5 Reasons Seattle Could be the Place that Cures Cancer

Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed the Cures Act into law. This piece of legislation commits 6.3 billion dollars over seven years to combat diseases such as mental illness, Alzheimer’s, opioid addiction, Parkinson’s Disease and many more. Of this 6.3 billion, 1.8 billion will be invested towards cancer research and care.

“But most of all, it….gives millions of Americans hope. There’s probably not…anyone listening to this who hasn’t had a family member or friend or someone touched by cancer,” said Vice President Joe Biden, whose son was killed by brain cancer in 2015.

The Cures Act is an attempt to find cures and remedies for diseases that shorten and lower the quality of lives for millions of Americans every year. This is a goal that many Seattle-based firms and research institutes have been working towards. Here is a list of five of the many Seattle biotechnology projects that aim to change how doctors treat disease.

1.Tumor Paint from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Brain-Tumor removal surgeries can be incredibly dangerous surgeries for patients. Even if the tumor is removed, lack of visibility in certain areas of the brain can leave the patient with lifelong disabilities. Dr. Jim Olson of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center developed Tumor Paint to counteract this. Tumor paint lights up the tumor so that surgeons can see what needs to be removed and avoid vital brain tissue.

“I’m looking forward to the day when you can look at a kid and say, ‘The good news is, it’s only cancer. You didn’t break your leg.’ I would love to be at that point. It’s a lofty goal. I’m not afraid of that goal, and I’m happy to be part of that,” says Olson.

2. Zika Virus Vaccination Research by the Infectious Disease Research Institute

Zika Virus cases impact communities around the world, causing life-long birth defects in children. The Infectious Disease Research Institute wants to put an end to Zika. With a two year, 491,000 dollar research grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases they hope to develop an RNA-based vaccine.

“This is a method of hijacking the virus’s own machinery to express proteins in order to rapidly make a safe and effective vaccine,” said grant project leader Dan Stinchcomb, Ph.D., Sr. Vice President for Vaccine Development Viral Disease Programs.

3. M3 Bio Uses Biotech to Develop Alzheimer’s Cure

M3 Bio, a Seattle-based biotechnology firm, is in the trial period for a drug that aims to revive the connections between neurons that are destroyed by Alzheimer’s. It is also believed that this drug would lead to breakthroughs that help patients with other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS. This drug is still going through rigorous clinical trials but shows how a successful innovation or discovery in one medical field can lead to a chain reaction.

4. University of Washington School of Medicine Launches The Center for Dialysis Innovation

Kidney Disease impacts more than 20 million American adults and is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States. The University of Washington School of Medicine has launched The Center for Dialysis Innovation to improve the quality of life and life expectancy for those with kidney failure.

“We are working to upgrade and substantially improve the entire dialysis system to create safer, faster, more cost-effective dialysis,” said Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb, co-director of the new center. “By bringing physicians, engineers, scientists and kidney patients together, we can address each of the major kidney dialysis complications. The schedule we have set is aggressive, but it is essential that we bring new options to patients as soon as possible.”

5.Seattle Children’s Hospital’s T-Cell Immunotherapy Shows Promise in Treating Children with Leukemia

Seattle Children’s Hospital is attempting to harness the human immune system to make cancer treatment both more effective and safer. In their first clinical trial for the immunotherapy, 39 out of 42 patients achieved complete remission of their Leukemia. Upon entering the trial, these patients had a 20% chance of survival.

“Now that we know we can harness the power of the immune system to successfully get patients into remission, we are working to ensure the T cells remain a long-term defense against cancer for all of our patients,” Said Seattle Children’s Oncologist Dr. Rebecca Gardner. “Our ultimate goal is to fully develop this therapy, so we can offer it to newly-diagnosed patients, reducing the need for toxic therapies and minimizing the length of treatment from months or years, to only weeks. We also believe [this] is the tip of the iceberg – work is already underway to apply immunotherapy to other forms of pediatric cancers, like neuroblastoma.”

The Cures Act is a call to action for American firms, researchers, and Universities to work together and go all in on developing cures for deadly and debilitating diseases. Thankfully, there is no city more ready to tackle this challenge than Seattle.