cells in the bone marrow.

Radich will receive his prize medal in October at the 19th annual John Goldman Conference on Chronic Myeloid Leukemia in Estoril, Portugal, where he will deliver a keynote lecture on his achievements and perspectives.

— Kristen Woodward / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Oliver Press
"It's a delight for me to be here tonight on behalf of my research team," Dr. Oliver Press said upon accepting his Leader in Health Care award at the March 2 gala in Seattle. Photo courtesy of Seattle Business Magazine

Dr. Oliver Press named 2017 Leader in Health Care by Seattle Business Magazine

Fred Hutch physician-scientist Dr. Oliver “Ollie” Press was honored recently with a Gold Award for Achievement in Medical Research at Seattle Business Magazine’s 2017 Leaders in Health Care dinner gala.

Honorees in 11 categories were chosen by a panel of expert judges for their work to improve health care in Washington state. Attendees at the March 2 gala gave Press a standing ovation when he was called to the stage to receive his award.

“It’s a delight for me to be here tonight on behalf of my research team,” Press said.

“Most importantly, I’d like to thank my mentees,” he said, pointing out a number of physician-scientists in the audience who had trained in his lab, including the Hutch’s Drs. Brian Till, Damian Green, Mazyar Shadman and Johnnie Orozco. “These people did all the hard work for which I’m getting credit tonight, and I’m very appreciative.”

Press’ research is dedicated to the development of targeted immunotherapies to treat patients with blood cancers, and he is internationally known as an expert in these diseases, especially lymphoma. A particular focus of his research is radioimmunotherapy, which couples a radioactive isotope to a cancer-targeting antibody to deliver precise doses of radiation to tumors. His work has spanned very early laboratory tests of new therapeutic strategies developed in his lab through large-scale clinical trials.

“It’s been really fun to see the entire spectrum of development” of new therapies, he said. Press holds the David and Patricia Giuliani/Oliver Press Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at the Hutch and is a professor of medicine and adjunct professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington.

Several awards went to Fred Hutch’s consortium partners. Dr. Norm Hubbard, executive vice president of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, won a Gold Award in the Outstanding Medical Center Executive category; Dr. Peter McGeough, medical director of UW Neighborhood Clinics, won gold in the Outstanding Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer category; and UW Medicine CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey won the Judges’ Award.

A Silver Award in the medical research category went to Dr. Jane Buckner, president of the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason in Seattle.

— Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service

Drs. Michael Boeckh and Joshua Hill
Drs. Michael Boeckh (left) and Joshua Hill co-authored a study published recently in the journal Blood that examined the impact of viral infections on outcomes in transplant patients. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Multiple viruses can add up to worse outcomes for transplant patients, study finds

Patients who undergo bone marrow transplants for blood cancer or related diseases take a serious blow to their immune systems, both from their underlying disease and from the harsh treatments required for a donor's immune cells to take hold. As a result, many transplant patients can have reactivation of what are known as latent infections, or infections that lie dormant in people with functioning immune systems.

For example, many of us are infected with cytomegalovirus, or CMV, but suffer no ill effects. But reactivation of this common virus was for many years one of the most deadly complications of bone marrow transplantation — until effective treatments and preventions for the infection came on the scene.

Other than CMV, many viral infections in transplant patients are poorly understood, said Dr. Joshua Hill, a Fred Hutch infectious disease researcher, and the lead author, along with Fred Hutch’s Dr. Michael Boeckh, on a study published last month in the journal Blood describing several of these other viral infections in transplant patients.

To understand the burden of other reactivated viral infections in transplant patients, Hill, Boeckh, and colleagues took a look back at approximately 400 patients who received transplants at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutch's clinical care partner, between 2007-2014. Because routine testing for CMV has been in place for many years, leftover weekly blood samples from these patients have been stored in the Infectious Disease Sciences biorepository, a rich resource for studies such as this one. Hill and his colleagues collaborated with the University of Washington Virology Laboratory to test these samples for four viruses in addition to CMV: Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV; adenovirus; human herpes virus 6, or HHV-6; and BK polyomavirus, or BKV.

“We wanted to know whether reactivation of these other viruses, which are not routinely screened for due to lack of safe and effective treatments, are contributing to worse outcomes for our transplant patients,” Hill said.

Not surprisingly, Hill and his colleagues found that many of these lesser-studied viruses are just as common in transplant patients as CMV. Like CMV, HHV-6 and BKV were found in around 60 percent of patients, and the majority of patients had at least two viruses present in their blood within the first 100 days after transplant.

When the researchers accounted for other factors, such as graft-vs.-host disease and poor immune reconstitution, they found that having infections with multiple different viruses was associated with increased overall and non-relapse mortality — and the more different viral infections the patients had or the more total amount of virus they had in their blood, the worse they fared.

Ultimately, the researchers’ goal is to establish the burden of virus exposure and its impact in this patient population to inform the design of clinical trials utilizing novel, broad-spectrum antiviral strategies such as small molecules, vaccines, and virus-specific immunotherapy, Hill said. Several such therapies are currently in development.

Rachel Tompa / Fred Hutch News Service

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