A new cancer research center is under development at Swedish Health Services following a $ 20 million gift from late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, which the hospital says will be “transformative” on Tuesday for future cancer treatments and treatments.
A gift made shortly after Allen’s death in 2018 will help establish the Paul G. Allen Research Center at the Swedish Cancer Institute and will focus on better understanding how to detect cancer early, treat it, and ultimately prevent it. appearance. first place, the hospital announced on Tuesday.
“When we look at this gift, we want to make sure that we are addressing the full spectrum of cancer,” said Dr. Sarah Joe Gretlein, Executive Medical Director of SCI, in an interview. “He made a gift not to one particular type of cancer or one particular component of cancer, but more to enable us to advance the mission of cancer research, which is incredible.”
Allen’s investment will primarily focus on cancer prevention and early detection, immuno-oncology therapy that uses the body’s immune system to fight disease, and a deeper understanding of cancer genomics, Gretlein said. She said she expects the center to be up and running by early 2022.
“For Mr. Allen, his trust in us for his care means a lot to our organization,” Sweden CEO R. Guy Hudson said in a statement on Tuesday, “and now with this gift we can serve and respect his legacy by helping not only to the people of the Puget Sound region, but to all cancer patients and communities around the world. “
The Cancer Institute plans to create two new physical spaces to meet these goals, including a wet lab at the Swedish campus that will allow researchers to work with tissue and blood samples from patients that SCI currently does not have.
The hospital will also set up a basic informatics laboratory that will help process and analyze patient data, a resource that can help oncologists tailor treatment specifically to the genetic and molecular makeup of each patient and their tumor, rather than treating patients based on their more common types of cancer, Gretlein said.
“When we look at cancer medicine, even before we move on to cancer research, the amount of data for each patient is overwhelming,” she said. “The scientific study of data is of great value.”
The two new laboratories will help Sweden implement research initiatives on a broader scale, she said. While the hospital is awaiting outside approval for specific screening initiatives, Gretlein said one example could be going out into the community to encourage more patients – especially those outside the Puget Sound region – to participate in clinical trials. Another possible new initiative could be to develop “tried and tested” guidelines for screening high-risk populations for anal cancer that do not yet exist, she said.
“Paul has been grateful for the care he has received at Swedish over the years,” said Jody Allen, Allen’s sister and trustee of Paul G. Allen’s estate, in a statement Tuesday. “His gift reflects his long-standing belief that for transformational change for the benefit of others, you must invest in science and researchers pushing the boundaries of traditional thinking to solve complex problems.”
Allen died at the age of 65 from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, two weeks after he announced that he would resume treatment for the cancer he had been battling in 2009. After leaving Microsoft, which Allen founded in 1975 with childhood friend Bill Gates, he became a prominent business and philanthropic leader in the Pacific Northwest, eventually acquiring Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, and founded the Experience Music Project, now known as the Museum of Pop Culture or MoPOP.
Swedish also plans to use Allen’s funds to create a new group of immuno-oncologists, which will include hospital experts in both cellular and non-cellular immunotherapy, in addition to hiring other scientists to join the group.
Cellular immunotherapy usually uses blood cells and trains them to fight blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma, while non-cellular immunotherapy is mainly used for solid tumors such as lung or bladder cancer.
“Potentially, if these two areas work together, we could determine that some of the cellular therapies work better on solid tumors – not currently routinely done – (or) that non-cellular therapies play a role in blood cancer – in a lot is being done right now, ”Gretlein said. “By bringing these experts together … we hope to move cancer treatment forward.”
Allen’s gift is “the ability to dream big,” she added.
“We are doing cancer research and we currently have many, many clinical trials open, but this is a completely new game,” Gretlein said.