Page header
Research

Overview

Every advance in cancer treatment in recent years has come out of clinical trials — and the physician-scientists at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have led the way for decades.

Researchers work behind the scenes at Fred Hutch to develop new, more effective ways to target cancer cells with fewer side effects. The next great breakthroughs are already underway in their labs. 

Together with SCCA physicians, these innovators translate the most promising options into therapies that our patients receive in clinic. In fact, some of the people providing your day-to-day care may be the same ones leading studies to revolutionize treatment.

That’s what our alliance is all about: uniting bold, inventive science with compassionate, world-class care.

Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores.

A half-century of progress 

Today, Hutch researchers and SCCA physicians are tackling more than 40 diseases from every angle to transform prevention, detection and treatment. Among their many noteworthy successes is bone marrow transplant. 

Pioneered at the Hutch in the 1970s, a donor transplant rescues a patient’s immune system after intense chemotherapy or radiation therapy while fighting the cancer cells that survived. Early transplant research done by Fred Hutch scientists provided the first proof that immune cells already in our bodies, called T cells, have the power to kill cancer. 
 

Allogeneic stem cell transplant Uses bone marrow or stem cells from a related or unrelated donor whose tissue type closely matches the patient’s. Replaces blood-forming cells that have been destroyed by disease or cancer treatment. Uses bone marrow or stem cells from a donor whose tissue type closely matches the patient’s to replace blood-forming cells that have been destroyed by disease or cancer treatment. This can be from a related or unrelated donor. Bone marrow The soft, spongy material in the center of your bones that produces all your blood cells, such as white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Radiation therapy The use of high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. T cell A type of white blood cell. T cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. They help protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer. A type of white blood cell. T cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. They help protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer. Also called T lymphocyte and thymocyte.
“Looking back at everything we’ve accomplished in the last five decades, I’m actually not really surprised at where we are now. It was 50 years of systematic experiments to move the field forward.”
— Rainer Storb, MD, Head of Transplantation Biology Program, Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutch

Since then, Hutch researchers have refined transplantation. They’ve developed better regimens, expanded the pool of people who can have a transplant and worked tirelessly to resolve challenges like graft-versus-host disease. At the same time, they’ve ushered in a new era in which immunotherapies, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors and CAR T-cell therapies, are shifting how we think of cancer treatment. 

Learn More About Immunotherapy 

Graft-versus-host disease A condition that occurs when donated stem cells or bone marrow (the graft) see the healthy tissues in the patient’s body (the host) as foreign and attack them. Immunotherapy A type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. A therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Some immunotherapies only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and some monoclonal antibodies.

Getting breakthroughs to the people who need them

Groundbreaking advances like immunotherapies move “from bench to bedside” — from the labs where they’re developed to the treatment rooms where patients receive them — through a series of studies called clinical trials. These studies test for safety and efficacy, or how effective the treatment is. Often, they compare a new approach to the current standard of care.

At SCCA, we offer you the option to take part in clinical trials that match your specific needs. We have trials for dozens of cancers at every stage as well as many noncancerous blood disorders. Along with investigating new potential treatments, we’re exploring better ways to detect and prevent disease and enhance quality of life for everyone in our care.
 

Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Immunotherapy A type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. A therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Some immunotherapies only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and some monoclonal antibodies. Stage The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. Standard care A treatment or other intervention currently being used and considered to be of proven effectiveness based on past studies.
“The clinical trial allowed me to continue my work. Being able to take a pill with minimal side effects that put me in partial remission is amazing. I am just so grateful it was an option.”
— Bob Ekblad, SCCA patient

Treatment studies give you the chance to be among the first to benefit from a new therapy. This is especially important for patients who have tried every existing option and need something else. For them, our Phase 1 Program offers hope and the knowledge that they are helping future patients. Phase 1 clinical trials are early studies testing new therapies in people for the first time.

Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease.
Clinical trials
Clinical trials

SCCA has one of the most active clinical trial programs in the world - providing new hope for our patients every day. The goal of clinical trials is to increase our knowledge about diseases and to develop safer, more effective treatments.

Phase 1 Program
Phase 1 Program

SCCA provides the first academic-based Phase 1 program for cancer research in the Pacific Northwest. The Phase 1 Program provides a full range of research services to advance the development, implementation and successful completion of clinical trials.

Research stories

Our scientists and physicians are driven by a commitment to eliminate cancer and ensure every patient thrives. Here are a few examples of what we’re doing to turn promise into reality.

Landmark scientific paper turns 40
Scientists from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center kickstarted the now-hot field of immunotherapy in 1979. Their early findings on bone marrow transplantation, a radical procedure at the time, proved that our immune systems are more capable than anyone knew.

Read Full Story

Mystery solved: How graft-versus-host disease starts in the gut
Complications of treatment pose a serious threat to bone marrow transplant recipients. Dogged detective work by Drs. Motoko Koyama and Geoffrey Hill is helping to explain why problems develop and what we can do about them.

Read Full Story

A breast tumor might have thousands of mutations. Which are important?
Finding the gene changes that drive breast cancer growth can open the door to future targeted treatments. A new method developed at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center might be the key. 

Read Full Story

New insights into drug resistance in small cell lung cancer
After responding to chemotherapy at first, small cell lung cancer tends to become resistant to it and to re-emerge. Researchers at the Hutch are discovering clues that explain how this switch happens and how to reverse the process.

Read Full Story

Immune response in colorectal cancer: What helps, what hurts?
The more T cells — a type of immune cell — in a colorectal tumor, the better the outlook for the patient. But it’s more complex than that. Fred Hutch researchers are drilling down into how the T-cell response differs based on a person’s lifestyle, genetics and other factors.

Read Full Story

Making clinical trial information more accessible
Dr. Heather Cheng treats people with prostate, bladder and other genitourinary cancers. To help them, and ultimately every cancer patient, find and enroll in clinical trials, she’s working on ways to make these complicated studies easier to understand.

Read Full Story

Tackling health inequities with hope and heart
To prevent cancer across our communities, healthcare providers need to address the structural barriers that stand in patients’ way. That means going beyond slogans and dedicating real resources. Dr. Jason Mendoza and his team are making change happen. 

Read Full Story

 

Bone marrow The soft, spongy material in the center of your bones that produces all your blood cells, such as white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Bone marrow transplant The process of treating disease with high doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both. Bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells are given after treatment to help the body make more blood cells. The process of treating disease with high doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both. Because this treatment destroys the bone marrow’s ability to produce blood cells, bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells are given after treatment to help the body make more blood cells. Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Gene The functional and physical unit of heredity passed from parent to offspring. Genes are pieces of DNA, and most genes contain the information for making a specific protein. Graft-versus-host disease A condition that occurs when donated stem cells or bone marrow (the graft) see the healthy tissues in the patient’s body (the host) as foreign and attack them. Immunotherapy A type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. A therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Some immunotherapies only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and some monoclonal antibodies. T cell A type of white blood cell. T cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. They help protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer. A type of white blood cell. T cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. They help protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer. Also called T lymphocyte and thymocyte.