New Fred Hutch research center to focus on cancers caused by infections

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published August 11, 2017

Key Takeaways

Each year, almost 20% of cancers diagnosed worldwide are linked to infectious agents, with parts of Africa and China carrying the highest incidence, according to researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, who are launching an integrated research center to prevent and find cures for these cancers.

“Each year, 14 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer, and up to 20% of those cancers are caused, directly or indirectly, by viruses and other pathogens,” said Gary Gilliland, MD, PhD, president and director at Fred Hutch. “Our goal is to seize the opportunity we now have to lead the way in eliminating that burden — and to advance cures for all cancers.”

“The Hutch is uniquely positioned to lead the way toward eliminating the global burden of cancers linked to infectious agents and saving millions of lives. Our researchers excel at understanding the biology of infection-related cancers, identifying the immune system’s interaction with both infectious agents and cancers, and using that knowledge to develop and test innovative prevention, diagnostic and treatment strategies that improve care for patients worldwide,” he added.

The research center will be called the Pathogen-Associated Malignancies Integrated Research Center (PAM-IRC), and is one of the first to concentrate on cancers related to viruses, bacteria, and other infections.

Researchers will initially focus on cancers cause by human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B and C viruses, Epstein-Barr virus, Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus, HIV 1, Helicobacter pylori, and Merkel cell polyomavirus. They hope to not only provide a better understanding of the prevention and treatment of these infection-related cancers, but to acquire such knowledge about other cancers not associated with pathogens as well.

They will be led by Denise Galloway, PhD, a microbiologist whose research paved the way for the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical, throat, and other cancers. Dr. Galloway hopes that in the future, the scientific strategies they develop will be applicable to other cancers as well.

“You know, we had a great success with HPV,” she said. “I’d like to see similar successes across the broad spectrum of cancers caused by infection.”

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