Fred Hutch and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance unite, reshape relationship with UW Medicine

Restructure promises to boost research and speed new cancer treatments from bench to bedside

Watch the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center opening day event on April 1, 2022, featuring remarks from Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Thomas J. Lynch Jr., board chair Kathy Surace-Smith, UW Medicine CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey, Fred Hutch Executive Vice President and Deputy Director Dr. Bruce Clurman, and Fred Hutch Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Terry McDonnell.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance have merged, creating an organization that aims to bring scientific advances to patients faster, and deepens longstanding ties with UW Medicine.

Under the restructuring formally launched on April 1, Fred Hutch and SCCA are united as a single, independent, not-for-profit organization now called Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. The unified organization will be a clinically integrated part of UW Medicine and UW Medicine’s cancer program.

“Today’s milestone is a tremendous step toward our vision of decreasing the time between discovery and delivery of the most advanced treatments for our patients,” said Fred Hutch President and Director and Raisbeck Endowed Chair holder Dr. Thomas J. Lynch, Jr., who held the same titles at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center before the merger.

Although the organization has a new name, Lynch stressed that Fred Hutch’s dedication to research excellence remains unchanged. He said those scientific endeavors will only be enhanced by a streamlined organizational structure and tighter integration with clinical care. The organization’s commitment to scientific research in vaccines and infectious diseases, basic and human biology, computational science and public health is the same as before the merger, as is its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and to reducing health disparities.

Lynch, UW Medicine CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey and other key leaders celebrated the formation of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center this morning at an opening day ceremony on the Fred Hutch campus.

“We are creating a cancer center that is committed to compassionate, connected patient care that puts the patient and family at front and center,” Lynch said. “We are committed to discovery and science, because the very best care is rooted in science.”

Noting that more than 600,000 Americans die of cancer each year, he said the way to come up with better treatments is “when you connect an extraordinary clinical facility with the best science anywhere.”

SCCA was formed 20 years ago by Fred Hutch, UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s to provide cancer clinical care services for the three institutions. With today’s launch of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Seattle Children’s will focus on pediatric cancer care, and Fred Hutch and UW Medicine will more tightly coordinate adult cancer care. The SCCA name will be retired later this year, and a new Fred Hutch brand will be introduced to signify the completion of the integration.

Although the pediatric clinical care program, including bone marrow transplants, will move to newly completed facilities at Seattle Children’s, Lynch said the research collaborations between the Hutch and Seattle Children’s will continue unchanged.

Under a new management services agreement, Fred Hutch will also provide managerial oversight for those services at UW Medical Center that exclusively provide cancer care, such as oncology infusion and radiation oncology. Although Fred Hutch and UW Medicine will continue to operate independent medical centers, cancer care will be “clinically integrated” — an arrangement that allows two medical organizations to coordinate care seamlessly across different settings.

“Our vision is to make life beyond cancer a reality for our patients. This is really an evolution of our legacy of innovation, focus on clinical outcomes and excellence in care for our patients,” said Ramsey, in remarks at the morning celebration.

“Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, together with UW Medicine, will accelerate the development, evaluation, and use of cancer treatments and discoveries in adult patients with cancer,” he said.

Ramsey explained that this new “deeply integrated relationship” will help the two organizations align their clinical care teams, leadership teams and business planning. He predicted important, tangible changes for patients, including improved cancer screening, surveillance, early diagnosis, and a focus on treatment, survivorship and broader availability of cancer services.

“The patient is at the center of what we are doing,” he said.

Ramsey also stressed the importance of ensuring that the benefits of cancer research be accessible to all. “We will be applying a health equity lens to all that we do, to provide the best cancer care services in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer for all patients,” he said.

A key goal of this clinical integration will be to reduce the duplicative efforts currently required to set up clinical trials, the avenue through which patients have the best opportunity to access advanced, experimental cancer research. Hutch leaders said the streamlining will improve access to these trials for patients, bringing clinical research and care closer together.

Dr. Terry McDonnell, chief nursing officer for Fred Hutch, said that being “integrated as a single team will provide even more hope for the people we serve.”

Dr. Tom Lynch, president and director of Fred Hutch, and board chair Kathy Surace-Smith were among the speakers at the opening day event for the new Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center on April 1, 2022.
Dr. Tom Lynch, president and director of Fred Hutch, and board chair Kathy Surace-Smith were among the speakers at the opening day event for the new Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center on April 1, 2022.

Photos by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

With today’s completion of the restructuring, the original Fred Hutch board of trustees is replaced by a new, 13-member board of directors. Kathy Surace-Smith, who led Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s board through the merger, is now chair of the new Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center board of directors.

“We have pursued this restructure and the creation of our new, unified organization for years,” said Surace-Smith, who is senior vice president for NanoString Technologies Inc., in Seattle. “To reach this milestone is truly a historic moment. It’s a testament to the vision, expertise, and hard work of our leaders and staff across these organizations.”

Although the event marked the launch of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, leaders stressed that the process of melding the organizations will continue throughout the year. For most employees, their work will continue unchanged. There are no plans for layoffs at this time.

Dr. Bruce Clurman, holder of the Rosput Reynolds Endowed Chair and executive vice president and deputy director of Fred Hutch, told the gathering that the Hutch has a remarkable legacy of scientific achievement, “from the most basic biological discoveries to development of transformative immunotherapies, to our lifesaving and global role in combatting the COVID pandemic.”

But it was a personal note that drove home the meaning of the work that began there for him as a postdoctoral fellow 30 years ago.

“I have shared previously that my daughter has undergone a bone marrow transplant here in Seattle,” Clurman said. “Her life was saved through the extraordinary efforts of many of you joining us today, and my family has profoundly experienced the impact of our collaboration. I just want to say thank you, for everything you have all accomplished.”

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