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33rd Annual Hutch Holiday Gala Raises Millions for Cancer Immunotherapy Research
Date:12/8/2008

SEATTLE, Dec. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Saturday's Hutch Holiday Gala raised more than $2.2 million for cancer and related disease research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

"Help the Hutch," a portion of the live auction during which guests raise their bid cards for specific contribution levels, brought in $1.2 million to be directed toward immunotherapy, through which clinicians harness a patient's immune system to battle cancer.

The black-tie Gala took place Dec. 6 from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel. Leading the "Help the Hutch" appeal was Dr. Lee Hartwell, president and director of the Hutchinson Center, who said donations made through the annual outreach event are essential to help scientists make discoveries that improve the future of human health.

"We are fortunate that the community recognizes the need for private support in the fight against cancer," Hartwell said. "Government grants simply do not provide the resources necessary to pilot new research ideas or bring new breakthroughs to patient care.

"Our science has demonstrated the potential of immunotherapy to change the face of cancer treatment," he said. "Because of the resources required to develop these novel therapies, we have had to move slowly. Yet our extraordinary success with these therapies and new information about how to extend their results has brought us to the point where a major acceleration of this work is needed."

Funds raised through the "Help the Hutch" portion of the Gala will be used for an expansion of immunotherapy clinical trials to test their impact on normally fatal late stage disease for a variety of cancers, Hartwell said.

An example of the Center's success in immunotherapy research was reported in the June 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, in which a team led by Cassian Yee, M.D., an associate member of the Clinical Research Division, described the first successful use of a human patient's cloned infection-fighting T cells as the sole therapy to put advanced melanoma tumors into long-term remission. A type of white blood cell was removed from a 52-year-old man who had metastatic Stage 4 melanoma; more such cells were grown in the lab, then infused into the patient. Two months later the man's tumors were gone and he remained disease-free two years later, when he was last checked. Yee and other Center researchers are now expanding clinical trials that use T-cell therapy to treat advanced tumors.

At the Saturday night Gala, patrons also bid for exclusive auction packages including a zero-gravity flight with space and science celebrities including Bonnie Dunbar and Charles Simonyi and Dr. Hartwell, which sold at $7,500 per person for a total of $157,500; an Italian sojourn at Villa Madalena, $20,000; a U.S. Open package, $16,000; VIP tickets to the Country Music Awards, $14,000; and an exclusive July 4 fireworks party on a rooftop deck at the Hutchinson Center's South Lake Union campus, $13,000.

The evening's festivities included the presentation of the Grace Heffernan Arnold Guild's 2008 Distinguished Community Service Award to the Swanson family. Accepting the award were Gerry and Gloria Swanson, who have been involved with the community for 30 years through such causes as the Hutchinson Center, Seattle Children's and United Way. The couple's children and their spouses also support a variety of organizations and, in combination with a family fund at Children's, established the Swanson Family Endowed Chair in Pediatric Bone Marrow and Transplantation Research, a chair held by the Hutchinson Center's Dr. Jean Sanders.

Presented by the Grace Heffernan Arnold Guild and the Hutch Holiday Gala board of trustees, the Hutch Holiday Gala featured live and silent auctions and an elegant dinner with hundreds of business and community leaders in attendance. Through the past three decades the Gala has raised more than $60 million in support of key research initiatives and patient and family programs at the Hutchinson Center.

To learn more about the Hutch Holiday Gala, call 206-667-5423 or visit http://www.hutchgala.com. More information about the Hutchinson Center is available at http://www.fhcrc.org.

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit http://www.fhcrc.org.

     CONTACT
     Christi Ball Loso
     206-667-5215
     closo@fhcrc.org

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SOURCE Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
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