Fred Hutch aims to eliminate cancers caused by infections

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Fred Hutch aims to eliminate cancers caused by infections

Roughly 20 percent of cancers diagnosed globally each year are linked to infectious agents, with higher incidence in parts of Africa and in China

Map of cancers attributable to infections

Fred Hutch News Service

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SEATTLE — Aug. 10, 2017 — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is launching a new integrated research center to prevent and find cures for cancers caused by infectious agents. It will be led by Dr. Denise Galloway, a Fred Hutch microbiologist whose research paved the way for the HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical, throat and other cancers.

As part of its quest to develop curative therapies for all cancers by 2025, Fred Hutch has established the new center to leverage its work in cancer immunotherapy and global oncology and apply that expertise to developing preventive measures and treatments for cancers caused directly and indirectly by such infectious pathogens as viruses and bacteria.

Roughly one in five cancer cases worldwide can be attributed to infections, with much higher incidences in Sub-Saharan Africa (roughly one in three) and in China (roughly one in four).

“Each year, 14 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer, and up to 20 percent of those cancers are caused, directly or indirectly, by viruses and other pathogens,” said Dr. Gary Gilliland, president and director at Fred Hutch. “Our goal is to seize the opportunity we now have to lead the way in eliminating that burden — and to advance cures for all cancers.”

Galloway, who holds a Fred Hutch 40th Anniversary Endowed Chair, added: “The Hutch is uniquely positioned to lead the way toward eliminating the global burden of cancers linked to infectious agents and saving millions of lives. Our researchers excel at understanding the biology of infection-related cancers, identifying the immune system’s interaction with both infectious agents and cancers, and using that knowledge to develop and test innovative prevention, diagnostic and treatment strategies that improve care for patients worldwide.”

Called the Pathogen-Associated Malignancies Integrated Research Center, or PAM-IRC, the new center is among the first of its kind to concentrate on cancers related to viruses, bacteria and other infections. It brings together faculty from across Fred Hutch with expertise in infectious diseases, vaccines, immunotherapy, public health sciences, cancer biology and other scientific disciplines.

The PAM-IRC plans to engage other public and private organizations in a global collaborative effort to reduce the number of cancer cases associated with pathogens.

Initial areas of focus include:  

Chart of pathogens and their related cancers

Fred Hutch News Service

Click for high-res version

In addition to enhancing the understanding, prevention and treatment of infection-related cancers, the center’s findings are expected to provide insights into other cancers not associated with pathogens.

Gilliland called Galloway ”the ideal candidate” to lead the new center, having done pioneering work on HPVs and, more recently on the Merkel cell polyomavirus, in addition to doing important research on other DNA tumor viruses. “Fred Hutch has benefited from Dr. Galloway’s exceptional scientific mind and leadership for nearly four decades,” said Gilliland. “She is well known and admired by scientists worldwide.”

Galloway has worked together on previous projects with colleagues in Seattle at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the global health nonprofit PATH, Seattle Children’s Hospital, UW Medicine and the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health. “We want our new center to interest researchers already here at the Hutch and elsewhere in Seattle, as well as attract new talent to come here,” Galloway said, noting that she will be recruiting scientists for at least three new positions. “This effort adds another dimension to global health research in this city and will strengthen our reputation as the leader in international medicine and health care.”

Galloway said the scientific strategies that she and others have used to advance prevention and treatment of cancers caused by HPV and the Merkel cell virus are ripe for applying to other malignancies.

“You know, we had a great success with HPV,” she said. “I’d like to see similar successes across the broad spectrum of cancers caused by infection.”

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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. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first 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.

CONTACTS

Jonathan Rabinovitz
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Claire Hudson
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