News Releases

Tip Sheet: Making checkpoint inhibitors more effective; a new HIV vaccine trial; and how to deal with measles and cancer

SEATTLE – Aug. 5, 2019 – Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings, with links for additional background and media contacts.

Precision medicine

New research identifies gene that hides cancer cells from immunotherapy
A team of Fred Hutch researchers has identified a gene that could make checkpoint inhibitors work for more cancer patients. The study, published in Developmental Cell, found that when the DUX4 gene is expressed in cancer cells, it can prevent the cancer from being recognized and destroyed by the immune system. The team, led by Drs. Robert Bradley and Stephen Tapscott, looked at the gene expression profiles of nearly 10,000 cancers from 33 different cancer types. They discovered that DUX4 consistently presented itself in many different solid tumors, including cancers of the bladder, breast, lung, kidney and stomach. Because DUX4 prevented immune cells from recognizing the cancer cells, patients whose cancers expressed the gene were less likely to respond to immunotherapy. Since DUX4 is expressed in many cancers, blocking its activity might increase the success of immune checkpoint inhibitors.
Media contact: Tom Kim, tomkim@fredhutch.org, 206.667.6240

New study reveals weakness in emerging type of aggressive prostate tumor
In the July 31 issue of Science Translational medicine, a study led by Hutch prostate cancer researcher and oncologist Dr. Andrew Hsieh reveals a new drug target for tumors that turn off their androgen receptor, which fuels their growth. These aggressive tumors ramp up a different growth-promoting system, which is a protein called 4EBP1. When the scientists targeted this pathway in mouse models of prostate cancer, the mice lived longer. The findings ultimately could help oncologists select the right patients for the right drugs.
Media contact: Tom Kim, tomkim@fredhutch.org, 206.667.6240

Vaccines and Infectious Diseases

New HIV vaccine trial to launch in U.S., Latin America and Europe
An international consortium that includes Fred Hutch late this year will begin recruiting thousands of volunteers on three continents for a trial of a vaccine designed to protect people against multiple strains of HIV. The new trial, called Mosaico, will test a vaccine that closely resembles one that is being tested among women in Africa, but it will be studied in other parts of the globe — in the United States, Latin America and Europe. It will be provided to members of communities where the risk of HIV is also high: among people who are transgender and men who have sex with men. Mosaico will join four other large-scale trials running concurrently and coordinated by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, or HVTN, which is headquartered at Fred Hutch. Nearly 12,700 participants are enrolled in the other four studies now underway, each of which is evaluating the effectiveness of a different vaccine strategy.
Media contact:
Aziel Gangerdine, azielg@fredhutch.org, 206.667.7875

Measles and cancer patients. What to do?
Declared eliminated in the U.S. in March 2000, measles is threatening to rebound in scattered outbreaks occurring primarily in regions of the country where vaccination rates have declined. Measles is worrisome to cancer patients because those receiving chemotherapy or recovering from a blood stem cell transplant may have weakened immunity. For the protection of the public, Dr. Steve Pergam, an expert in infectious disease sciences at Fred Hutch, stresses that it is more important to vaccinate the healthy. When 95% of the child population is vaccinated, the risk of measles spreading is very low. High rates of vaccination have provided the kind of peace with measles that Americans have enjoyed for nearly half a century. But when this “herd immunity” declines, it puts communities at risk for an outbreak. As the number of unvaccinated children rises, that peace is threatened.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org, 206.667.7365

Gene editing

Targeting a subset of stem cells shows lasting, therapeutically relevant gene editing in blood cells
In the July 31 issue of Science Translational Medicine, a team of Fred Hutch researchers led by Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem showed how editing a portion of stem cells with CRISPR/Cas9 is sufficient for long-term reactivation of therapeutic hemoglobin in patients with blood disorders and other diseases. The proof-of-principle study suggests that efficient modification of targeted stem cells could reduce the costs of gene-editing treatments while decreasing the risk of unwanted effects that can occur with a less-discriminating approach.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, mwmcelro@fredhutch.org, 206.667.6651

Philanthropy

Hutch Award Luncheon honors Stephen Piscotty, raises more than $575K for cancer research
Earlier this month, Fred Hutch hosted its annual Hutch Award Luncheon to raise money for cancer research and to honor Oakland A’s Stephen Piscotty as the winner of the 54th Hutch Award. Since 2000, the luncheon has raised over $7.1 million. This year, scientists, donors, and Major League Baseball stars, including keynote seaker Jim Abbott, gathered at T-Mobile Park, home to the Seattle Mariners, to raise over $575,000 for lifesaving research at Fred Hutch.
Media contact: Tom Kim, tomkim@fredhutch.org, 206.667.6240

July 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. Sita Kugel receives grant to study aggressive form of pancreatic cancer

Dr. Tyler Starr named a 2019 Damon Runyon Foundation Fellow

Immunotherapy trailblazer Dr. Phil Greenberg to receive E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize

Dr. M. Elizabeth ‘Betz’ Halloran receives Nathan Mantel Lifetime Achievement Award

Fred Hutch global health research honored for impact, collaboration

Dr. Meghan Koch named 2019 Rita Allen Foundation Scholar

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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 National Cancer Institute-funded 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.

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