SEATTLE – Dec. 6, 2012 – After a national search, Garnet Anderson, Ph.D., a biostatistician and lead researcher in the Women’s Health Initiative, has been selected to become the new senior vice president and director of the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She will assume the role on Jan. 1, 2013, when Ross Prentice, Ph.D., the current division director, steps down after 25 years.
Anderson, principal investigator of the WHI Clinical Coordinating Center, which is based at Fred Hutch, has been on the Public Health Sciences faculty since 1989 and is a member of the division’s Cancer Prevention Research and Biostatistics/Biomathematics programs.
Among the WHI’s many contributions to women’s health, the most prominent was its JAMA report in 2002 that combined estrogen-plus-progestin hormone-replacement therapy increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer, stroke, and heart disease. This finding quickly decreased the use of hormone therapy nationwide by about 50 percent, which led to a significant, sustained decline in breast cancer rates starting in approximately 2003.
“Through the WHI, Anderson, and colleagues have made a major impact on our understanding and prevention of breast cancer and other major diseases,” said Larry Corey, M.D., Fred Hutch president and director. “The WHI trials led to sweeping changes in clinical practice – changes that have led to about 15,000 fewer women developing invasive breast cancer each year in the U.S.” Worldwide, the decreased use of hormone therapy has resulted in additional reductions in breast cancer incidence by tens of thousands of cases per year.
One of the largest U.S. prevention studies of its kind, the WHI was launched in 1991 as a $625 million national program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health to address the most frequent causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in older women. It involved more than 161,000 postmenopausal women in a set of clinical trials and an observational study designed to test the effects of hormone therapy, diet, and calcium and vitamin D supplementation on heart disease, fractures, and breast and colorectal cancer. While those studies ended in 2002 and 2005, more than 93,000 WHI participants continue to provide health information that is being used to investigate a variety of key women’s health questions. Last year Anderson and colleagues at Fred Hutch received $54.5 million from the NIH for continued coordination of the study through 2015.
Anderson has been central figure in the WHI at Fred Hutch since the launch of the study in the early ‘90s. She has played a major role in clinical trial design and in overseeing implementation of data management and quality-control activities for this immense and complex undertaking. She became co-principal investigator of the WHI Clinical Coordinating Center, with Prentice, in 2008 and the sole principal investigator in 2011.
She is also associate director for Cancer Control and Prevention of the Southwest Oncology Group Statistical Center and an affiliate professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Washington.
Anderson, who received her Ph.D. in biostatistics from UW, will be the third PHS division director in the 37-year history of Fred Hutch. Biostatistician Prentice served in that capacity from 1983, when the division was established, until 2002 and again from 2007 until the present. Cancer epidemiologist John Potter, M.D., Ph.D., led the division from 2002 until 2007.
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At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other life-threatening diseases. The Hutchinson Center’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer with minimal side effects. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, the Hutchinson Center houses the nation’s first and largest cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Private contributions are essential for enabling Hutchinson Center scientists to explore novel research opportunities that lead to important medical breakthroughs. For more information visit www.fhcrc.org or follow the Hutchinson Center on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.