Tip Sheet: Disparities in cancer outcomes, catching up on cancer screenings, boosting immunotherapy effectiveness and SARS-CoV-2 origins

Summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings and other news

SEATTLE — July 7, 2021 — Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings and other news.

Health disparities

Black with cancer: ‘It shouldn’t be different’
Cancer can be a completely different experience for people who are Black, and the outcomes show Black and African American people in the U.S. have the highest cancer mortality and shortest survival rate of any racial or ethnic group. The Fred Hutch and UW Consortium health equity team works to reduce cancer risks and racial bias while improving care for Black communities and patients.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

New studies highlight cancer inequities in hospice care, financial impacts
New findings from the health policy and outcomes research group at Fred Hutch, HICOR, point to yet another area where the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected cancer patients: the number of Medicaid patients with cancer who died at home without hospice care increased during the pandemic. In another study led by HICOR, it was found that within two years of a cancer diagnosis, cancer patients experienced a significantly higher proportion of adverse financial effects compared to people without a cancer diagnosis.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Diversity, equity and inclusion

Fred Hutch announces recipients of inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion awards
These awards honor employees who embody Fred Hutch’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in research:
- Community engagement specialist Dr. Michele Andrasik for work on the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.
- Infectious disease biologist Dr. April Randhawa for work supporting the careers of investigators who are underrepresented in their fields.
- Public health researcher Kathy Briant for work in supporting the creation of the Fred Hutch Office of Community Outreach and Engagement.
- Blood stem cell researcher Dr. Beverly Torok-Storb for devoted advocacy for the mentorship of young scientists.
Media contact: Kat Wynn, kwynn@fredhutch.org

Science Says: Curing cancer for all.
A panel of experts from Fred Hutch, including Dr. Paul Buckley, vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Fred Hutch, gathered to discuss approaches for reducing disparities and increasing diversity in cancer treatment and research. From reducing cancer risk and racial bias to creating inclusive vaccine trials, the panel addressed a variety of inequities.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Cancer Health Equity Now: Increasing Diversity in STEM & Healthcare
In the most recent podcast from Fred Hutch’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement, Fred Hutch science education and outreach experts discussed diversity in STEM and healthcare. The panel examined how creating pathways and engaging students and teachers on issues of diversity can help to improve health equity and address the cultural and racial gaps that exist in healthcare.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org


Catching up with cancer as COVID-19 starts to ebb
The COVID-19 pandemic kept people away from their regular cancer screenings last year. In a feature story, oncologist Dr. Nancy Davidson talks about the importance of screenings to catch cancer early and current efforts to catch up on screenings. Kathy Briant, of the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement, gives an update on how her team of health educators are getting the word out to communities about screening programs in Washington state. Follow OCOE on Twitter.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, mwmcelro@fredhutch.org

Understanding the origins of SARS-CoV-2
Evolutionary biologist Dr. Jesse Bloom calls for more research on how the COVID-19 pandemic started. In a Q&A, Dr. Bloom answers questions about the importance of understanding pandemic origins in the context of researching viruses and preventing future outbreaks.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, mwmcelro@fredhutch.org

Latest Fred Hutch research on COVID-19
In this latest recap of recent COVID-19 news:
- Dr. Laura Matrajt and colleagues are studying the optimal use of coronavirus vaccines to show tradeoffs between one and two doses.
- Dr. Jesse Bloom recovered data related to the early Wuhan SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, which could help shed light on pandemic origins. He shared this Twitter thread explaining it in detail.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, mwmcelro@fredhutch.org

Infectious diseases

Snow days may save lives during flu season
The Seattle Flu Study began in 2018/2019 influenza season and is aimed at evaluating city-level transmission of influenza and other respiratory pathogens. In February 2019 Seattle received heavy snowfall impacting residents ability to travel within the city, allowing researchers to model the impact this enforced social distancing had on circulation of viruses. You can follow the latest updates from the Seattle Flu Study here.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Cancer research 

How RNA-altering drugs might improve anticancer immunotherapies
In the journal Cell, Dr. Robert Bradley and a collaborator at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center report on how brief disruptions to the gene machinery of cancer cells make them more susceptible to immunotherapy drugs. The preclinical study builds on the observation that checkpoint inhibitors work better in cancers that have more mutations, which make them more visible to the immune system. Dr. Bradley also shared his findings through a Twitter thread.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, mwmcelro@fredhutch.org

Brave Like Gabe: Supporting Rare Cancer Research
In June, Brooks Running released a special edition shoe and apparel collection to honor runner Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald, who died of adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2019. The clothing collection was designed in partnership with Grunewald’s family and friends to symbolize her spirit and legacy. Brooks Running will donate $100,000 on behalf of the Brave Like Gabe Foundation to support the Brave Fellowship at Fred Hutch. Dr. Alyssa Webster was the inaugural recipient of the fellowship in September 2020.
Media contact: Kat Wynn, kwynn@fredhutch.org

Other notable news

Global collaborators and dedicated supporters illustrate the Heart of the Hutch

Prostate cancer researcher Dr. Janet Stanford retires after three decades

Also, we thank Dr. Fred Appelbaum for his service as Board Chair of the Cancer Research Endowment (CARE) Fund, a public-private partnership that supports cancer research in Washington state. Appelbaum has stepped down from this role. The CARE Fund was signed into law in 2015 and enables Washington state to appropriate a state match of up to $10 million annually to fund cancer research in the state.


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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 and the COVID-19 Prevention Network.