What Your Dollars Support
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Reserch Center thanks our Hutch Award Luncheon partners for your generous support of The Gregory Fund® for early cancer detection research.
One of the most heartbreaking statistics in cancer treatment is how many patients could have been cured if only their cancer had been diagnosed in its earliest stage. Through generous support of The Gregory Fund® and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, you are helping to change these statistics.
At this year’s Hutch Award Luncheon, attendees showed their commitment to early detection by meeting a $100,000 challenge to support The Gregory Fund. Your remarkable generosity made the day the most successful in the event’s history, raising more than $412,000 for early detection research efforts.
By supporting innovative, early stage research through The Gregory Fund, your contributions have nurtured pioneering ideas that were too new, too untested to qualify for traditional funding. Previous pilot studies have succeeded in identifying cancer biomarkers — molecular signals that indicate the presence of cancer long before traditional diagnostic methods can detect anything’s wrong. Now, thanks to you, a new generation of projects is pushing these initial discoveries closer to clinical relevance, building on preliminary data to devise better diagnostic tools or even generate new cures for cancer.
This report highlights three early detection projects which are benefiting from funds raised at the Hutch Award Luncheon. Together, these projects represent a new generation of pioneering research, each with the potential to advance the timely diagnosis and treatment of early stage cancer — and ultimately save lives.
Dr. Harlan Robins
Pioneering approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of early stage cancer
The number of immune T-cells that embed themselves into the dense tissue of an ovarian tumor can help predict ovarian cancer outcomes: More T-cells indicate a better chance for survival. However, current methods to directly measure the number of T-cells in a tumor provide only crude estimates or are too complex to be clinically feasible. Drs. Jason Bielas and Harlan Robins are developing a simpler, more accurate alternative. Their approach uses a standard laboratory technique called the polymerase chain reaction, to count the number of unique T-cell genes found in a tumor biopsy sample. Because each T-cell possesses a unique genetic signature, measuring the number of distinct T-cell genes should provide an accurate, sensitive measure of the number of cells in an ovarian tumor. In turn, improved estimates of tumor T-cell content at the time of disease detection could enable more accurate prognoses and inform treatment decisions for women facing ovarian cancer.
Dr. Scott Ramsey
Improving clinical and cost-effectiveness of early detection screening
For individuals at high risk for lung cancer, screening by low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) can reduce mortality by 20 percent. Unfortunately, an astronomical rate of false positives (96.4 percent) makes the procedure both inefficient and expensive. In addition, the procedure can cause unnecessary anxiety for patients, who sometimes wait months before a follow-up scan or biopsy corrects a false diagnosis. Dr. Scott Ramsey’s group is establishing a registry to more carefully evaluate how LDCT screening affects patients, including their quality of life, medical outcomes and treatment costs. By providing valuable data to guide diagnostic decision-making, this program promises to improve the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of LDCT screening for early cancer detection, while reducing its negative consequences for patients.
Dr. Polly Newcomb
Bringing biomarkers closer to the clinic
Dr. Polly Newcomb’s efforts build upon earlier biomarker research to advance the field toward clinical use for colorectal cancer screening. Her group will test blood samples from patients diagnosed with early stages of colorectal cancer for the presence of micro-RNAs (miRNAs), which are tiny molecules known to regulate colorectal cancer progression. By pinpointing which biomarkers coincide with the earliest stages of disease progression as recorded in the patients’ case histories, the research will help identify which miRNA biomarkers might serve as accurate predictors of the initial stages of cancer. Eventually, Dr. Newcomb’s team hopes to use these results to develop a simple blood test that can improve early detection and guide decisions on screening and treatment for colorectal cancer.
We are grateful for your support of The Gregory Fund and Fred Hutch’s early cancer detection research efforts. Your contributions have helped support these innovative projects and others like them that may change the face of cancer in our lifetime.