Vice President Joe Biden Meets with UW Immunology Professors

March 21, 2016 | Article By Linda Dahlstrom and Andrea Detter / Fred Hutch News Service

Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Phil Greenberg, and Dr. Stanley Riddell

Biden started his visit with a tour of the lab of Fred Hutch researcher Dr. Stanley Riddell, accompanied by Dr. Phil Greenberg. Both Greenberg and Riddell are leaders in the field of immunotherapy. Last month, Riddell made headlines when he presented preliminary findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting of a clinical trial showing complete remissions in many patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The trial participants were treated with a form of immunotherapy called adoptive T-cell therapy, which uses intact, living T cells — isolated from the patient’s blood and reprogrammed specifically to target the disease — to eliminate tumors. Some patients, for whom no other treatments had worked and who were only weeks from death, are still alive 18 months later, Riddell said.

"We've really worked at understanding the cells that we are engineering in a different way from any other center .... It's allowed us to treat patients with extremely small doses of cells," he said.

When asked by Biden why that matters, Riddell explained: "It's relevant because it makes the process of generating a cell product faster and more cheaply," ultimately making it more affordable and accessible for patients. 

Every time Riddell sees patients in the clinic, he goes back to his research with a new sense of urgency, he said. “The courage of patients is inspiring, and it makes me realize that we don’t have the best [treatments] yet. We have to do better.”

This year alone, 600,000 people in the U.S. will die of cancer, noted Gilliland in his welcoming remarks to Biden. “At Fred Hutch, our goal is to cure cancer, not just treat it.”

Read the full article here:

 Vice President Joe Biden talks to cancer immunotherapy researchers Dr. Stan Riddell, left, and Dr. Phil Greenberg during a Fred Hutch lab tour. 

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service