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Federal stimulus funding channels more than $40 million to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

SEATTLE Scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have been awarded 60 research grants totaling nearly $40.4 million under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. The totals reflect data available as of Oct. 1 and reported by the National Institutes of Health.

The individual projects range in amount from $4.8 million to $33,596 and benefit every level of researcher at the Hutchinson Center, from well-established principal investigators to predoctoral graduate students.

"It's a testament to the quality of the science we do and to the scientists who conduct our research that the Hutchinson Center was so successful in obtaining this level of stimulus funding," said Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., Center president and director.

One of the key goals of the Recovery Act is job retention and job creation.

"We estimate that for every $100,000 in grant funding that the Center receives, 2.3 jobs are retained or created internally and in the community by our suppliers. This means that the stimulus funds we received will retain and create about 920 jobs," Hartwell said.

The multiplier effect is backed by the National Institutes of Health and the Hutchinson Center's own economic impact studies.

A wide range of scientific subjects is covered by the grants, including developing assays to measure proteins expressed in cancer, cancer economics and cord blood transplantation.

Among Center faculty, Amanda Paulovich, M.D., Ph.D., an associate member of the Clinical Research Division, was awarded the single largest stimulus grant at $4.8 million. Paulovich is an expert in cancer proteomics, and her project is a pilot study to assess the feasibility and scalability of a human proteome detection and measurement project.

"The lack of sensitive, specific assays that can measure multiple proteins at the same time in a single sample is a major technical barrier that impedes progress in the biomedical sciences by prohibiting hypothesis testing in quantitative proteomics, where relationships between protein abundance and biology are sought," Paulovich said. "If a robust, economical, and widely diffused capability to measure all human proteins existed, the research community would have the collective means to assess the utility of all human proteins as biomarkers in hundreds of diseases and biological processes in the most efficient way. This would likely have a profound impact on health care costs and outcomes."

Ulrike Peters, Ph.D., an associate member of the Public Health Sciences Division, received a $4.6 million grant to identify genetic variants associated with colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.

"As this multi-site project will be conducted in well characterized cohorts, such as the Women's Health Initiative or the Health Professional Follow-up Study, we will also be able to examine whether environmental factors, including smoking, medications, alcohol, physical activity or diet change the risk of colorectal cancer related to these genetic variants," said Carolyn Hutter, Ph.D, a postdoctoral fellow working on this project.

"We expect our findings to enhance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying colorectal carcinogenesis. In turn, this will lead to improved prevention and treatment strategies," Peters said.

Scott Ramsey, M.D., Ph.D., an internist, health care economist and member of the Public Health Sciences Division, will lead a $4 million project to develop an infrastructure to support the "Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research in Cancer Genomics," or CANCERGEN.

"Dozens of genomic tests for cancer are coming to market without the high quality evidence that physicians and patients need to answer basic questions," said Ramsey, whose project will lay the foundation for designing research to study cancer genetic tests in collaboration with the Southwest Oncology Group, among others.

"Are patients living longer? Are they living better quality lives? Are there cost-effective alternatives to the way we currently treat patients? We just don't have those answers," he said.

Reducing the risk of infection and early death in patients who receive cord blood transplants to treat tumors of the blood, such as leukemia and lymphoma, is the goal of a $1.74 million grant to Colleen Delaney, M.D., an assistant member in the Clinical Research Division. Patients undergoing a cord blood transplant, who are often of minority or mixed ethnic background, are at increased risk of infection and early death following the transplant because of the significant delay in the recovery of white blood cells, particularly cells called neutrophils. Neutrophils are the most common type of white blood cell and are the body's first line of defense against infections. However, using a novel culture methodology, Delaney demonstrated for the first time the ability to generate increased numbers of cells from a single unit of cord blood that are capable of rapid neutrophil recovery when infused in the clinical setting.

"Further development of this product to confirm our initial promising results requires additional clinical trials that, if successful, could change the way cord blood transplantation is performed," Delaney said.


Contact: Kristen Woodward
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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