This is a truly amazing time for cancer research at Fred Hutch. This is, after all, the place where blood stem cell transplantation was pioneered, giving researchers the first clear insights into the potential of the immune system to cure cancer.
This issue of our newly renamed Hutch Magazine looks back on this legacy. In the 40 years since Fred Hutch officially opened its doors on Sept. 5, 1975, work by Dr. Don Thomas and others in curing leukemia through transplantation has led directly to many other advances, including today’s breathtaking progress in immunotherapy — harnessing the power of our own immune system to treat cancer. We believe these innovations will lead to cures for many cancers, including solid tumors, not in another 40 years but perhaps much sooner.
I wish Don were here to see all the excitement around these new modalities. He would not only be excited himself, he would be helping us ride the crest of the wave.
You’ll read in these pages about the people who were here to help celebrate — all those who attended our seventh BMT Survivor Reunion in July. The reunion honors the courage of our transplant recipients and their families, who provide such incredible support. It also celebrates the wonderful job Fred Hutch does building on Don’s legacy.
But mostly, the reunion is for the patients, for them to spend time with people who know, like no one else, what they went through, what it’s like to face death and emerge with new life.
For me, and for all who participate, the reunion is an emotional event — seeing patients celebrating with their donors, even while remembering the very difficult times. We also remember with sadness those who didn’t survive despite heroic efforts. And we think of those who may not survive long enough to benefit from the newest lifesaving medicines in development.
The reunion reminds us that it is the people — those who have survived cancer and those who haven’t — who send us back to our labs with renewed motivation and a real sense of urgency. Hearing their stories reminds us of what we’re all working toward.