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Fred Hutch experts tackle long COVID, improving outcomes for leukemia patients – and tips on staying healthy

Summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings and other news

SEATTLE — Feb. 3, 2022 — Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings and other news.

COVID-19

Tackling the unknowns of long-haul COVID-19
Researchers at Fred Hutch are working to understand long COVID-19, the long lasting effects of COVID-19 infection that can affect adults, teens and children. Investigators are building on deep expertise in immunology and infectious diseases like HIV to figure out what causes long COVID-19, who is at risk and how to treat it.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Researchers link mutations in coronavirus' internal machinery to higher risk of severe disease
A new study has identified small mutations in genes of early COVID-19 viruses that appeared to have substantially increased the risk of severe disease in patients who contracted them. The researchers, who carried out whole-genome sequencing of the viruses taken from patients primarily in the first year of the pandemic, spotted a group of four genetic mutations that were linked to an increase in hospitalization.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Coronaviruses’ distant past reveals ancient roots of trait that could help them jump species
A newly published Nature study led by Dr. Tyler Starr shows that the ability to bind ACE2 is an ancient property of SARS-CoV-related coronaviruses — and found in coronaviruses outside Asia. This ability allows the virus to infect human cells and is one of the biological steps that allows viruses to move from one species to another.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Latest Fred Hutch research on COVID-19 If you’re interested in learning more about this research, please contact: media@fredhutch.org

●      See what Fred Hutch coronavirus experts are saying about how the omicron variant may affect us, what is known so far and what key questions we need to answer.

●      A group of Fred Hutch researchers are looking into how cancer patients are treated after diagnosis with COVID-19.

Health equity

The impact of patient and community advocacy in health equity and cancer care
In the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach’s most recent podcast episode, the team discussed the importance of patient and community advocacy, and what it means to have the expertise of these powerful voices at the table when it comes to research and cancer-health equity. They were joined by patient advocates who shared stories about their own cancer journeys and their expertise on health equity.
Media contact: Kat Wynn, kwynn@fredhutch.org

Cancer research

Novel transplant approach improves the odds for leukemia patients
In the latest and largest study yet of a novel technique for treating leukemia patients, Dr. Marie Bleakley and her team of researchers have affirmed that filtering out certain immune cells before transplant reduced the rate of developing the side effect chronic graft-vs.-host disease.
Media contact: Kat Wynn, kwynn@fredhutch.org

New study: Financial hardship common with metastatic colorectal cancer
Despite having access to health insurance, nearly three out of four patients with metastatic colorectal cancer experienced major financial hardship during the first year after their diagnosis. These are the findings of a recent study of almost 400 patients by researchers at the SWOG Cancer Research Network, The study also found that major financial hardship was associated with a subsequent drop in patients’ social functioning and quality of life.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

New studies highlight cancer inequities in hospice care, financial impacts
New findings from the health outcomes group at Fred Hutch point to yet another area where the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected cancer patients: Many more Medicaid patients with cancer died at home without hospice care.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Public health

7 ways to science your life for the coming year
Public health researchers at Fred Hutch advise people to resist the new year’s resolution reflex to start a crash diet or extreme workout routine, which science tells us usually doesn't stick. Instead, they want people to be patient with themselves and be realistic about their new year’s revamp. Researchers share their tips for creating changes for longer life in 2022.
Media contact: Kat Wynn, kwynn@fredhutch.org

Science spotlight
Science Spotlight is a monthly installment of articles written by postdoctoral fellows at Fred Hutch that summarize new research papers from Hutch scientists. If you’re interested in learning more or covering these topics, contact: media@fredhutch.org

●      Changes in loneliness and mental health during the pandemic

●      Modeling of human cytomegalovirus infection dynamics in patients

●      Nanoparticles with a mega impact: how injectable mRNA fights cancer

●      Conditioning treatment regimens for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation

●      Association between industrial pollutants including dioxins and dioxin-like compounds and hepatocellular carcinoma risk

●      Non-traditional signaling: Memory T cells activate innate immunity

●      Improving computational protein design for real-world applications

Awards and other notable stories

Fred Hutch/University of Washington Consortium to serve entire state
Starting Jan. 1, the Fred Hutch/UW Cancer Consortium’s catchment area grew to include the entire state of Washington, an addition of 26 counties, 2.3 million people, including several Indigenous tribes. Scientists within the National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center will now, in addition to their many national and international research collaborations, begin to expand their regional research, engagement and outreach to include all residents of the state.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Dr. Rachel Issaka receives The Kathryn Surace-Smith Endowed Chair in Health Equity Research
Dr. Rachel Issaka, a Fred Hutch physician-scientist studying colorectal cancer and health disparities, is the inaugural recipient of The Kathryn Surace-Smith Endowed Chair in Health Equity Research. The new endowed chair will help advance Issaka’s research, which focuses on reducing colorectal cancer deaths and disparities, particularly among members of racial/ethnic minority groups and low-income populations, through increased screening and follow-up of non-invasive screening tests. Follow Dr. Issaka on Twitter to learn more about her research.
.Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Harmit Malik receives Novitski Prize
The Genetics Society of America awarded Fred Hutch evolutionary biologist Dr. Harmit Malik one of the society’s top honors, the Edward Novitski Prize, for extraordinary creativity and intellectual ingenuity in genetics research. Malik studies genetic conflict, in which two genes jockey for dominance. He pioneered the field of paleovirology with the idea of “evolutionary echoes” — the traces of long-past viral infections that left their mark in a species’ anti-viral genes — to infer the evolutionary influence of ancient, extinct viruses. Follow Dr. Malik on Twitter to stay updated on his work.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org

Dr. Siqi Li named a 2022 Damon Runyon Fellow
Fred Hutch postdoctoral fellow Dr. Siqi Li has been named the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research Fellow, one of thirteen 2022 Damon Runyon Fellows. The four-year, $231,000 fellowship will provide Li a stipend to support her investigations into the interactions between mutated cells and their normal neighbors that could affect tumor growth.
Media contact: Kat Wynn, kwynn@fredhutch.org

Dr. Jeffrey Leek named VP and Chief Data Officer
Fred Hutch announced that biostatistician and data science education leader Dr. Jeffrey Leek will be joining later this year as vice president and chief data officer. Leek will work across Fred Hutch and with external partners to build on the Hutch’s computational resources, data services and academic data structures in computational biology and translational data science and lead the development of a top biomedical research data enterprise at the Hutch.
Media contact: Kat Wynn, kwynn@fredhutch.org

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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.