Hutchinson Center Heroes
The Wayne D. Kuni and Joan E. Kuni Foundation's generous support of clinical trials at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reflects the Foundation's overwhelming confidence in the quality of research taking place at the Hutchinson Center. Of the Foundation's five cancer research grants awarded in 2008, three totaling $412,500 were awarded to investigators affiliated with the Center. The following diverse studies represent innovative approaches to improve therapies for advanced metastatic melanoma, acute myeloid leukemia and prostate and kidney cancers. The trials aim to discover and introduce novel drugs and to design more effective therapeutic application of existing medications—potentially offering real hope for patients with these particularly difficult cancers.
Maximal Suppression of the Androgen Axis with Radiotherapy;
a Phase II Study: One Year Award: $137,500
Kenneth Russell, M.D., Principal Researcher
Men with intermediate-to-high-risk prostate cancer face a major obstacle—a 45 percent relapse rate. The goal of Dr. Kenneth Russell's project is to address this challenge by establishing a revolutionary new model of pharmacological and radiation treatment.
Based on promising new insights, Dr. Russell questions the established approach to prostate cancer therapy and proposes a unique, new concept: that the key to cancer relapse lies in the prostate tissue cells' production of testosterone. The research team hopes to discover how to lower prostate tissue hormone levels and to quantitatively evaluate the effectiveness of hormone suppression in promoting prostate cancer cell death in combination with radiation therapy.
By blocking the prostate tissue cells' ability to make their own growth factors, this clinical trial investigation could vastly improve the prognosis of prostate cancer patients.
Investigation of Combination Treatment of Ipilumumab and Interleukin-2 in the Treatment of Metastatic Melanoma and Kidney Cancer: One Year Award: $137,500
Shailender Bhatia, M.D., Principal Researcher
Dr. Shailender Bhatia's research study focuses on testing a new and unique methodology designed to increase the survival rates of patients with advanced melanoma and kidney cancers.
Dr. Bhatia believes that a specific sequential application of two drugs will stimulate the patients' immune systems significantly to fight cancerous cells. By "priming" the tumor microenvironment with a new drug, Ipilumumab, which locates and binds to immune-suppressor cells, Dr. Bhatia hopes to enhance the immune responses against cancer cells from the second drug, high-dose Interleukin-2.
This Phase II clinical trial investigation may have an immediate impact on the methodology of treating patients with metastatic melanoma and kidney cancers, offering them hope for cure, as well as providing long-term insights regarding the regulation of the immune system.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia Therapy for Older Patients—A Novel Combined, Targeted Approach; a Phase II Study: One Year Award: $137,500
Roland Walter, M.D., Ph.D., Principal Researcher
Dr. Roland Walter's goal is to discover a successful and non-toxic therapy that will markedly improve the survival rate of older patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Although chemotherapy can be successful for younger people, it is ineffective or dangerous for patients over 65 years of age, who represent two-thirds of all AML cases and face the grim prognosis of a 5 percent survival rate over five years.
Based on the results of earlier studies, Dr. Walter believes there is great therapeutic potential in simultaneously combining two drugs, Mylotarg™ and Zolinza™, which may be capable of producing a powerful and unexpected synergistic effect far exceeding the sum of their individual capacities.
If successful, Dr. Walter's clinical trial may offer a real treatment option for a segment of patients who have had virtually no hope.
The mission of the Wayne D. Kuni and Joan E. Kuni Foundation is to support medical research, especially for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and to support and enhance the lives of educable retarded adults.
Wayne D. Kuni and Joan E. Kuni established their private foundation in 2005, continuing their decades-long commitment to community service. The Kunis' philanthropy was evident throughout the Pacific Northwest through their generous gifts and countless volunteer hours to medical, educational, and human services organizations.