Two Hutchinson Center researchers receive prestigious awards from Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

Drs. Brian Till and Colleen Delaney will use the awards for immunotherapy research

SEATTLE — July 2, 2010 — Two Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center researchers who study immunotherapy – how the body’s immune system can be trained to fight cancer –  have received prestigious awards from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Brian Till, M.D., a research associate in the Hutchinson Center's Clinical Research Division, was awarded a three-year, $450,000 Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award to help fund his work on a new immunotherapy-based treatment for patients with lymphoma, the most common type of blood cancer.

His goal is to develop a new treatment for lymphoma using patients' own infection-fighting T cells to kill their cancers. The cells are collected, a gene is inserted into the cells that allows them to recognize and kill lymphoma cells, and then the enhanced cells are infused back into the patient.

Till is leading a phase 1 clinical trial testing this treatment in lymphoma patients. He is optimistic that this strategy will translate into a safe, curative treatment that does not carry the risks and side effects of more traditional therapies. Insights from this work may help to advance similar treatments for other types of cancer.

"I am grateful to the Damon Runyon foundation for this award, which will provide crucial support over the next few years as I transition to being an independent investigator. I am very enthusiastic about the research this grant will allow me to pursue," said Till, who works under the mentorship of Oliver W. Press, M.D., Ph.D., a member of the Hutchinson Center's Clinical Research Division.

The Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award program, in partnership with industry sponsors, is specifically intended to help address the shortage of physicians capable of translating scientific discovery into new breakthroughs for cancer patients.

Colleen Delaney, M.D., who leads the Hutchinson Center's research and clinical program in cord blood stem cell transplantation, received a two-year, $300,000 continuation grant from Damon Runyon. Delaney, an assistant member of the Clinical Research Division, was named a Damon Runyon clinical investigator in 2007.

She recently completed a phase 1 clinical trial demonstrating that expanded cord blood cells infused into patients with acute leukemia resulted in successful rapid engraftment (recovery of the immune system after transplantation). She will use the continuation grant to examine the immune mechanism of how these transplanted cord blood cells persist in the patient. These studies will be important for improving the success of transplants in patients.

Delaney works under the mentorship of clinical researchers Irwin Bernstein, M.D., and Frederick Appelbaum, M.D., senior vice president of the Hutchinson Center and director of its Clinical Research Division.

The Damon Runyon continuation grant is designed to support clinical investigators who are approaching the end of their original awards and need extra time and funding to complete a promising avenue of research or initiate/continue a clinical trial.

Dean Forbes
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
(206) 667-2896


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