What Your Dollars Support
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center thanks you for purchasing a Cure Card at Shop to Make a Difference and supporting our lifesaving research in women's cancer
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is immensely proud that our work in breast, ovarian and cervical cancer has saved hundreds of thousands of women’s lives around the world. Many more of our recent discoveries have great potential to further impact cancer patients and those at risk for these diseases.
Last year, you purchased a Cure Card at University Village’s Shop to Make a Difference. Proceeds from this event help ensure our continued progress to improve prevention, detection and treatment for breast, ovarian and cervical cancers. In this report we share with you a few recent examples of our achievements in women’s cancer research. We thank you for supporting our groundbreaking work to improve the lives of those suffering from and at risk for these diseases.
Battling chemotherapy resistance
Shoppers enjoying the sun at University Village.
A tumor’s environment — the healthy cells, tissues and fluids that surround it — turns out to be very important for cancer’s progression. Fred Hutch researchers have recently found that a tumor’s response to its environment may explain why some cancers resist chemotherapies, and how we might reverse this dangerous trend.
Sadly, developing resistance to chemotherapy is a common and ultimately lethal consequence for cancer patients with tumors that have metastasized, or spread, throughout the body. A team led by Fred Hutch’s Dr. Peter Nelson has discovered a key factor that drives this drug resistance.
By examining cells from breast, ovarian and prostate cancers, they found that the healthy tissue surrounding tumors can respond to the damages of chemotherapy by releasing growth signals, a normally helpful response that allows tissue to heal. Unfortunately, tumors can also respond to these growth signals by further invading the neighboring tissue. Their discovery suggests that blocking this unexpected response may improve the lifesaving power of existing therapies for breast and ovarian cancers.
Dr. Robyn Andersen
A possible low-tech lifesaver for ovarian cancer
Often called the “silent killer,” ovarian cancer is especially deadly because it often goes undetected until it spreads beyond the ovary. The earlier the disease is found, the higher the chance of a cure. Cure rates for women diagnosed when the disease is confined to the ovary are as high as 90 percent. Unfortunately most sufferers of the disease are diagnosed with advanced-stage disease, when the survival rate is less than 30 percent. A simple three-question, paper-and-pencil survey, given to women in the doctor’s office in less than two minutes, can effectively identify those who are experiencing symptoms that may indicate early-stage ovarian cancer, according to a study by Fred Hutch researcher Dr. Robyn Andersen and colleagues.
Dr. Andersen’s survey asks whether women frequently experience the following symptoms, all of which have been identified previously as potentially indicative of ovarian cancer:
• Abdominal and/or pelvic pain
• Feeling full quickly and/or unable to eat normally
• Abdominal bloating and/or increased abdomen size
A woman is considered “positive” on the survey if she has any of these symptoms more than 12 days per month and they are new to her within the past year. It’s important to note that this survey does not indicate cancer on its own, but is a low-tech tool to identify women in need of further evaluation for possible ovarian cancer, and has the potential to improve early detection of this devastating disease.
Losing weight may help lower breast cancer risk
Obesity increases risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, but researchers have traditionally struggled to show that losing weight could help prevent the disease. Fred Hutch scientist Dr. Anne McTiernan pioneered methods to pinpoint the link between weight loss and cancer prevention by gauging hormones and other molecular messengers in the bloodstream that signal a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer.
This year, Dr. McTiernan and her colleagues found that even moderate weight loss significantly reduces levels of estrogens, hormones known to signal higher breast cancer risk, circulating in the bloodstream. Dr. McTiernan estimates that overweight or obese postmenopausal women who lost just 5 percent of their body weight could cut their risk for certain types of breast cancers by up to half, and the benefits improve the more weight lost.
This important research, the first of its kind, suggests key steps women can take on their own to reduce their risk of breast cancer.
Support from individuals like you is critical to accelerating Fred Hutch’s innovative research. Thank you.
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March 15 – 17, 2013