CREDC Aspirations to Cure Cancer

An inspiring presentation today from Dr. Gary Gilliland President and Director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer research center in Seattle.  He brought us up todate on the mega strides that have been made in the war on cancer the past ten years.

The “Hutch” is independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first and largest cancer prevention14372388_10209708096995597_8306771375602329210_o research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.   They have a staff of almost 3,000 people working on ways to eliminate cancer.   He shared his aspiration and vision that we could conquer cancer within ten years if we  have the will and willingness to devote the resources to the fight.

The fight is taking place on many fronts. We’ve learned that a huge percentage of cancers spread through contact with a virus.  We’ve learned that many tumors have a “cloaking device”  that makes them invisible to our immune systems and allows them time to grow before detection.  However we’ve learned the secret of how to lower that cloaking mechanism, to allow our natural immunities to fight back

On the economic development front people employed in the medical services  industry require high levels of education.   Average wages start at $95,000 a year.  This is almost double the US “average ” income.   The industry players have begun to recognize that collaboration increases the odds that each will be successful.  There is a growing bond and awareness between the research university’s and hospitals on the west coast , UW, the Hutch, OHSU, Stanford, UCLA, UC San Diego.  Researching and spinning off companies and commercial applications as they find useful processes, medicines and treatment protocols.

Dr. Gilliland and the CREDC team toured a great example of our local commitment to be a player in this arena Henrietta Lacks High school – or HELA High.   Located a few blocks from Peace Health Medical Center up in the heights, HELA students are training for nursing and other medical positions.   We are growing our future work force right here in Clark County.

Dr Gilliland says huge challenges remain in our path.  While “big data”  can be helpful in providing computer power for analysis , the complex nature of the information we need and the systems of storage and protocols to make it useful still need to be developed.   As always funding is a challenge .  NIH, philanthropy and commercial spin offs and applications are the big three right now.

He believes we need to find more cooperative ways to get the resources allocated to this task. The economic and productivity impacts to our society are huge.