Investigators in the Program in Immunology are elucidating how immune T cells respond to disease and how to safely enhance these responses to better control, cure and potentially prevent malignancies and serious viral infections. Nobel Prize-winning work on bone marrow transplantation by Fred Hutch investigators provided the first definitive and reproducible example of the immune system’s power to cure cancer. Fred Hutch researchers showed that, in particular, donor T cells play a major role in the curative effect of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT). We continue to advance revolutionary T cell treatments that can produce stable remissions for patients whose cancers are not controlled by standard therapies. With our depth of expertise, multiple immunotherapy strategies are being advanced.
Dr. Greenberg was a founding member of the Fred Hutch Program in Immunology and the Department of Immunology at the University of Washington. He was one of the first scientists to investigate how T cells can recognize and eliminate malignant cells and was a member of the first group to formally demonstrate that adoptive transfer of antigen-specific T cells can eradicate disseminated cancer cells. In what was then a very surprising finding, in 1981 they showed that tumor antigen-specific CD4+ T cells can provide help to CD8+ T cells and promote tumor eradication. This paper was recently republished by the Journal of Immunology as a “Pillar of Immunology.”
In the early 1990s, Greenberg and colleagues showed that T cells could be collected from a patient’s blood, purified and expanded in the lab and reinfused as therapy. At that time, there was no effective drug therapy for cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, which was the major cause of non-relapse mortality after donor (allogeneic) HCT. They showed for the first time that the transfer of donor- derived CMV-specific CD8+ T cell clones could protect immune-compromised patients from CMV infection. Their findings also led to adoptive therapy approaches to help control HIV infections.