News Releases

Tip Sheet: Advances that may lead to cancer cures; lobular breast cancer research; benefit-to-risk ratios of groundbreaking therapies, serendipitous findings, more

SEATTLE – Feb. 27, 2018 – Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutch research, with links for additional background and media contacts.

Immunotherapy, Cloud Computing and Infectious Disease

Advances that will propel us to cures
Dr. Gary Gilliland, Fred Hutch president and director, says he has taken some flak for predicting that researchers will develop curative therapies for most if not all cancers by 2025. But he stands by his words and points to many advances in next-generation immunotherapy, cloud computing, and infectious disease research that are leading the way.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651


Lobular breast cancer comes into the research spotlight
Invasive lobular carcinoma, which accounts for 10 to 15 percent of invasive breast cancers, is typically treated identically to invasive ductal carcinoma, but there are important differences between the two types. New studies are underway to discover the cancer’s origins, improve current treatment strategies and seek new, targeted therapies. Fred Hutch has been leading lobular carcinoma research for two decades.
Media contact: Claire Hudson,, 206.667.7365

How patients with cancer can protect themselves from flu
Two infectious disease specialists provide seven tips on preventing and treating the flu for patients with cancer and other immune-compromising diseases.
Media contact: Claire Hudson,, 206.667.7365

New technological platform opens unexplored world of tiny proteins
A team of Fred Hutch researchers has built a large-scale system for producing, screening, and characterizing a class of tiny protein knots that are a relatively untapped source of new drugs to treat tough diseases, like brain cancer. The small proteins, called “cystine-dense peptides,” are found in many venoms throughout the natural world, including in the deadly venom of a type of sea snail. They offer promising fodder for drug development because they have a combination of qualities that are found in only a few of today’s drugs: Their small size allows them to slip into hard-to-reach parts of the body, but they’re also stable and highly specific for their targets, thanks to their tightly bound-up, precisely shaped structures. The findings were published on Feb. 26 in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

Genetics and Gene Therapies

If new theory holds up, it could lead to better human artificial chromosomes
Geneticist Dr. Steve Henikoff and colleagues published a new theory about the mysterious centromeres, or “waistbands,” of chromosomes in Molecular Biology and Evolution. The work presents evidence that DNA at the centromere, the midpoint of the chromosome, kinks into a series of small, repeated X-shapes — like a row of cross-stitches. Also, the centromere of the human Y chromosome — the chromosome responsible for determining the male sex — is different from all the other human chromosomes. If the centromere theory is supported by basic experiments, it might lead to better, more efficient human artificial chromosomes that could be used in gene therapies.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

Research Grants and Awards

Postdoctoral fellow receives Damon Runyon Breakthrough Scientist award
Dr. Matthew Miller has received a Damon Runyon-Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. Miller, a postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of Fred Hutch scientist Dr. Sue Biggins, will receive $100,000 in research funding. He studies how cells correctly partition the right number of chromosomes to each daughter cell during cell division, a process that can go awry in cancer and is the leading cause of miscarriages.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

Metastatic breast cancer translational researcher receives prestigious ‘Era of Hope’ Scholar Award
Dr. Kevin Cheung, a metastatic breast cancer translational researcher, has received a $4.1 million Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program “Era of Hope” Scholar Award. The award, which includes indirect costs, will fund his research for four years. The DOD’s Breast Cancer Research Program is the second-biggest funder of breast cancer research in the U.S. Its Era of Hope Scholar Award encourages high-impact, collaborative research, particularly among innovative young researchers.
Media contact: Claire Hudson,, 206.667.7365

Infectious Disease and Cancer

Sometimes, a ‘failed’ hypothesis has surprising results
Scientists develop a hypothesis – the expected outcome of experiments – and then let the science take over. In two clinical trials, certain vitamins that were expected to reduce cancer rates were having the opposite effect – contradicting popular belief and leading to early termination of the studies. In another instance, researchers thought they had discovered an antiviral protein made by skin cells, but their experiments failed to provide support. Eventually, they discovered that the protein interacts with nerve fibers – and is one of only a few known nerve growth factors. In an influenza study, researchers learned that a petri dish experiment did not translate to real life – but the experience led to a new approach that is providing insight into how the flu evolves. As one researcher said, “If things are unexpected, maybe just explore a little bit more instead of shutting that door.”
Media contact: Claire Hudson,, 206.667.7365



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