Your Gifts At Work

With your help, our scientists can further their research and find cures for cancer. These exciting research projects were supported by donations from community members. Every donation gest us a step closer to the cure. Together, we will cure cancer.

Head and Neck Cancer

Eduardo Mendez, MD
Dr. Mendez

A Human/Mouse Co-Clinical Trial to Study Response to Small Molecule Inhibitors of G2/M Cell Cycle Regulation in p53-Mutant Head and Neck Cancer
Funded by donations
Led by Eduardo (Eddie) Mendez, MD

Head and neck cancer is a debilitating disease that consists of tumors in or around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses and mouth. According to the National Cancer Institutes’ SEER Program (learn more here there are more than 42,000 new cases of head and neck cancer each year. Currently treatment options are limited for this group of cancer patients. Radiation and chemotherapy can be used in addition to surgery when possible, but unfortunately, these treatments often destroy healthy cells in addition to cancerous ones and can cause toxicity in patients leading to challenging side effects. With head and neck cancers in particular, side effects can be very debilitating and are often very visible. Patients can experience trouble speaking, difficulty swallowing and eating, scarring and discoloration, and may sometimes require reconstructive surgery or prostheses.

However, there is good news. Thanks to generous donations supporting our work, better options are on the horizon. Researchers, led by Drs. Eddie Mendez and Colin Pritchard, have found a way to kill cancer cells directly, leading to a decrease in painful side effects and better treatment results. Now, with funds from donors, our team of head and neck investigators and clinicians are opening a Phase 1 trial to test its safety in humans. Unlike many other Phase 1 trials, this innovative study will not only allow doctors to see if this drug works in patients, but it also allows them to see WHY the drug works. Thanks to studies like these, in the near future we will be able to match up the right drug and treatment plan for each individual patient. This is the very definition of personalized medicine.

Ovarian Cancer

Su-In Lee, PhD
Dr. Lee

Big Data Approach to Identify Molecular Basis for Clinical Phenotypes in Ovarian Cancer
Funded by donations
Led by Su-In Lee, PhD

According to the National Cancer Institutes’ SEER Program, there are more than 21,000 new cases of ovarian cancer each year. Unlike other cancers, which have screenings and can be detected early on, no such tests exist for ovarian cancer at this point in time. As a result, most ovarian cancers have progressed by the time of diagnosis. Since the tumor maybe more advanced at the time of diagnosis, it is important to create the right treatment plan in order to yield the best possible outcome. This can be a challenge however, as two individuals with seemingly similar tumors and treatment plans sometimes have very different outcomes. The good news is that researchers are focusing on understanding what makes one ovarian tumor different from another. With this information, treatments can be tailored to an individual’s specific tumor.

A group of STTR researchers, led by Dr. Su-In Lee, are working on processing all of the complex and vast information that makes up a tumors “snapshot”. This snapshot includes a wide array of information unique to the specific tumor. Our researchers are developing computer programs that use a specific area of statistics, called machine learning (ML), in order to understand how we can use the tumors own data to come up with the best treatment plan. This is the beginning of understanding the best treatments for patients’ specific tumors, which will result in better outcomes. This research was made possible through donations from the community.

Pancreas Cancer

Sunil Hingorani, MD, PhD
Dr. Hingorani

Bioassay for Pancreas Cancer Circulating Tumor Cells (CTC)
Funded by donations
Led by Sunil Hingorani, MD, PhD and Daniel Chiu, PhD

Pancreatic (pancreas) cancer has the highest 1-year, 5-year and 10-year mortality rates of any cancer. This disease is marked by early spread of disease, late diagnosis and strong resistance to conventional chemotherapy. More than 90% of pancreatic cancers spread to other organs. It is thought that this happens when some of the cancerous cells separate from the original tumor and spread to other parts of the body. These rare cells, called Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs), can actually assist doctors to detect the cancer via blood samples, rather than by traditional methods. However, to do this, research is needed to help doctors understand more about these cell types.

A collaborative effort between the Chiu Research Group (UW) and the Hingorani Lab
(Fred Hutch) is conducting research with the goal to develop a clinically useful blood test which could be used for the detection and further research into pancreatic cancer CTCs. Using methods developed in both labs, the researchers will identify potential clinical applications for this technology and finalize the testing procedures to make sure it is useful and safe before moving it into the clinic.

This novel test will help inform future research in pancreatic CTC at various stages of the disease and provide new insights into how pancreatic cancer spreads within the body. This technology may help doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and monitor the effectiveness of chemotherapy and other treatments. Importantly, this test only requires blood draws and would remove the need for invasive tissue biopsies if successful. This test could significantly change the way pancreatic cancer is diagnosed and followed within the clinic.

Prostate Cancer

Pete Nelson, MD
Dr. Nelson

Treatment Stratification for Metastatic Prostate Cancer: Enrichment for Heritable Defects in DNA Repair
Funded by donations
Led by Peter Nelson, MD, Heather Cheng, MD, PhD, Robert (Bruce) Montgomery, MD

Right now, exciting work is being done by our prostate cancer researchers with the potential to increase our understanding of how genetic defects lead to prostate cancer, and ultimately improve survival for men with prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly-diagnosed cancers in the US, accounting for approximately 13.3% of all new cancer cases. When caught early, prostate cancer can be cured for most patients. Unfortunately, in patients who have cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized), treatment outcomes are generally poor and complete cures are very rare.

Some patients experience unusually positive responses to treatments, suggesting that there is a biological reason why these individuals have better outcomes. Identifying and understanding why some patients have such good outcomes to specific treatments may result in more effective, personalized therapies for individuals suffering from prostate (and potentially other) cancers and may alter current standards of care.

Work by Dr. Peter Nelson, a Fred Hutch researcher and Medical Oncologist, has previously shown that a surprising number of prostate cancers consist of cells that are unable to repair their own damaged DNA. This can lead to the growth of the cancer tumor. These same defects have also been found in cancers of the breast and ovary, and can be treated with targeted therapies.

A comprehensive and cost-effective test has been developed at the University of Washington that identifies the cell’s inability to sense and repair its DNA. Dr. Nelson is using this test to find DNA repair defects in men with prostate cancer, and to determine if there is a link between test results and their responses to targeted treatments.

Confirming these results will have an immediate impact on how men with advanced prostate cancer are treated. Men with metastatic prostate cancer who carry these DNA repair mutations will have access to new and targeted treatment, greatly improving their chance of a good outcome. In addition, we hope this research leads to changes in screening recommendations for family members of men with advanced prostate cancer. Regular screening among those at risk means that doctors can detect cancer earlier, when it is more likely disease be curable.