Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Tip Sheet: Celebrate holidays safely, COVID-19 vaccines, challenges in HIV vaccine trials — and new insights on evolution

Summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings and other news, plus resources for the American Society of Hematology’s annual meeting

Newswise — SEATTLE – Dec. 2, 2020 – Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutch research findings and other news with links for additional background and media contacts.

If you’re following the American Society of Hematology’s annual meeting (virtual, Dec. 5-8), see our media tip sheet highlighting Fred Hutch presentations and activities, including those by current ASH president Dr. Stephanie Lee, a physician-scientist at Fred Hutch.

Also, the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium will take place virtually Dec. 8-11. Follow @fredhutch on Twitter for highlights on Fred Hutch presentations.  

Celebrate safely: Scientists offer advice, urge vigilance during holidays Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Tom Lynch and an expert panel touched on issues that are dominating the headlines and our lives, including skyrocketing rates of COVID-19 infection, encouraging news about vaccine trials, and provided a guide to celebrating the holidays and ideas for staying connected. Media contact: Tom Kim,

Fred Hutch statement on Phase 3 vaccine interim analysis of Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine candidate Dr. Larry Corey, virologist at Fred Hutch and co-leader of the COVID-19 Prevention Network’s vaccine testing program, commented on early results from the Pfizer and BioNTech Phase 3 vaccine candidate against COVID-19. Media contact: Claire Hudson,

Fred Hutch statement on the interim analysis of the Phase 3 trial of the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 Dr. Larry Corey, virologist at Fred Hutch and co-leader of the COVID-19 Prevention Network’s vaccine testing program, commented on an interim analysis of the Phase 3 trial of the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19. Media contact: Claire Hudson,

Fred Hutch begins experimental COVID-19 vaccine efficacy trial Fred Hutch is enrolling volunteers for a COVID-19 vaccine trial. The Phase 3 study will examine whether AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 vaccine can protect against COVID-19 and also prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the disease. Media contact: Claire Hudson,

Cancer clinical trials: Creativity in the face of COVID-19 The pandemic added dire new risks for patients, unprecedented risks for trial staff members and an unexpected need to work local healthcare resources into the equation. Here are examples of how researchers adapted their work to safely enable clinical trials to continue. Media contact: Tom Kim,

Breast cancer researchers from Hutch / UW Cancer Consortium gain BCRF funding New grants will support studies aimed at bettering patient outcomes through diet, exercise, vaccines and more. This work will focus on almost every aspect of breast cancer: from its genetic drivers and potentially reducible risk factors, to treatment and survivorship, to new therapies and practices that could help those with metastatic, or stage 4, disease. Media contact: Tom Kim, New Fred Hutch-led trial shows no benefits of dairy foods for blood sugar regulation Findings from the trial showed that the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels was not directly affected by whether participants consumed dairy foods. However, consumption of either low-fat or full-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese reduced insulin sensitivity. Media contact: Tom Kim,

Targeted immunotherapy for deadly prostate cancer shows promise in preclinical test Dr. John Lee discussed his new preclinical study using an antibody-drug conjugate for neuroendocrine prostate cancer. The approach involves targeting some cancer cells that have high levels of a specific protein marker, which can be used as a guide for chemotherapy. Media contact: Molly McElroy,

From the freezers, a speedier way to evaluate antiviral drugs In studies that applied artificial intelligence and modern diagnostics to 30-year-old blood samples pulled from freezers, scientists showed how tests tracking levels of a virus in the serum of recovering bone marrow transplant patients reliably charted the eventual course of their disease. Media contact: Claire Hudson,

HIV vaccine trials are complicated by the availability of PrEP December 1 marked #WorldAIDSDay 2020, and while the growing use of HIV-prevention drugs has posed a challenge to running vaccine trials, researchers are charting pathways to conduct trials that can accurately and ethically test the latest generation of candidate vaccines. Media contact: Claire Hudson,

New regional collaborations will accelerate innovation in data-intensive medical science Three research teams in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia receive pilot funding from Cascadia Data Alliance, which aims to promote collaborations that may answer important scientific questions and to develop new ways for using technical solutions and best practices, data and methods standardization, and Azure cloud services that could be broadly applied in future research. Media contact: Tom Kim,

Old and slow isn't always the winning combo for critical genes

It’s generally thought that the more critical a gene is to cellular function, the more likely it is an “old” part of DNA and relatively unchanged by evolution. New work from scientists at Fred Hutch upends that belief by demonstrating that some essential genes are actually “young” and evolving rapidly. Media contact: Molly McElroy,

Fred Hutch joins Washington Employers for Racial Equity

Essential workers illustrate the Heart of the Hutch

Dr. Stanley Riddell awarded Burke O'Reilly Family Endowed Chair in Immunotherapy


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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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Released: 15-Jan-2021 5:40 PM EST
Research Links Social Isolation to COVID-19 Protocol Resistance
Humboldt State University

As health officials continue to implore the public to wear masks and practice social distancing, recent research by Humboldt State University Psychology Professor Amber Gaffney provides key insights into connections between social isolation, conspiratorial thinking, and resistance to COVID-19 protocols.

Newswise: Rapid blood test identifies COVID-19 patients at high risk of severe disease
Released: 15-Jan-2021 5:35 PM EST
Rapid blood test identifies COVID-19 patients at high risk of severe disease
Washington University in St. Louis

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that a relatively simple and rapid blood test can predict which patients with COVID-19 are at highest risk of severe complications or death. The blood test measures levels of mitochondrial DNA, which normally resides inside the energy factories of cells. Mitochondrial DNA spilling out of cells and into the bloodstream is a sign that a particular type of violent cell death is taking place in the body.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 2:55 PM EST
COVID-19 deaths really are different. But best practices for ICU care should still apply, studies suggest.
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

COVID-19 deaths are indeed different from other lung failure deaths, according to two recent studies, with 56% of COVID-19 patients dying primarily from the lung damage caused by the virus, compared with 22% of those whose lungs fail due to other causes. But, the researchers conclude, the kind of care needed to help sustain people through the worst cases of all forms of lung failure is highly similar, and just needs to be fine-tuned.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 2:50 PM EST
45% of adults over 65 lack online medical accounts that could help them sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

As the vaccination of older adults against COVID-19 begins across the country, new poll data suggests that many of them don’t yet have access to the “patient portal” online systems that could make it much easier for them to schedule a vaccination appointment. In all, 45% of adults aged 65 to 80 had not set up an account with their health provider’s portal system.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 1:30 PM EST
New England Journal of Medicine publishes COVID-19 treatment trial results
University of Texas at San Antonio

A clinical trial involving COVID-19 patients hospitalized at UT Health San Antonio and University Health, among roughly 100 sites globally, found that a combination of the drugs baricitinib and remdesivir reduced time to recovery, according to results published Dec. 11 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 12:40 PM EST
DNA test can quickly identify pneumonia in patients with severe COVID-19, aiding faster treatment
University of Cambridge

Researchers have developed a DNA test to quickly identify secondary infections in COVID-19 patients, who have double the risk of developing pneumonia while on ventilation than non-COVID-19 patients.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 12:30 PM EST
Fight CRC To Present Research Findings on The Impact of COVID-19 on the Colorectal Cancer Community at 2021 GI ASCO
Fight Colorectal Cancer

Fight Colorectal Cancer presents abstract at Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium highlighting the need to address the barriers and opportunities for care within the colorectal cancer community during the COVID-19 pandemic

Released: 15-Jan-2021 12:25 PM EST
Technion to Award Honorary Doctorate to Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla
American Technion Society

Israel's Technion will award an honorary doctorate to Pfizer CEO and Chairman Dr. Albert Bourla, for leading the development of the novel vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The honorary doctorate will be conferred at the Technion Board of Governors meeting in November 2021.

Released: 15-Jan-2021 11:30 AM EST
UW researchers develop tool to equitably distribute limited vaccines
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and UW Health have developed a tool that incorporates a person’s age and socioeconomic status to prioritize vaccine distribution among people who otherwise share similar risks due to their jobs.

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