This summer, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is commemorating the 100th birthday of our namesake, baseball great Fred Hutchinson. I think of Fred whenever I walk past his baseball memorabilia on display near my office, but lately he’s been on my mind more than usual. When I see his name — our name — I’ve been thinking about the promise at the core of that name, and how we are still living up to it today.
When he founded our institution and named it after the brother he lost to cancer, Seattle surgeon Dr. Bill Hutchinson vowed that Fred’s legacy would live on in the work of our scientists. That promise set us on a path to end cancer and related diseases as causes of human suffering and death, and it is as present and personal today as ever.
From Fred onward, patients have been at the heart of the tough problems we choose to tackle here. The challenges are onerous. None of us ever forgets that. But we believe they’re solvable because we’ve solved “unsolvable” problems before. Case in point: our Nobel Prize–winning team’s development of bone marrow transplantation as a cure for once-incurable diseases like leukemia.
Naysayers said it couldn’t be done, but that hard work has paid off in countless lives saved using transplanted blood and immune cells. It has also led to a growing tsunami of immune-based treatments built on the insights of our early transplant biologists, who established beyond a doubt the cancer-killing power of immune cells.
Scientists at Fred Hutch are still combining their diverse individual expertise to tackle tough problems from multiple angles at once. I’m particularly excited right now because our expansion into Seattle’s historic Steam Plant building will offer us even more opportunities to do just this. In the Steam Plant’s remodeled spaces, immunotherapy researchers, data scientists, experts in gene therapy and global oncology, and others will work side by side, advancing some of the most exhilarating science happening now.
From our beginnings under Dr. Hutchinson to today’s next-generation research, Fred Hutch has helped make Seattle renowned for pushing boundaries — not only in biomedical sciences but also in tech and other fields. Now, our region’s innovators are coming together, and progress is accelerating as once-disparate fields converge in powerful new ways.
As a physician and researcher, I find this simply breathtaking.
Imagine treatments that could heal patients while sparing them the destructive repercussions of traditional invasive surgeries, chemotherapies and radiation. Imagine millions more people every year living healthy lives, never having gotten sick in the first place. Imagine gaining the upper hand against devastating infections like HIV. We are closer to realizing such dreams than many thought possible even a few years ago.
I like to think Dr. Hutchinson would be pleased to see what’s been achieved in Fred’s name so far. But there’s so much more to do. Every day, I hear from patients, from family members, for whom today’s cutting-edge treatments are not enough. They have no time to waste. And, so, neither do I.
We owe it to every one of them to keep taking on the “unsolvable” problems. So many more innovations are within our grasp. We must make that future arrive as soon as possible.
And we will. This, now, is my promise.