June 17, 2010 > Former Fellows Named Pew Scholars

The following Former Fellows are four of the 21 early career scientists named 2010 Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences.  The Pew Charitable Trusts grants Scholars $240,000 over four years for this prestigious award, which helps support their work in areas ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s to Autism.

David A. Guertin, PhD (Fellow ‘03-‘06) University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts
Valerie Horsley, PhD (Fellow ‘04-‘07) Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
Rajat Rohatgi, MD, PhD (Fellow ‘06-‘07) Stanford University, Stanford, California
Susan R. Schwab, PhD (Fellow ‘04-‘06) New York University, New York, New York

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June 15, 2010 > Pathways identified in metastatic lung cancer

William Y. Kim, MD (Damon Runyon-Merck Clinical Investigator ‘09-‘12) of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and colleagues reported that the SRC, PI3K and MEK1/2 kinase signaling pathways act together in metastatic lung tumors that have deletions of the tumor suppressor LKB1.  These findings suggest that unique combinatorial therapies may be successful for treatment of lung cancers.  The research was published in the journal Cancer Cell.    

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June 7, 2010 > HPV status predicts throat cancer survival

Maura L. Gillison, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator ‘00-‘05) of Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbus, and colleagues reported that the presence of human papilloma virus (HPV) in tumors is the best predictor of response to therapy and survival for patients with oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the back of the mouth).  Those with HPV-positive tumors had better 3-year rates of overall survival (82.4% vs. 57.1% for patients with HPV-negative tumors).   Christine H. Chung, MD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator ‘05-‘10) of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, was a collaborator on this study.  These findings were reported at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference and in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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June 5, 2010 > Successful treatment for metastatic melanoma

Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator ‘03-‘08) of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and colleagues reported the first treatment to improve overall survival in patients with metastatic melanoma.  In a phase III clinical study, patients were treated with ipilimumab, which blocks a protein called CTLA-4 to promote an antitumor T-cell immune response.  Overall survival was improved by 34.4% (10.1 months vs. 6.4 months).  These findings were reported at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference and in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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June 3, 2010 > 2010 Kavli Prizes

James E. Rothman, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘76) of Yale University, New Haven, was named a recipient of the 2010 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience “for discovering the molecular basis of neurotransmitter release.”   His pioneering work has focused on how cells take up nutrients, move substances within their interior, and release hormones, growth factors and other factors to their environment.  He continues to study the basic mechanisms responsible for intracellular transport and secretion of neurotransmitters and other proteins.

Nadrian C. Seeman, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘72-‘73) of New York University, New York, was awarded the 2010 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience “for the development of unprecedented methods to control matter on the nanoscale.”  He invented structural DNA nanotechnology when he realised the building blocks of DNA could be harnessed to create the raw materials for nanoscale circuits, sensors and medical devices.

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May 21, 2010 > Silica cages used for improved cancer drug delivery

Jun Liu, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘91-‘93) and colleagues at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, reported that anti-cancer drugs (antibodies) can be packaged into silica particles for more efficient delivery to the tumor.  The particles were injected directly into a mouse melanoma, which resulted in much greater and prolonged inhibition of tumor growth than the antibody given systemically.  These studies present a promising new approach for local targeted delivery of drugs to tumors.  The findings were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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May 4, 2010 > Novel understanding of cell invasion process

David Q. Matus, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘07-‘10) and colleagues at Duke University, Durham, identified novel genes involved in cell invasion of basement membranes, a process essential during development, immune surveillance, and metastasis.  Basement membranes form the lining of blood vessels and organs in the body.  The researchers found that turning off two specific genes, cct-5 and lit-1, in metastatic carcinoma cells reduced the cells’ ability to invade these basement membranes.  The results, published in the journal Science Signaling, may provide new therapeutic targets to control cell invasion and metastasis in cancer.

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April 27, 2010 > New Members of National Academy of Sciences Elected

Election to the National Academy of Sciences is one of the highest honors that can be earned by a U.S. scientist.  In recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original biomedical research, 13 members of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation circle were inducted this April:

DAMON RUNYON FELLOWS
Lewis L. Lanier, PhD
(Fellow ‘79-‘80 and Former Sponsor) Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco, California

DAMON RUNYON COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Robert J. Fletterick, PhD
(Fellowship Award Committee Member ‘93-‘97 and Former Sponsor) Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, California
William G. Kaelin, Jr., MD
(Current Clinical Investigator Award Committee Member) Professor, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

DAMON RUNYON FELLOWSHIP SPONSORS and CLINICAL INVESTIGATOR MENTORS
Angelika Amon, PhD
, Professor of Biology, David H. Koch Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Philip N. Benfey, PhD, Professor, Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
Donald E. Ganem, MD, Professor of Microbiology and Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California
James E. Haber, PhD, Abraham and Etta Goodman Chair of Biology and Director, Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts
Ulrike A. Heberlein, PhD, Professor, Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco, California
Douglas E. Koshland, PhD, Senior Staff Member, Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Baltimore, Maryland
Ruslan M. Medzhitov, PhD, David W. Wallace Professor of Immunobiology, Department of Immunobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
Roeland Nusse, PhD, Professor, Department of Developmental Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California
Charles L. Sawyers, MD, Chairman, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York
Kevin Struhl, PhD, David Wesley Gaiser Professor, Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

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April 20, 2010 > Identification of a key tumor suppressor gene in lung carcinoma

Julien Sage, PhD (Damon Runyon Scholar ’05-’07) of Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, developed a mouse model of small-cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) by disrupting expression of two tumor suppressor genes, RB and p53.  Deletion of a third gene called p130 resulted in increased cell proliferation and significant acceleration of SCLC development, indicating that p130 plays a key tumor suppressor role in SCLC.  These findings were published in the journal Cancer Research. 

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April 19, 2010 > 2010 Searle Scholars Named

The prestigious Searle Scholars Program supports the independent research of exceptional young faculty in the biomedical sciences and chemistry.  This year, four out of the fifteen Scholars are current or former Damon Runyon awardees:

Sreekanth H. Chalasani, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘04-‘07)
Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California

Heather R. Christofk, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ‘10-‘12)
University of California, Los Angeles, California

Maxence V. Nachury, PhD  (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘03-‘05)
Stanford University, Stanford, California

Antonina I. Roll-Mecak, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘03-‘05)
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

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April 14, 2010 > New marker for breast cancer identified

Howard Y. Chang, MD, PhD (Kenneth G. and Elaine A. Langone Scholar of the Damon Runyon Foundation ‘06-‘08 and Fellowship Sponsor) of Stanford University, Stanford, reported that a noncoding RNA called HOTAIR is linked to certain breast cancers.  In primary human breast tumors, levels of HOTAIR were over 100 times higher than that of normal breast tissue.  Metastatic tumors expressed levels of HOTAIR that were up to 2000 times higher than normal.  They found that women whose primary tumors expressed high levels of HOTAIR were approximately three times more likely to have their tumors metastasize and to die in the subsequent 15 years.  In addition, overexpression of HOTAIR in cells grown in the lab led to altered cell identity and increased metastasis.  HOTAIR may represent a new biomarker for breast cancer, as well as a potential therapeutic target.  John L. Rinn, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ‘09-‘11 and Damon Runyon Fellow ‘05-‘07) of Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute, Boston, was a collaborator on this study.  These findings were published in the journal Nature.

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April 7, 2010 > 2010 Kimmel Scholar Awards

Ivan Maillard, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ‘09-‘11, Damon Runyon Fellow ‘05-07) of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, was awarded a prestigious Kimmel Scholar Award.  This year, fifteen awards were granted.  The award is designed to advance the careers of gifted young scientists in cancer research.

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April 6, 2010 > 2010 Gairdner International Awards announced

William G. Kaelin, Jr., MD (Clinical Investigator Award Committee Member) of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, has been named one of five recipients of this year’s 2010 Canada Gairdner International Award.  This highly prestigious award recognizes individuals who have made significant tangible achievements in the field of medical science.  Dr. Kaelin is honored for identifying the molecular mechanisms that allow cells to detect and respond to a shortage of oxygen.  His research focuses on the mechanisms of how mutations in the tumor-suppressor genes encoding VHL, RB-1, and p53 cause cancer.  His work on the VHL protein helped lead to the successful clinical testing of VEGF inhibitors for the treatment of kidney cancer.  His long-term goal is to lay the foundation for additional new anticancer therapies. 

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April 1, 2010 > 2010 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Avanti Award

David W. Russell, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘80-‘82) of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, has been named the recipient of the 2010 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Avanti Award.  He is recognized for his outstanding contributions in the area of lipid research.  Dr. Russell was part of a team that cloned the gene for the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor and characterized the protein’s functional domains, elucidating the molecular basis of familial hypercholesterolemia, one of the most common human genetic disorders.  His later work defined the mechanisms of cholesterol metabolism and identified the genes responsible for several diseases characterized by abnormal cholesterol and lipid metabolism.

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March 26, 2010 > New potential strategy for treatment of leukemia relapse

Scott A. Armstrong, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator ‘03-‘08) of Children’s Hospital Boston led a study demonstrating that leukemia stem cell survival depends on a particular signaling pathway, the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway.  Many patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) will have a relapse, and it is thought that this is due to leukemia stem cells that are resistant to typical cancer treatments and give rise to more leukemia cells.  These findings, published in the journal Science, suggest that targeting the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway may be a potential strategy to kill these cells, preventing the growth and development of AML. 

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March 16, 2010 > Former Fellow wins Szent-Gyorgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research

Peter K. Vogt, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘59) of The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, was named the recipient of the 5th Annual Szent-Gyorgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research.  He discovered the first oncogene (src), and made additional seminal contributions to our present understanding of the role of oncogenes and other critical molecular mechanisms of cancer.  He remains a leader in cancer research and currently is completing translational studies aimed at developing novel therapeutic approaches for cancer patients. 

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March 10, 2010 > 2010 Albany Medical Center Prize recipients announced

David Botstein, PhD (Innovation Award Committee Member) of Princeton University, Princeton, Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, and Eric Steven Lander, PhD (Former Fellowship Sponsor) of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, were awarded the 10th annual Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research.  They were honored for their contributions to the Human Genome Project, which has led to a greater understanding of the genetic basis of human disease.  In the future, this knowledge will be critical to diagnosing and treating many disease conditions.

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February 18, 2010 > Genomic map of 26 different human cancers reported

Matthew L. Meyerson, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘95-‘98, Current Sponsor) of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Cambridge, led an international team of scientists including William R. Sellers, MD (Board Member, Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator ‘01-‘05) and Todd R. Golub, MD (Innovation Award Committee Member, Board Member) to develop a genomic map of 26 different human cancer types.  They found over 100 sites where DNA from tumors is either missing or abnormally duplicated compared to normal tissues.  These genetic changes were not unique to a single cancer type but are present in several cancer types; this suggests the mechanisms that underlie these tumors are shared and could someday lead to common strategies for treatment. This study was published in the journal Nature.  

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February 14, 2010 > Novel approach for drug design

Peter K. Vogt, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘59) and colleagues at The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, described the success of a new rapid drug development technique.  They used chemistry and supercomputer technology to design compounds that specifically block a class of protein kinases known to be activated in cancers.  These proteins also promote angiogenesis, or blood vessel growth to tumors.  The compounds were subsequently tested in animal models, where they were found to effectively block blood vessel growth.  The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   

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February 4, 2010 > Nuclear pore proteins found to regulate gene expression

Maya Capelson, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘07-‘10) in the laboratory of Martin W. Hetzer, PhD, at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, identified a new function for nucleoporins, proteins of the nuclear pore complex.  Until now, it was thought that the sole function of nuclear pore complexes is in transport of molecules in and out of the cell’s nucleus.  These researchers demonstrated that nucleoporins are also present inside the nucleus where they bind DNA and regulate gene expression.  Certain nucleoporins are overexpressed in leukemia, colon and lung cancers; this new finding may indicate the mechanism of how nucleoporins are linked to cancer.  This research was published in the journal Cell.

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