Research

Interior of a medical lab showing tubes and related equipment

Collaboration drives the research of our division and makes extraordinary discoveries possible. We are proud to collaborate within the UW, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as well as with colleagues across the nation and globe.

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Faculty Research Activity

  • The size and breadth of our own faculty enable unique, internal research partnerships.
  • Our faculty is well connected nationally and internationally through leadership in organizations such as the World Marrow Donor Association, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. 
  • The majority of our faculty members have joint appointments in scientific research departments at the University of Washington or the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
  • One-fifth of our faculty members have PhDs, encouraging cross-fertilization with related scientific fields.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are the critical link between lab research and approved therapies.

  • The majority of our faculty members are involved in clinical trials, often in collaboration with many other institutions or coordinated through national and international oncology groups.
  • Our faculty lead the SCCA’s Phase 1 Program to develop and implement the most innovative clinical trials—the first step in testing new therapies in humans.

Select Research Topics

genome sample graphic

Genomically driven personalized medicine for cancer treatment

Our research uses a combination of cell biology, molecular biology, chemistry, engineering, nanomedicine and bioinformatics to develop new gene therapy treatments. One example is gene editing—“molecular scissors”--for a variety of diseases that are caused by defective genes, including cancers.

Doctor and patient discussing results

Outcomes of cancer therapy

Through the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research (HICOR), our faculty members use outcomes data to improve prevention, detection, and treatment. HICOR also addresses the financial impact of cancer care and is testing methods of helping patients and families reduce and manage debt.

Bone marrow and stem cell transplantation

Dr. E. Donnall Thomas received the Nobel Prize for pioneering this therapy. Recently we have emphasized innovations that make transplants accessible more broadly—to patients from minority and marginalized communities and to older patients.

  • We have led the international development of bone marrow banks and the campaigns to have a greater variety of potential donors.
  • Our faculty developed “mini-transplants” for fragile or older patients who would not be eligible for traditional transplants.
  • We continue to refine identification of the critical donor match points (HLA types) to maximize the possibilities of a successful match.
  • Our team has pioneered umbilical cord blood transplant and, through novel cell expansion techniques, has made it clinically practical.  This therapy extends transplants to patients without a traditional donor match.
  • Our risk-assessment model for acute myeloid leukemia therapy informs therapeutic choices, especially for older or marginalized patients.
Person receiving a vaccine

Tumor vaccines

In conjunction with the UW Cancer Vaccine Institute, basic research has progressed to active clinical trials in vaccine therapy to prevent cancer recurrence.

Doctor with microscope

Cell-based immunotherapy

Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to find and eradicate tumors. We have the advantage of partnering with the Therapeutics Products Program at the Fred Hutch to manufacture experimental products.

  • Our teams developed some of the first CAR T-cell therapies, engineering a patient’s own T cells to target cancer cells. 
  • Our faculty has led research on checkpoint inhibitors that teach our bodies’ immune cells to target and block cancer’s pathway.
Virus with antibodies

Antibody immunotherapy

Antibodies target cancer cells, sparing the normal, healthy cells in the body, thus greatly reducing the side effects of radiation or drugs.

  • We are exploring a variety of monoclonal antibodies that bind to cancer cells to interfere with tumor growth.
  • Radioimmunotherapy, pioneered by our faculty, pairs radioactivity with targeted antibodies, to deliver radiation directly to cancer cells. This work is carried out in collaboration with the UW Division of Nuclear Medicine.
  • Antibodies are combined with drugs to ensure that the drug toxicity is limited to the cancer cells.
Woman receiving breast cancer screening

Prevention of recurrence in breast cancer

Our faculty are examining the role of hormones in breast cancer growth, how the activity of estrogen receptor genes is regulated by epigenetic factors, and how estrogen deprivation and other therapies trigger breast cancer cells to kill themselves through apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Blue Prostate Cancer Awareness Ribbon

Identification of BRCA mutations in metastatic prostate cancer

By understanding the relationship between mutations and prostate cancer, genetic screening can identify the most appropriate treatment for an individual patient. National collaboration through The Cancer Genome Atlas informs this research.

Research news

December 14, 2021
Psilocybin study enrolls clinicians with COVID-linked blues
Enrollment has begun in a small study of whether psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety that front-line clinicians developed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
June 2, 2020
Improved survival for patients with urothelial cancer
The JAVELIN Bladder III clinical trial demonstrates improved survival for patients with urothelial cancer.
May 29, 2020
First PET imaging agent for breast cancer patients approved by FDA
F18-fluoroestradiol (FES), manufactured by Zionexa as Cerianna, is the first FDA-approved PET imaging agent specifically indicated for use in patients with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer as an adjunct to biopsy.