SEATTLE — July 7, 2016 — Below are a few research, cancer moonshot and health care policy story ideas from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. To arrange interviews, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
For the first time, America talked together last week about ending cancer –from a Cancer Moonshot Summit at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to hundreds of simultaneous gatherings in all 50 states on the “national day of action” to speed cures. “The summit . . . and the regional meetings across the U.S. — are gathering all the right people to have all the right conversations in ways only Vice President Biden can inspire,” said Dr. Gary Gilliland, president and director of Fred Hutch, who attended the national meeting in Washington, D.C. at Biden’s invitation. "We can get this done, together."
Months before President Obama introduced his Cancer Moonshots initiative, Gilliland, an expert in precision medicine and immunotherapy, had already gone on record stating that he believes within 10 years we may have cures for many, if not all, cancers.
Getting information to oncologists in an accessible, timely and readable manner at the point of care is crucial, say the authors of an article published July 5 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. “It is time to [click] and drag ASCO guidelines into the 21st century,” they say. Their report and the ground rules laid out in it are an important step in that direction.
The new “game plan” reflects the rapidly advancing field – including a growing focus on a personalized, precision medicine approach to treatment – the changing lifestyles of survivors, and oncologists’ need for immediate information. One new element that will help pull this all together is the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s web-based system, CancerLinQ. Dr. Gary Lyman, Fred Hutch researcher, and breast cancer oncologist, and the article’s senior author, is available for interviews.
A Fred Hutch study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that a combination of two immunotherapies may be better than one in treating metastatic melanoma. One treatment uses a patient’s own T cells modified in the lab to more powerfully recognize and attack tumors; the other treatment, a “checkpoint inhibitor,” releases the brakes on the body’s natural immune system. The study, conducted between 2011 and 2013, “opens the door” to more studies of combination immunotherapy to fight metastatic melanoma and possibly other cancers,” say the researchers. A detailed patient feature story highlighting a study participant is available here. This patient is also available for an interview.
The ‘obesity paradox’ and survival after colorectal cancer
An article in the International Journal of Cancer looks at the relationship between body mass index and survival after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. In contrast to previous studies, the relationship between pre-diagnostic body mass index and post-diagnostic survival was found to significantly differ according to cancer stage at diagnosis: Higher BMI was associated with increased mortality among those with early-stage disease but with decreased mortality among those with late-stage disease. The “obesity paradox” is a phenomenon witnessed in other diseases. The article’s first author, a Fred Hutch researcher, is available for interviews.
Counseling and follow-up are important tools in the global fight against HIV
Reporting findings from a clinical trial in South Africa and Uganda, a Fred Hutch researcher is first author of an article in Lancet HIV on community-based HIV testing and follow-up counseling. The study points to the need for improvement of community-based centers and training of lay people who can instruct HIV-positive subjects on the importance of antiretroviral therapy and reinforce the importance of circumcision as a preventive measure for HIV-negative men.
Inhibiting regulatory T cells in herpes simplex virus-2 reactivation may improve treatment and speed healing
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are important in guiding an immune response against herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2). But Tregs also can suppress immune responses. A study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases supports the hypothesis that Tregs can act as “foes” during HSV-2 reactivation. The finding that higher regulatory-to-effector T cell ratios were found in biopsies where viral shedding was detected implies that increased densities of Tregs may dampen immune effector function and affect lesion severity. This suggests that inhibiting Tregs may improve healing times and create clinical benefits.
A protective vaccine against HIV has remained out of reach, in part because the virus mutates to evade the immune system. Although HIV can trigger the immune system to create a broad response that attempts to protect infected adults, this can take years or even decades to develop; a preventive vaccine mimicking this natural process would take too long to build protection. But Fred Hutch researchers looked at babies’ immune responses to HIV and saw that specialized immune proteins that may be able to ward off many HIV variants can arise within a year after infection — and producing them takes less tweaking than expected. A study published in Cell suggests that a relatively simple path to fast and effective HIV vaccine response may exist, but the researchers caution that the path is yet to be charted.
Ocean sticklebacks travel in schools for safety in numbers. Freshwater sticklebacks roam alone. Now, in a study that helps scientists understand how evolution happens, a Hutch research team has identified the gene that drives those behavioral differences — schooling or non-schooling. It’s one of the first times scientists have uncovered the gene that underlies a behavioral change in natural populations of vertebrate animals. The researchers, who used a little trickery and some fishy stand-ins, describe their findings in the journal Genetics.