The breast cancer program is a highly interdisciplinary group of investigators dedicated to reducing the incidence and subsequent mortality of breast cancer. The program fosters interdisciplinary research in basic science, genetics, clinical medicine, cancer prevention, and epidemiology between faculty at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the University of Washington, and the clinical community to improve breast cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment.
Patients are seen at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Breast Cancer Specialty Center that is directed by some of the world’s leading and most experienced breast cancer surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, breast radiologists and pathologists. It is a model for the delivery of integrated diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. In addition to the therapeutic trials conducted in the Fred Hutch/University of Washington Cancer Consortium, patients can expect the most advanced evidence-based imaging for screening, detection and disease monitoring. The breast imaging group is considered one of the strongest in the country.
In the breast cancer research program, there is considerable focus on the development of innovative new therapies for breast cancer including tumor vaccines and adoptive cell-based immunotherapy. Exciting new clinical studies are testing tumor vaccines for HER2 in breast cancer patients and T-cell adoptive therapy against specific targets on breast cancer cells. Fred Hutchinson scientists have identified two promising targets for breast and the process of engineering T-cells to target these markers is underway.
Population scientists at Fred Hutch have long been leaders in research on the etiology and prevention of breast cancer. Over the past 30 years, scientists have conducted seminal studies of risk factors for breast cancer overall and in specific populations. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) first reported on the increased risk of breast cancer associated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in 2002. This report changed clinical practice sharply reduced the number of women taking combined HRT, and resulted in a decline in breast cancer rates. Fred Hutchinson continues to gain funding to follow the over 100,000 women still providing health information to the study. These studies are expected to give new information about prevention of breast and other cancers.
Dr. Ghajar's laboratory studies metastatic microenvironments. The goal of his research is to understand how microenvironments within distant tissues like bone marrow and brain regulate key hallmarks of dormant, disseminated breast tumor cells (DTCs). These hallmarks include long-term survival, reversible growth arrest, therapeutic resistance and immune evasion. The overarching idea behind their work is that understanding the basis of these hallmarks will allow for development of therapies that eradicate dormant DTCs before they develop into metastases, therefore substantially enhancing breast cancer patient survival.