Tip Sheet: How bird flu travels to humans; radiation and cancer risk after bone marrow transplant; and a look at the potential of liquid biopsies

SEATTLE – May 6, 2019 – Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutch research, with links for additional background and media contacts.


Vaccine and Infectious Diseases:

Mapping all flu routes from bird to human
Deadly flu pandemics can arise when influenza viruses circulating in animals acquire the ability to jump to humans. Fred Hutch researchers recently published data in the open-access journal eLife, that mapped the alterations in a key influenza protein that allow bird flu to grow better in people. The map could help scientists better understand which changes enable flu to jump species and may presage a new pandemic, said flu researcher Dr. Shirleen Soh, a postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of Fred Hutch computational biologist Dr. Jesse Bloom. This understanding, in turn, would be a step toward heading off pandemics by pinpointing which viruses should be targeted with a vaccine.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, crhudson@fredhutch.org 206.667.7365

Basic Science:

New method quickly, precisely maps epigenome in single cells
More and more, scientists are discovering that variation in the epigenome has profound implications for fundamental cellular biology, as well as for human health and diseases such as cancer. Published in  Nature Communications, Fred Hutch researchers have recently developed a new method that allows investigators to map chromatin — the DNA modifications, packaging proteins and molecular factors that work together to turn genes on or off — precisely, quickly, at low cost and in single cells. The CUT&Tag (Cleavage Under Targets & Tagmentation) approach, will hopefully make it possible for scientists to rapidly make high-resolution and low-cost epigenetic maps.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,mwmcelro@fredhutch.org, 206.667.6651

Clinical Research:

Radiation dose and cancer risk after bone marrow transplant In a recent study published in the journal Blood, Fred Hutch researchers found that there is a strong link between the intensity of radiation that patients receive before a bone marrow transplant and their risk of developing a new cancer. Patients who undergo high-dose, total-body irradiation, or TBI, are at highest risk — nearly eight times greater than the general population, the researchers found. Patients who receive the increasingly common low-dose TBI have a significantly lower cancer risk — but that risk is still twice as high as that of the general population. The results stress the importance of lifelong monitoring for all transplant patients, said Dr. Scott Baker, the study’s lead author and director of the Fred Hutch Survivorship Program.
Media contact: Molly McElroy,mwmcelro@fredhutch.org, 206.667.6651

Could a simple blood test replace the invasive tissue biopsy? Using a simple blood test to detect and analyze cancer has many benefits, the main one being the potential of replacing the need for tissue biopsies which are invasive, often risky and painful procedures used to collect tumor cells with a needle or through surgery. Clinical trial results presented at the American Association of Cancer Research annual meeting showed that a commercial blood test was as effective as tissue biopsies at detecting multiple genetic mutations in lung cancer patients. However, Fred Hutch researchers caution that these liquid biopsies still have many challenges like false positives. Researchers at Fred Hutch are developing a blood test to help detect lung cancer in high-risk adults whose imaging scans are inconclusive.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, mwmcelro@fredhutch.org, 206.667.6651

Prevention: 

Reducing the cancer burden for women around the globe The most common types of cancers in women worldwide are breast, lung and colorectal cancer. How can we increase the survival rates for women with these cancers? Researchers at Fred Hutch are working toward reducing the number of deaths caused by these cancers by focusing on precision prevention, screening and targeted therapies. For colorectal cancer in particular, researchers are pooling large data sets from over 40,000 participants to refine risk prediction models for colorectal cancer. They’ve derived a score that takes into account 19 different lifestyle and environmental factors together with 64 common genetic variants to identity more than 18,000 people in their data set who might be at high risk for colon cancer. Using this model will help individuals understand at what age is best to start screening.
Media contact: Tom Kim, tomkim@fredhutch.org, 206.667.6240

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

$12M NIH grant to study rare, aggressive skin cancer

Drs. Davidson and Galloway named to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Dr. Philip Greenberg elected a Distinguished Fellow of the American Association of Immunologists

Leukemia research leader Dr. Fred Appelbaum named ‘Giant of Cancer Care’

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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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