President's Circle

The Power of President's Circle Support

President’s Circle members are making a difference in the future of lifesaving research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  Here are two examples of the many scientists who receive President’s Circle funding.

William (Bill) Grady, M.D.

William (Bill) Grady, M.D.

William (Bill) Grady, M.D.

Invest

Dr. Bill Grady is an expert in the molecules that drive the development and progression of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. His studies of the complex networks that cells use to communicate, and how cells can become cancerous when those networks break down, have led to new insights into the formation of colon and liver tumors.

Accelerate

Those insights, in turn, have led to significant funding opportunities for Bill and his team. He recently obtained a $1.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Research Network to co-lead a colon cancer biomarker developmental laboratory. He and his colleagues are now working to identify and validate methylated genes as new biomarker candidates for colon cancer. Methylated genes are genes that have been modified by the cell in a way that affects whether and to what extent they are turned on, or expressed. Bill believes such genes could lead to tests for colon polyps and early stage colon cancer that are more accurate and much less invasive than currently available strategies.

Impact

Although colon cancer is the second deadliest form of cancer in the U.S., it is both preventable and, if detected early, often curable. Colonoscopy has proven to be a valuable and effective screening tool, but its invasiveness can be a barrier for many patients. The prospect of a simpler blood- or stool-based test is enticing as a way to encourage more people to undergo screening and, ultimately, dramatically reduce the toll of this disease.



Harlan Robbins, Ph.D.

Harlan Robins, Ph.D.

Harlan Robins, Ph.D. 

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As a new Center faculty member, Dr. Harlan Robins utilized President's Circle contributions to begin an unprecedented study of the complexity of the immune system. Private support for early stage projects led by young investigators often serves as a springboard for their research careers. In Harlan’s case, “springboard” may have been a bit of an understatement.

Accelerate

The data he gathered in that study, and, even more importantly, the tools he created to acquire it—namely, methods for rapidly sequencing the receptor molecules that enable T-cells to recognize and attack health threats—have catapulted Harlan to remarkable heights. Over the past few years, he has initiated interdisciplinary collaborations with colleagues across the Center to extend his work and has published seminal papers describing their findings. He has obtained numerous grants, including several from the National Institutes of Health and a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation. He and a small group of scientists and entrepreneurs recently launched a spin-off company called Adaptive TCR that offers T-cell receptor sequencing to customers in academia and industry to speed the development of healthcare applications.

Impact

At the heart of this impressive list of accomplishments are potentially lifesaving research advances. Harlan continues to refine his techniques and seek out new ways to apply them to help patients. He is already using his methods to develop improved treatments for blood stem cell transplant recipients, design and test more effective vaccines, and create enhanced diagnostics for autoimmune disorders, chronic infections and certain cancers.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is a world leader in research to prevent, detect and treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases.