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Vice President Biden's Cancer Moonshot initiative visits Fred Hutch

From left to right: Dr. Stan Riddell, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Shivani Srivastava

From left to right: Dr. Stan Riddell, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Shivani Srivastava

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN visited Fred Hutch on March 21 as part of his National Cancer Moonshot
"listening tour."

He met with President Dr. Gary Gilliland and researchers and also toured a lab to learn about the latest developments in the pursuit of cures.

"Our job [with the moonshot initiative]," said Biden, in a message on the White House’s website, "is to clear out the bureaucratic hurdles and let science happen."

Read more about the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative
 


'A pillar of cancer therapy'

Dramatic remissions in immunotherapy trial of cancer patients

Dr. Stan Riddell in his lab on the Fred Hutch campus.

Dr. Stan Riddell in his lab on the Fred Hutch campus.

Photo by Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch

DR. STAN RIDDELL SET OFF A WAVE of interest around the globe that inspired hundreds of news stories when he shared preliminary findings on adoptive T-cell therapy strategies for cancer on Feb. 14 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

The trial is designed to test the safety of the latest iteration of an experimental immunotherapy in which a patient’s own T cells are reprogrammed to eliminate his or her cancer. The reprogramming involves genetically engineering the T cells with synthetic molecules called chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs, that enable them to target and destroy tumor cells bearing a particular target. They are then infused back into the patient.

In one arm of the study led by Riddell’s Fred Hutch colleagues Drs. David Maloney and Cameron Turtle, 27 of 29 patients with advanced acute lymphoblastic leukemia showed no trace of cancer in their bone marrow following their infusions. Riddell said that the progress being made is helping to make immunotherapy “a pillar of cancer therapy.”

The trial is funded by Juno Therapeutics Inc., which was initially formed on technology from researchers at Fred Hutch, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Seattle Children’s Research Institute to commercialize promising immunotherapies.

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Cancer, bankruptcy and death

Dr. Scott Ramsey

Dr. Scott Ramsey

Photo by Robert Hood

A NEW FRED HUTCH STUDY found that the financial toxicity resulting from the high cost of cancer care is almost as deadly as cancer itself.

About 3 percent of cancer patients go bankrupt. And those who do are nearly 80 percent more likely to die than patients who don’t, according to the study done by the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research, or HICOR.

The findings are “profound,” said Dr. Scott Ramsey, director of HICOR.

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'A life of service'

Doug Walker

Photo courtesy of Kina Walker

DOUG WALKER, A TECH ENTREPRENEUR who became one of Seattle’s leading philanthropists and conservationists, died in a snowshoeing accident over the New Year’s holiday. Walker, 65, was an avid climber and hiker and is survived by his wife, Maggie, and their daughter, Kina.

Walker was a longtime member of Fred Hutch’s board of trustees, who twice served as board chair. The Walkers’ support funded the Walker fellowships in immunotherapy at Fred Hutch.

“It is a sudden and tragic end to a life of service,” said Dr. Gary Gilliland, Fred Hutch president and director. “We have been so incredibly fortunate to have a board member who could climb the tallest mountains, both literally and figuratively. Doug will be sorely missed by all of us.”

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United against cancer

Nation’s 69 cancer centers join to endorse HPV vaccination

Dr. Denise Galloway

Dr. Denise Galloway

Photo by Robert Hood

IN RESPONSE TO LOW NATIONAL VACCINATION RATES for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in January joined with the 68 other U.S. National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in issuing a statement urging for increased vaccination in adolescent girls and boys for the prevention of many types of HPV-related cancers in adulthood. The virus, which is sexually transmitted, impacts nearly all men and women at some point in their lives and can lead to cervical, anal, vaginal, penile, vulvar, and head and neck cancers. 

Fred Hutch and the other cancer centers named in the statement called upon the nation's physicians, parents and adolescents to prevent these many types of cancer through the HPV vaccine. 

The vaccine's roots lie in the laboratory of Fred Hutch's Dr. Denise Galloway, as well as laboratories in Australia and the National Institutes of Health, where Galloway and fellow investigators accomplished the groundbreaking step of getting a key viral gene to assemble into particles that look like HPV, which became the basis of the vaccine. 

"When I joined Fred Hutch in 1978, we didn't know what caused cervical cancer, and now we have a vaccine that can prevent HPV infections and the cancers they cause. It is incredibly gratifying to have been part of that discovery," Galloway said. "Wouldn't it be great if there was a high rate of vaccine usage to actually eliminate HPV-caused cancers?" 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV infections are responsible for approximately 27,000 new cancer diagnoses each year in the U.S. Several vaccines are now available that could prevent the majority of them.

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