May 10, 2007

Maura L. Gillison, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '00-'05) and colleagues found that infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) increased the risk of oropharyngeal cancer, a type of head and neck cancer, by as much as 32-fold - higher than the 3-fold increase in risk found for smoking and the 2.5-fold increase for drinking.  Dr. Gillison's study was published in the May 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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May 5, 2007

William M. Grady, MD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '02-'07) has been appointed head of the Section of Gastroenterology at University of Washington. He is an associate member of the Clinical Research Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dr. Grady studies the molecular and cellular biology of gastrointestinal cancer, genetic and epigenetic alterations in cancer and development of DNA-based tests to detect colorectal cancer.

May 3, 2007

Andrew G. Dillin, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '99-'01) and colleagues discovered a gene that makes roundworms live longer when they eat less. The gene, called FoxA, has three counterparts in mammals and understanding its regulation and activity may lead to the development of drugs that promote human longevity.

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April 11, 2007

Using a mouse model of breast cancer, Don X. Nguyen, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '05-'08) and colleagues found that breast cancer requires the concerted action of four abnormal genes to spread to the lungs.

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April 1, 2007

Rafael Fonseca, MD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '00-'05) and collaborators describe new findings that indicate the most common form of the bone marrow cancer multiple myeloma can be subdivided into different diseases based on genetic signatures. Initial analyses suggest that these genetically distinct clusters respond differently to therapy and have different survival statistics. These signatures may provide a molecular rationale for individualized treatment to myeloma patients.

March 28, 2007

Charles G. Drake, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '04-'09) and colleagues identified a role for a molecule called the PD-1 receptor in regulating how the body recognizes foreign invaders and tumor cells. This discovery has implications for understanding how the immune system functions in normal tissue and in the presence of a tumor.

March 27, 2007

Madhav Dhodapkar, MD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '02-'07) and coworkers’ recent discovery identifies “cancer stem cells” as new targets for cancer vaccines. Dr. Dhodapkar’s work demonstrates that patients with a precancerous condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) are protected from developing a full blown cancer called myeloma if they naturally develop an immune response to SOX2, a stem cell protein. His findings have implications for other tumor types as well and suggest that cancer stem cells are different in patients that have cancer compared to patients that have precancerous conditions. Dr. Dhodapkar hopes to take advantage of these immunological differences and develop screening methods for a wide variety of cancers, including lung, colon and skin cancers.

March 26, 2007

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the largest professional association for cancer researchers, announced its newest elected leaders:

Eileen P. White, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '83-'85) was elected to the Board of Directors.  Dr. White serves as the Associate Director for Basic Science, Member and Program Leader at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey; Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Rutgers University; resident faculty member of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine; Adjunct Professor, Department of Surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway.

Elaine V. Fuchs, PhD
(Damon Runyon Fellow '77 and Damon Runyon Board Member) will assume a senior leadership role as a member of the Nominating Committee.  Dr. Fuchs is the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor, Professor of Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at The Rockefeller University, New York.

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March 25, 2007

William M. Grady, MD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '02-'07) was featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for his work in colon cancer screening.

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March 1, 2007

Pardis C. Sabeti, MD, DPhil (Damon Runyon Fellow '04-'06) and Chad A. Cowan, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '02-'05) were profiled in Seed magazine as young visionaries who are “pushing boundaries, shifting baselines, and moving science forward.”


Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '00-'05) and colleagues report exciting results on an early clinical trial with a new immunotherapy in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Patients with advanced tumors were treated with CP-870,893, a new antibody therapy targeting CD40, a molecule expressed on the surface of cancer cells. Side effects were minimal and antitumor activity was detected in melanoma patients. These studies highlight the promise of targeting the CD40 molecule. Further studies are ongoing to optimize the dosage of CP-870,893 and to identify chemotherapies that might show synergistic effects.

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February 27, 2007

Jeremy N. Rich, MD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '04-'09) and colleagues describe exciting results of a clinical trial for advanced gliomas, brain cancers with notoriously poor prognoses. Dr. Rich and collaborators show that 63% of patients in the trial had a radiographic response after treatment with the combination of bevacizumab and irinotecan and the 6-month survival probability was 72%. This represents a significant improvement for patients with advanced gliomas.

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February 16, 2007

Maura L. Gillison, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '00-'05) and coworkers have developed a new technique for diagnosing and classifying head and neck tumors. On the heels of Dr. Gillison’s discovery that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is an important risk factor for head and neck cancer, she and her colleagues now report that HPV status is a useful indicator of where the head and neck tumor originated. This is important, as treatment, pattern of spread, and prognosis are linked to the site of origin for head and neck tumors.

February 15, 2007

Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '00-'05) hypothesizes on the future of targeting the CD40 molecule in cancer therapy in a recent issue of Clinical Cancer Research. CD40 and its related molecules are found on a wide range of tumor cells and several early stage clinical trials indicate that hitting the CD40 pathways can directly kill tumor cells as well as activate the body’s immune system to attack the tumor cells.

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February 14, 2007

Scott A. Armstrong, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '03-'08), Matthew L. Meyerson, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '95-'98), William R. Sellers, MD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '01-'05) and their colleagues report on a new technique that promises to guide cancer classification and choice of therapies for cancer treatment. The technology, called high throughput genotyping, identifies mutations in multiple cancer causing genes simultaneously. Ultimately, this approach would allow cancer patients to have their tumors scanned for specific mutations and then receive personalized treatments based on the particular genetic profiles of their own tumors, decreasing unwanted side effects and improving chances for a cure.

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February 13, 2007

Madhav Dhodapkar, MD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator '02-'07) and colleagues at The Rockefeller University in New York report that bortezomib, a drug currently in use for the bone marrow cancer, multiple myeloma, may act to increase the body’s immune response to tumor cells. Dr. Dhodapkar’s group found that tumor cells killed by bortezomib are processed by the immune system differently from cells killed by other drugs. This processing jump starts the immune response and may explain some of the dramatic clinical benefit of bortezomib.

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February 12, 2007

Elaine V. Fuchs, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘77 and Damon Runyon Board Member) and colleagues are the first to successfully use adult stem cells from the hair follicle, called keratinocytes, to clone mice that thrive into adulthood. The implications of this discovery go beyond cloning. The technology Fuchs and her colleagues developed could someday be used to generate embryonic stem cells. The embryonic stem cells could then be used to create cells or tissues according to a patient’s specific need. Since keratinocytes come from the skin and are readily accessible , they are particularly attractive as a source for stem cells. Dr. Fuchs' discovery could have a long term impact on the treatment of diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and neurodegeneration.

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February 9, 2007

Gopal P. Sapkota, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '04-'06) reports on key aspects of the regulation of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP) in the prestigious journal Molecular Cell. BMPs play a crucial role in normal development as well as in a variety of cancers. Dr. Sapkota’s discovery has implications for our understanding of the earliest stages of cancer.

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January 18, 2007

US cancer deaths fall for second year in a row
The death rate from cancer in the United States has dropped for the second straight year.  These new statistics indicate that the small decline reported last year was not just a chance reduction, but the beginning of an ongoing decrease in deaths from cancer--the second leading cause of death in the United States.  This success is due to our investment in research focused on understanding the causes of cancer, which in turn has led to preventative measures such as smoking cessation, new diagnostic tools such as colonoscopies and mammograms, and new treatments to combat the many forms of this disease.

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January 17, 2007

Three members of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation circle were awarded by the National Academy of Sciences for their exceptional scientific contributions to human knowledge:

Gregory J. Hannon, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '92-'94) Professor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor
Richard M. Losick, PhD (Damon Runyon Scientific Advisory Committee Member '99-'03) Professor, Harvard University, Cambridge
Xiaodong Wang, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '91-'94) Chair in Biomedical Science, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas

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