Tip Sheet: Weight loss drugs and cancer prevention, Fred Hutch at AACR, lymphedema Q&A — and new vice president and chief nursing officer

SEATTLE — April 3, 2024 — Below are summaries of recent Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center research findings, patient stories and other news.

If you’re covering the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting, please see our list of Fred Hutch presentations at AACR and contact [email protected] to set up interviews.

April is the awareness month for esophageal, testicular and head and neck cancers. Our media can connect you to experts: [email protected].

Patient care

The new weight-loss drugs and cancer
With obesity being a driving factor in at least 13 types of cancers, new weight-loss drugs are being evaluated as a means of cancer prevention. While research has not yet determined a clear link, experts including obesity researcher Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD and gastroenterologist Rachel Issaka, MD, MAS detail the existing science around using these drugs for prevention and during and after cancer treatment. Issaka holds the Kathryn Surace-Smith Endowed Chair in Health Equity Research at Fred Hutch.
Media contact: Kat Wynn, [email protected]

Q&A: Lymphedema
Lymphedema — chronic limb swelling due to lymph buildup — is a common side effect of cancer treatment, particularly breast cancer surgeries that remove underarm lymph nodes. Duane Wang, MD, an expert in lymphedema surgery, shares the latest developments in treatments for the condition.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, [email protected]

Diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer, a woman is disease-free after immunotherapy
After two years of aggressive immunotherapy prescribed by Evan Hall, MD at the Kidney Cancer Multispecialty Clinic, Suzzanne Lacey is in remission from stage 4 kidney cancer. Immunotherapy treatment helps the immune system recognize and attack multiplying cancer cells, which the immune system then learns itself, distinguishing it from other cancer therapies. In remission, Lacey now uses reduced-frequency dosing, a Fred Hutch-developed approach that administers a lower-intensity treatment every three months.
Media contact: Heather Platisha, [email protected]

‘What are the odds?’
After being diagnosed with light chain amyloidosis (AL), a rare disease that causes abnormal proteins to build up in tissues and organs, Sally Cox was given six months to live, and signed up for a clinical trial at Fred Hutch. Five years later, Sally shares her experience participating in the clinical trial that led to a breakthrough in her disease and a change in the standard of care for AL, which was then used to treat her sister-in-law.
Media contact: Heather Platisha, [email protected]

Health equity

Cancer Health Equity Now podcast: Understanding women’s health through the Women’s Health Initiative
In recognition of Women’s History Month, this episode of Fred Hutch’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement’s podcast features Garnett Anderson, PhD discussing her role with the Women’s Health Initiative. Launched in 1992, the initiative has shaped our understanding of women’s health, current medical practices, prevention recommendations and policies. Anderson is a biostatistician and a Fred Hutch 40th Anniversary Endowed Chair.
Media contact: Kat Wynn[email protected]

Colorectal cancer

Study digs into what’s driving early-onset colon cancer
Research published in the Annals of Oncology have found that alcohol consumption and obesity have oversized roles in driving early-onset colorectal cancers. These findings were discovered by an international team of researchers co-led by Ulrike (Riki) Peters, PhD, MPH. According to Peters, prevention is as crucial as screening, noting that while the screening age for colorectal cancer has been lowered to 45, more than half of early-onset diagnoses were in people under 45. Peters holds a Fred Hutch 40th Anniversary Endowed Chair.
Media contact: Kat Wynn, [email protected]

Clinical study of a blood test shows 83% accuracy for detecting colorectal cancer
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows a blood test correctly detected colorectal cancer in 83% of people confirmed to have the disease. Though the blood test is less effective than a colonoscopy — the most accurate screening test for colon cancer — according to William Grady, MD, these findings signal a step towards more convenient methods that may lead more patients to get screened.
Media contact: Claire Hudson, [email protected]

Bacteria subtype linked to growth in up to 50% of human colorectal cancers, Fred Hutch researchers report

Fred Hutch research published in Nature shows that a subtype of Fusobacterium nucleatum, a microbe commonly found in the mouth, can travel to the gut and grow within colorectal cancer tumors, driving cancer progression and poorer patient outcomes. The findings could help improve therapeutic approaches and early screening methods for colorectal cancer.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, [email protected]

Cancer research

New techniques, collaborations push patient-focused precision oncology forward
Christopher Kemp, PhD received a five-year, $5.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to use genomic approaches to uncover new therapy targets in tumor tissues. Kemp’s team has developed a platform of modeling tumors using 3D structures, which provides a more detailed understanding of individual tumors in each patient. The structures, called organoids, help researchers view tumor behavior and determine which genes are critical for tumor growth and survival.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, [email protected]

Revealing how cancer cells cooperate — and how to stop them
Kevin Cheung, MD received a $1 million grant from the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation to support metastatic breast cancer research. Starting with triple-negative breast cancer, Cheung’s team investigates the communication between clusters of cancer cells. Understanding these communication pathways is crucial to developing new drugs meant to target cancer clusters and tumors that have previously shown resistance to existing treatment.
Media contact: [email protected]

One in five people with cancer participate in medical research studies
Joseph Unger, PhD, MS led a new study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showing that when all types of cancer research studies are considered, at least one in five people with cancer in the U.S., or 21.9%, participate in some form of clinical research. The study evaluated all categories of cancer studies, such as treatment trials, biorepository studies and quality of life studies — the first time an estimate of participation in all types of cancer studies has been reported.  
Media contact: [email protected]

Leadership at Fred Hutch

Denene Prophet-Williams named vice president and chief nursing officer at Fred Hutch
Denene Prophet-Williams, MBA, MLA, BSN, a distinguished health care executive with a 30-year nursing career, will begin her role as vice president and chief nursing officer at Fred Hutch in April. Prophet-Williams previously served as the executive director of clinical operations and research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Samuel Oschin Cancer Center and has received numerous awards for leadership excellence and patient satisfaction throughout her career.
Media contact: [email protected]

Dr. Karen Peterson receives National Postdoctoral Association Distinguished Service Award
Karen Peterson, PhD, director of the Office of Scientific Career Development at Fred Hutch, received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Postdoctoral Association. The award recognizes Peterson’s many contributions to improving the postdoctoral experience, including facilitating training and development opportunities, advocating for benefits and her commitment to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion.
Media contact: Molly McElroy, [email protected]

Science spotlight
Science Spotlight is a monthly installment of articles written by postdoctoral fellows that summarize new research papers from Fred Hutch scientists. If you’re interested in learning more or covering these topics, contact [email protected]

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center unites individualized care and advanced research to provide the latest cancer treatment options while accelerating discoveries that prevent, treat and cure cancer and infectious diseases worldwide.

Based in Seattle, Fred Hutch is an independent, nonprofit organization and the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in Washington. We have earned a global reputation for our track record of discoveries in cancer, infectious disease and basic research, including important advances in bone marrow transplantation, immunotherapy, HIV/AIDS prevention and COVID-19 vaccines. Fred Hutch operates eight clinical care sites that provide medical oncology, infusion, radiation, proton therapy and related services. Fred Hutch also serves as UW Medicine’s cancer program.

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