News Releases

Tip Sheet: Advances in understanding breast cancer metastasis; how to boost clinical trial participation; and a new approach to looking at HIV

SEATTLE – Feb. 1, 2019 – Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutch research, with links for additional background and media contacts.


Is it possible to prevent breast cancer metastasis?
There is a long-standing belief that chemotherapy can’t kill dormant disseminated tumor cells. New research published in Nature Cell Biology led by Fred Hutch researcher Dr. Cyrus Ghajar proved this belief to be wrong, showing promise for preventing breast cancer metastasis. Ghajar and his team found that blood vessels in bone marrow protect these dormant tumor cells and if you take away the signaling of these cells, then they can be killed in their sleep. This research proposes a shift in how we view these dormant disseminated tumor cells, and potential for a new therapy that will kill these sleeping cells.
Media contact:, 206.667.2210

Health Disparities and Health Care Economics

How to boost clinical trial participation
A new study published in JAMA Oncology suggests that loosening strict comorbidity criteria for clinical trials would open trials to thousands of previously exempt patients. The study, led by investigators from Fred Hutch and SWOG Cancer Research Network, found that cancer patients with comorbidities like hypertension or a prior cancer, are less likely to participate in clinical trials. Nearly 20 percent of cancer clinical trials fall through because they don’t draw enough participants. The results of this study show that if patients with comorbidities of any type could participate, up to nearly 11,990 additional patients would be eligible for cancer trials.
Media contact:, 206.667.2210


Rethinking an old viral foe
A new study published in Science challenges long-held theories about how the body controls cytomegalovirus, or CMV, a virus that infects at least half of all adults worldwide and can threaten the lives of bone marrow transplant patients. Using a newly developed mouse model, Dr. Geoffrey Hill found that strain-specific antibodies made from B cells are responsible for keeping CMV suppressed in mice, without the need for any other immune cells. Hill’s insights could pave the way for cheaper, safer therapies using antibodies to protect transplant patients against CMV.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

Infectious Disease and Cancer

Cutting-edge approach maps HIV’s escape routes
Fred Hutch researchers have constructed an atlas of immune-evading mutations HIV uses to escape molecules forming the immune system's first line of defense against the virus. Published in the journal Immunity, researchers show that mutations that affect whether antibodies can block HIV occur in areas of the virus’ envelope protein that directly touch antibodies, and in areas beyond antibodies' reach. Understanding the functional interactions between antibodies and HIV will help researchers understand how prevent or treat HIV infection and develop more effective preventative vaccines.
Media contact: Claire Hudson,, 206.667.7365

Basic Science

For cells, keeping quiet is a cinch
When faced with stress – like lack of food – yeast cells can put themselves in a paused state called quiescence where they conserve energy and can survive for weeks or months without nutrients. Cancer cells use a similar survival strategy, which allows them to resist anti-cancer drugs. Fred Hutch scientists have unraveled one of the mysteries of quiescence by showing how yeast cells can enter this state by cinching their DNA into loops. A better understanding of this paused state could help scientists discover ways to awaken dormant tumor cells or sensitize them to anti-cancer drugs. The Fred Hutch team is now studying if the same pattern is true in mammalian cells.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

January Recognitions

Researchers at Fred Hutch are often recognized for their work. We are proud to celebrate their achievements and grateful to the awarding organizations.

Dr. Kristin Anderson receives research grant from Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance

Dr. Veena Shankaran joins leadership of Fred Hutch’s health care economics and policy research institute

Dr. Alice Berger receives grant to study causes of lung cancer in never-smokers

Fred Hutch hosts Seattle Mariners’ rising star

Dr. Arvind Subramaniam receives grant to study how cells cope with stalled protein synthesis

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