News Releases

Tip Sheet: How a failed Alzheimer’s drug boosts CAR T-cell therapy; a new type of anti-CRISPR; and how GVHD starts in the gut

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


Nanotech turns pro-tumor immune cells into cancer-killing triple agents
Nanotechnology could be the key to redirecting specialized immune cells to attack and shrink tumors. In a new study published last month in Nature Communications, scientists at Fred Hutch showed in mice that miniscule, dissolving polymer particles can ferry genetic instructions that temporarily rewire certain immune-suppressing cells into cancer fighters without causing body-wide toxicities. The researchers demonstrated that once reprogrammed, these cells — called macrophages — help orchestrate an anti-cancer immune response that can shrink, and even clear, tumors in mice with ovarian, brain and skin cancers.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

Failed Alzheimer’s drug boosts CAR T-cell therapy
new study in the journal Blood describes how an experimental drug called gamma-secretase inhibitors can keep multiple myeloma visible to the immune system. Scientists at Fred Hutch have found that GSIs disable cancer’s cloaking device and make them easily spotted by CAR T cells, which are programmed to attack. The researchers have now launched a clinical trial to test this combination of CAR T and GSIs. Their paper details promising — but early — results in three multiple myeloma patients, noted Dr. Margot Pont, a postdoctoral researcher at Fred Hutch and the lead scientist on the analysis.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

Human microbiome    

New type of viral anti-CRISPR found in human microbiome
There’s a war going on in your gut, and it has nothing to do with what you just ate. Viruses and bacteria are engaged in an age-old, life-or-death game of rock-paper-scissors (minus the paper). Bacteria attack with DNA-snipping CRISPR “scissors” and viruses block with anti-CRISPR “rocks.” Hutch scientists recently reported the discovery of a new type of anti-CRISPR. Insights into this battle could help researchers improve gene therapy or potentially find new solutions to antibiotic resistance.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

Mystery solved: How graft-vs.-host disease starts in the gut
A new study published in the journal Immunity identifies the complex chain of events that triggers GVHD in the gut. It involves a large cast of cells and molecules, including some from a surprising source: the trillions of tiny organisms that live in and on us known as the microbiome. Fred Hutch researchers  Dr. Geoffrey Hill , scientific director of the Immunotherapy Integrated Research Center at Fred Hutch, and Dr. Motoko Koyama also found a promising clue as they traced the disease’s complicated pathway. One of the key players in that pathway is a chemical signal called interleukin-12. By snuffing out that signal, the researchers could prevent the disease from happening in mice. They are now applying for funding to test this approach in transplant patients via a clinical trial.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651

Clinical Research

The link between baby’s cells and mom’s disease risk
Fred Hutch researchers have for the first time identified how the two-way traffic between mom and fetus known as “microchimerism” can sometimes harm mom years later. During this exchange in pregnancy, cells flow back and forth between mother and child. They can take up residence in the other’s body for decades. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers report how those fetal immigrants can contribute to mom’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis, a painful autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own joints. It turns out some of these lingering fetal cells can trigger mom’s immune system to go on the offensive, much like a transplant recipient’s body might reject a donor organ.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,, 206.667.6651


How do we get teens to stop vaping?
Vaping, the wildly popular new way to consume nicotine and marijuana has turned out to be riskier than expected with at least a dozen deaths and nearly 1,000 sickened. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and public health officials announced a new, science-based smartphone app to help teens and young adults kick the vaping habit. The app is based on research done by Fred Hutch smoking cessation expert Dr. Jonathan Bricker. His research group at the Fred Hutch HABIT Lab and collaborators have since conducted studies and mobile interventions to help people stop other unhealthy behaviors — such as overeating and excessive drinking — and tailored their smoking cessation apps for high-risk groups such as cancer patients.
Media contact: Tom Kim,, 206.667.6240

September Recognitions

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

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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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