News Releases

Tip Sheet: Moving toward a vaccine for Epstein-Barr virus; tissue samples from 1989 lead to CMV breakthroughs today; plus advances in immunotherapy, brain cancer, head and neck tumors

SEATTLE – May 7, 2018 – Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutch research, with links for additional background and media contacts.

Infectious Disease

First human antibody found to block Epstein-Barr virus
Dr. Andrew McGuire of Fred Hutch’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division led a recently published study in which he and colleagues discovered a human antibody that in laboratory tests blocks infection by the Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV. The finding of the antibody – along with the site it targets – may open a new path to developing a vaccine against the “mononucleosis virus,” which is also globally associated with about 200,000 cancer cases a year and may be involved in some autoimmune diseases.
Media contact: Tom Kim,, 206.664.6240

Tissue samples from a CMV drug trial decades ago yield new insights and treatments
A study published in 1991 showed that ganciclovir could prevent cytomegalovirus, or CMV, disease – the leading infectious killer of transplant patients. The Fred Hutch researcher who led that study, Dr. Joel Meyers, died weeks before the study published, but he had started a repository of patient tissue samples – kept with patient consent – that now contains more than 250,000 biospecimens. Now, Dr. Michael Boeckh, head of Fred Hutch’s Infectious Disease Sciences Program, and colleagues, are using these specimens to further the science of CMV treatment, with one result being the recent approval of the first new CMV drug in 15 years.
Media contact: Tom Kim,, 206.664.6240

Cancer, Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy strategy for ovarian cancer aims to rewire a ‘kill switch’
Dr. Kristin Anderson, a postdoctoral research fellow in the immunotherapy lab of Dr. Phil Greenberg, presented information at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting about work to overcome barriers that solid tumors construct to block immunotherapy. The researchers’ latest strategy, developed and tested in ovarian cancer mouse and cell studies, involves a new hybrid protein that, when added to T-cell therapy, tells engineered immune cells to ramp up their activity in response to what is normally a death signal.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

New technology enables deep dive into mysteries surrounding leukemia’s escape from immunotherapy
A study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research shows one way that an aggressive leukemia can wriggle its way free of targeted attack by a high-tech strategy for immune-based therapy. Emerging technology called single-cell RNA sequencing, or scRNA-seq, is helping scientists understand what’s going on when results of studies and treatments don’t meet expectations. Dr. Kelly Paulson, who made the presentation, is a medical oncology fellow in the immunology research lab of Dr. Aude Chapuis.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

Cancer, Genetics

Computational study shows how cancer-contributing genes make glioblastomas more aggressive and radiation-resistant
As cancers develop, they accumulate a host of genetic alterations, sometimes acquiring extra copies of hundreds or thousands of genes. Researchers at Fred Hutch and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute developed a computational method to sift important cancer-promoting genes from thousands of irrelevant ones. Dr. Eric Holland, Fred Hutch senior vice president and director of the Human Biology Division, co-led a study, reported in Genes & Development, showing that an excess of one gene, HOXA5, appears to make glioblastomas more aggressive and radiation-resistant.
Media contact: Tom Kim,, 206.664.6240

Cancer Treatment

Early phase clinical trial shows promise for advanced head and neck cancer
Surgeries to remove tumors in the mouth, neck or throat often leave patients with swallowing or speaking deficits and disfiguring scars. A new experimental drug, AZD1775, used in combination with chemotherapy, shrank tumors in 9 of 10 participants in a Phase 1 study. Although the small clinical trial was designed to evaluate drug safety and dosing, the participants’ responses were much more dramatic than expected, according to Dr. Laura Chow, assistant member of the Clinical Research Division, first author of a Clinical Cancer Research article.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

Cancer Quality and Cost

Fred Hutch releases report on Washington state’s cancer care
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has released a report on quality and cost of cancer care at Washington State clinics. The “Community Cancer Care in Washington State: Quality and Cost Report” is the result of a five-year initiative led by the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research, or HICOR, a research group at Fred Hutch focused on health economics in cancer care. HICOR collaborated with more than 25 cancer care providers, public and private health insurers, patients, and researchers from throughout the state to develop the report.
Media contacts: Shelby Barnes,, 206.667.1455 (or) Sandy Van,, 808.526.1708

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