Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s global health research has been honored by the Washington Global Health Alliance, which has announced the winners of its 2019 Pioneers of Global Health Award. The annual award, now in its sixth year, honors people and organizations “working relentlessly to improve health equity around the world.”
This year’s honorees from Fred Hutch are:
Anderson, the recipient of WGHA’s Pioneers Award for Impact, is co-founder and director of the Fred Hutch-based Breast Health Global Initiative, which develops guidelines for breast cancer early detection, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care that are tailored to the resources available in low- and middle-income countries. Based on BHGI’s work, such resource-based guidelines have been adopted by the World Health Organization and others as a model for creating practical strategies for the management of breast cancer and other malignancies. Anderson also co-chairs Breast Cancer Initiative 2.5, an international platform for collaborating and sharing best practices, policies and country-level guidelines with the aim of reducing disparities in breast cancer outcomes for women around the world.
“This WGHA award is tremendously meaningful to me,” said Anderson, who is also a professor of surgery and global health medicine at the University of Washington. “The work of our collaborators from countries around the world has sparked a global effort to improve breast cancer outcomes in all resource settings, not just those countries with wealth. ... I am honored to accept the WGHA Pioneers Award for Impact on behalf of the people around the globe [who] have come together to create meaningful change.”
A Fred Hutch clinical research team led by Dr. Jerald Radich, together with The Max Foundation, a Seattle-area nonprofit, received WGHA’s Pioneers Outstanding Collaboration Award. They were honored for a groundbreaking collaboration called “Spot On CML” to help chronic myelogenous leukemia patients in under-resourced countries live longer, healthier lives.
In the U.S., many cancer diagnoses are relatively routine — even for a relatively rare cancer like CML, which is slow-growing but fatal if left untreated. Testing for CML once required fresh blood, making it costly to test patients in remote and low-resource settings. The Radich Lab developed a low-cost method to diagnose CML using dried blood spots on a small paper card that can be shipped to his Seattle lab via “snail mail” at a tiny fraction of the cost of rushing fresh tubes of blood for analysis halfway around the world.
The Max Foundation uses its physician network to identify patients in low- and middle-income countries in need of CML testing. Once the dried blood samples are collected and patients are diagnosed through Radich’s laboratory, The Max Foundation steps in to provide them with free, lifelong chemotherapy provided by Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies.
“Without treatment, CML patients live well less than a decade,” Radich said. “With Spot On CML, these patients enjoy a near-normal life expectancy. The Max Foundation and Fred Hutch, with assistance from Cepheid and the International CML Foundation, have demonstrated that multiple agencies can cooperate effectively and do enormous good.”
Thanks to this unique collaboration, in just a little over a year, more than 500 CML patients around the world have been able to access “the right treatment at the right time,” said Pat Garcia-Gonzalez, CEO of The Max Foundation.
This year’s awardees were selected by a panel of global health experts chaired by Erin McCarthy, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a WGHA board member.
The awardees will be honored at the sixth annual Pioneers of Global Health Awards Dinner & Auction on Oct. 17 at Seattle Aquarium.
Kristen Woodward, a former associate editor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, had been in communications at Fred Hutch for more than 20 years. Before that, she was a managing editor at the University of Michigan Health System and a reporter/editor at The Holland Sentinel, a daily in western Michigan. She has received many national awards for health and science writing. She received her B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University.