Dr. Thomas J. Lynch Jr. took the top job at global cancer research leader Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as president and director. A well-known cancer leader with expertise in solid tumor research, precision medicine and immune-oncology, Lynch kicks things off starting February 2020. A nationally recognized leader in academic medicine for over three decades, Lynch served as chairman and CEO of Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, director of Yale Cancer Center, physician-in-chief of Yale’s Smilow Caner Hospital, professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, chief of Hematology-Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Most recently, he served as chief scientific officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he was involved with research and development efforts in cancer, cardiovascular disease, fibrosis, and immunoscience. His focus on translational immune-oncology research led to new therapies and treatments for patients with solid tumors and hematologic malignancies.
A Dynamic & Impressive Pedigree: Hands-On
Lynch signed up to lead Fred Hutch frankly because he feels it is “one of the best, most incredible cancer institutes in the world.” He noted that the ongoing science at Fred Hutch is “incredible.” Lynch emphasized the importance of connecting what occurs with patients in the hospital or clinic to true understanding of the actual science of cancer—very key. Fred Hutch is at the forefront of doing this and hence why it was an attractive research center to join. Fred Hutch is looking at all of the causes of cancer from an individual gene to the microbiomes inside of the body—the bacteria present not to mention viruses and other environmental exposures one has had. Fred Hutch is on a mission to understand all of these factors and how they determine why some people get cancer and others don’t.
The microbiome gets more attention and not a lot for the general public understand what it is. Dr. Lynch noted that a person’s digestive system; their mucosa, are filled with bacteria—fungi, microorganisms and the like—and they differ between all of us. These differences, Lynch commented, could determine whether an individual gets a certain disease or not. Lynch commented, “we are just now at the very beginning of understanding the microbiome and understanding how it might predict risk.”
Top Priorities as New President of Fred Hutch
First and foremost, the idea of the “Hutch Cures” start here. The “curative approach to cancer” is incredibly important. Finding cures drives the core mission! Second, cancer prevention is key wherever and whenever it is possible. Third, cancer still needs incredible science to help drive an understanding. The Hutch is a great place because its culture and focus are exactly this—this drive to develop incredible science.
About Fred Hutch
The center originally grew out of the Pacific Northwest Research Foundation, founded in 1956 by Dr. William B. Hutchinson (1909-1997). The Foundation was dedicated to the study of heart surgery, cancer, and diseases of the endocrine system. Dr. Hutchinson’s younger brother, Fred was a major league baseball pitcher who died of lung cancer at the age of 45. That next year, Dr. Hutchinson established the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a division of the Pacific Northwest Research Foundation. By 1972, they received federal funding under the National Cancer Act of 1971 to create in Seattle one of the 15 new NCI-designated Cancer Centers aimed at conducting basic research; and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center became independent in 1972 and its own building opened in 1975. The center was named an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1976. By 1998, the center formed the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), a separate nonprofit corporation with University of Washington (UW) Medicine and Seattle Children’s. Based on some controversy reported on by The Seattle Times, by 2001 centering on cancer trials in the 1980s and 1990s, Fred Hutch created some of the most stringent “conflict of interest rules.” By 2014, the organization did a rebrand formally adopting the name “Fred Hutch.”
An Important Place in Seattle
Fred Hutch, an elite cancer research center, has accomplished much. The center fuels breakthroughs in prevention, detection and treatment. The center employs three Nobel Prize winners; moreover, Fred Hutch collaborates with 60 countries around the globe. And, with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutch patients have access to about 700 clinical trials and studies—representing cutting-edge innovations and discoveries for patients diagnosed with cancer and related diseases. About 100 of Fred Hutch’s faculty—many of them principal investigators overseeing advanced clinical trials—treat patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in addition to conducting lab research and other studies.
Call to Action: If you are in the Pacific Northwest and have a loved one diagnosed with cancer, contact Fred Hutch.