Tip Sheet: Understanding cancer-related pain, newborn screening for deadly immune disorder — and new Fred Hutch leadership

Newswise — SEATTLE — July 6, 2023 — Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center research findings and other news.

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Cancer research and care

Pinpointing pain: Is it cancer or cancer treatment? Distinguishing side effects of cancer treatment from potential metastatic recurrence can be difficult. In a Q&A, Dr. Hanna Hunter, medical director of cancer rehabilitation at Fred Hutch, s best practices on how doctors and patients can work together to manage pain symptoms.     

American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting 2023 highlights: Fine-tuning cancer care Fred Hutch researchers at ASCO’s annual meeting d their latest findings in cellular immunotherapy, early detection cancer screening tests, interplays between the microbiome and genetics in colorectal cancer and more.    

Cancer Health Equity Podcast: Nurses in cancer care The latest episode of Fred Hutch’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement’s monthly podcast explores the role of nurses in cancer care and how they’re part of working toward health and well-being for everyone. Two Fred Hutch nurses on the blood and bone marrow transplant team — Arlyce Coumar and Jennifer Lynch — their stories of working with patients and families, as well as educating other nurses. They also discussed how nurses are getting more engaged in advocating for policies in health care. Fred Hutch community health educators Aden Afework, who works with African-American populations, and Snowy Johnson, who works with Indigenous populations, moderated the discussion.

Severe combined immunodeficiency A new analysis published in The Lancet shows that newborn screening is the biggest factor in preventing deaths from the rare inherited disorder called severe combined immunodeficiency, also known as “bubble boy disease.” Babies born with SCID appear healthy at birth but are vulnerable to infections and usually die within the first two years of life unless they’re treated with immune-restoring treatment, such as stem cell transplant. Dr. Monica Thakar, pediatric bone marrow transplant physician, led the analysis which was published June 20. Read more in a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease news release.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

Me Loving You: Themes of healing and moving forward Fred Hutch celebrated the start of Pride month with its fourth art installation as part of the Public Art & Community Dialogue Program featuring artist Ariadne Campanella. Initiated by Fred Hutch’s DEI Core, the program commissions artwork from artists representing diverse communities with the aim of engaging Fred Hutch employees and the broader community in conversations of solidarity with underrepresented groups. Campanella, a queer, non-binary trans woman and mixed media artist, was selected to create a piece focusing on LGBTQIA+ communities as they reflect on healing and moving from surviving to thriving.    

New Fred Hutch leaders

Dr. Sara Hurvitz joins Fred Hutch, University of Washington Breast oncologist Dr. Sara Hurvitz has been named the new senior vice president of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch and head of the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the University of Washington Department of Medicine. She will begin her role Aug. 1. Currently at UCLA, Hurvitz is an international expert in breast oncology and a leader in clinical and laboratory-based oncology research, with extensive experience in leading clinical trials spanning all phases.   

Fred Hutch announces new member, leadership on board of directors Fred Hutch announced one new member of its board of directors and its newly elected chair and vice chair. Pete Shimer, chief operating officer at Deloitte, will join the board. Leigh Morgan, chief strategy and operating officer at the Nia Tero Foundation, has been appointed the new chair of the board of directors, and Sean Boyle, chief operating officer at Omniva, has been appointed vice chair.    

Awards and grants

Dr. Mroj Alassaf named a 2023 Helen Hay Whitney Fellow Dr. Mroj Alassaf, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Akhila Rajan’s lab, received a 3 year $215,000 Helen Hay Whitney foundation fellowship. Her work focuses on how mitochondrial components from fat can reach the brain and what influence they have on its health. A neurobiologist by training, Alassaf joined Rajan’s team after showing in her graduate work how a new mitochondrial protein contributes to neuronal health.    

Dr. Sita Kugel receives V Foundation Translational Research Award Pancreatic cancer researcher Dr. Sita Kugel has received an inaugural Translational Research Award from the V Foundation for Cancer Research. The $800,000, four-year grant will allow Kugel to pursue an innovative Phase 1b clinical trial to translate from the lab to the clinic breakthroughs her group has made in developing a tailored treatment for a subtype of pancreatic cancer.    

Dr. Cecilia Moens elected inaugural member of the Society for Developmental Biology Academy Developmental biologist Dr. Cecilia Moens joins nine other scientists elected to the newly created Society for Developmental Biology Academy. Moens work focuses on using zebrafish as a model to study the genes that control the brain’s early development. Her current research looks at how immature neurons make their connections to muscles and other neurons in the process of building functional circuits.    

Lung cancer expert Dr. McGarry Houghton receives Satya and Rao Remala Family Endowed Chair Dr. McGarry Houghton, a pulmonary physician-scientist, studies the immune system’s role in cancer and lung cancer early detection. He was named the first recipient of the Satya and Rao Remala Family Endowed Chair, which provides support for a researcher working on both lung cancer and the promotion of equitable access to health and education. Houghton is pursuing a plasma-based diagnostic tool that would be used in conjunction with CT screening for lung cancer early detection.   

Virus researchers Cohn and Blanco-Melo win coveted grants Drs. Lillian Cohn and Daniel Blanco-Melo are both early career scientists studying viruses and recently received support for their work through scholar programs. Cohn was named a biomedical scholar by the Pew Charitable Trust and Blanco-Melo was named a Searle scholar. Cohn’s research focuses on finding ways to cure HIV/AIDS by eradicating reservoirs of latently infected blood cells that persist despite continuous therapy with antiviral drugs. Blanco-Melo focuses on exploring how viruses evolve and how the human immune response to them changes over time.    

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

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center unites individualized care and advanced research to provide the latest cancer treatment options and accelerate discoveries that prevent, treat and cure cancer and infectious diseases worldwide.

Based in Seattle, Fred Hutch is an independent, nonprofit organization and the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in Washington. We have earned a global reputation for our track record of discoveries in cancer, infectious disease and basic research, including important advances in bone marrow transplantation, immunotherapy, HIV/AIDS prevention, and COVID-19 vaccines. Fred Hutch operates eight clinical care sites that provide medical oncology, infusion, radiation, proton therapy and related services and has network affiliations with hospitals in four states. Fred Hutch also serves as UW Medicine’s cancer program.

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