2013 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2013 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle regularly publish findings on the latest cancer research and are frequently recognized for their contributions to the fight against cancer.  Below, you will find new discoveries in cancer research and the most recent honors bestowed upon Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awardees, alumni and friends.

2014 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle regularly publish findings on the latest cancer research and are frequently recognized for their contributions to the fight against cancer.  Below, you will find new discoveries in cancer research and the most recent honors bestowed upon Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awardees, alumni and friends.

2012 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2012 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle regularly publish findings on the latest cancer research and are frequently recognized for their contributions to the fight against cancer.  Below, you will find new discoveries in cancer research and the most recent honors bestowed upon Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awardees, alumni and friends.

2011 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2011 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle regularly publish findings on the latest cancer research and are frequently recognized for their contributions to the fight against cancer.  Below, you will find new discoveries in cancer research and the most recent honors bestowed upon Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awardees, alumni and friends.

2010 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2010 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle regularly publish findings on the latest cancer research and are frequently recognized for their contributions to the fight against cancer.  Below, you will find new discoveries in cancer research and the most recent honors bestowed upon Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awardees, alumni and friends.

2009 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2009 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle regularly publish findings on the latest cancer research and are frequently recognized for their contributions to the fight against cancer.  Below, you will find new discoveries in cancer research and the most recent honors bestowed upon Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awardees, alumni and friends.

2005 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle regularly publish findings on the latest cancer research and are frequently recognized for their contributions to the fight against cancer.  Below, you will find new discoveries in cancer research and the most recent honors bestowed upon Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awardees, alumni and friends.

2006 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle regularly publish findings on the latest cancer research and are frequently recognized for their contributions to the fight against cancer.  Below, you will find new discoveries in cancer research and the most recent honors bestowed upon Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awardees, alumni and friends.

2007 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle regularly publish findings on the latest cancer research and are frequently recognized for their contributions to the fight against cancer.  Below, you will find new discoveries in cancer research and the most recent honors bestowed upon Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awardees, alumni and friends.

2008 New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle regularly publish findings on the latest cancer research and are frequently recognized for their contributions to the fight against cancer.  Below, you will find new discoveries in cancer research and the most recent honors bestowed upon Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awardees, alumni and friends.

Runyon Up Event Raises More than $174,000 for Cancer Research in First-Ever 4 WTC Stair Climb

More than 660 participants form 15 states climb 72 stories in historic event; 100% of donations support the nation’s most brilliant young scientists, pursuing cures for all forms of cancer

Runyon Up Stair Climb for Cancer Research

New York, NY (April 4, 2014) More than 700 people – from those affected by cancer to professional stair climbers – took part in the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation’s first ever Runyon Up stair climb at the new 4 World Trade Center building on April 3rd, raising more than $173,000 for young cancer researchers.

Hundreds of corporate teams and individual participants, ranging in age from 14 to 71 years old, hailed from across New York City and from 15 states, from coast to coast. They climbed the new tower’s 72 stories – all 1,632 steps – over the course of nearly four hours in the evening event. The fastest male climber was Tim Donahue, 44, of Manhattan, NY, who took just 8 minutes and 56 seconds to climb 1,632 steps. The top female climber was Shari Klarfeld, 33, of Plainview, NY, who completed the climb in 11 minutes and 17 seconds.

"We thank Silverstein Properties for partnering with us at this historic moment in time. 4 World Trade Center is a symbol of innovation and resilience, and was an appropriate venue to champion commitment to the cutting-edge researchers who are making the medical breakthroughs of tomorrow," said Lorraine W. Egan, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. "All proceeds from Runyon Up will allow us to support the best and brightest young cancer researchers in the nation. Our participants help make life-saving discoveries."

The first heat of elite climbers at this milestone event launched at 6:30pm, followed by heats of recreational climbers. Runyon Up offered three different registration options: Participants could climb to the 54th Floor or 72nd Floor, or opt for the virtual climb and take the elevator. Participants paid a $40 entry fee and raised at least $72 – $1 per floor of the building – in support of cancer research. Participants had their own online donation pages to make fundraising easy, and you can still support them until April 30th at www.runyonup.org.

Scientists funded by Damon Runyon also were on hand – with more than a half dozen participating in the event - to meet and congratulate participants. Participants included a retired police officer who worked at the 9/11 site, a group of firefighters from North Hunterdon, N.J., who climbed in full gear, parents, spouses and friends of those affected by cancer, professional stair climbers and marathoners.

The event marked a pivotal point in the history of the World Trade Center site. In November, officials held a ribbon-cutting at 4 World Trade Center, which will soon be the sixth-tallest building in New York City and recently was named Curbed’s Building of the Year. For most people, this was their first view inside the 2.3 million square foot building, which is not expected to see tenants – including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - until 2015.

As always, 100% of all donations raised by participants will directly support the nation’s most brilliant young scientists, pursuing cures for all forms of cancer. Damon Runyon holds a 5K inside Yankee Stadium each August, which has raised nearly $3 million to date.

SPONSORS
In addition to Silverstein Properties' support, other event sponsors include CBRE, AIG, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Pepsi, Cabot Creamery, Dave’s Hoagies, GoGo squeeZ, GuS – Grown-up Soda, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, SkinnyPop Popcorn, Utz, Vita Coco, Vita Organic Foods, and Whole Foods..

> View photos from the event

> Read coverage from the New York Daily News.

> Read coverage from the Wall Street Journal.

> View more photos from the Associated Press

DAMON RUNYON CANCER RESEARCH FOUNDATION

To accelerate breakthroughs, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation provides today’s best young scientists with funding to pursue innovative research. The Foundation has gained worldwide prominence in cancer research by identifying outstanding researchers and physician-scientists. Twelve scientists supported by the Foundation have received the Nobel Prize, seven others have received National Medals of Science, and 65 have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Since its founding in 1946, Damon Runyon has invested nearly $275 million and funded more than 3,420 young scientists. One hundred percent of all donations to the Foundation are used to support cutting-edge scientific research. Its administrative and fundraising costs are paid from its Damon Runyon Broadway Tickets and endowment. For more information visit www.damonrunyon.org.


CONTACT

Kim Kubert
Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
212.455.0501
kim.kubert@damonrunyon.org 

Industry and Academic Researchers Gather for 2014 Accelerating Cancer Cures Research Symposium

South San Francisco, CA (March 11, 2014) – Today, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation held the third annual Accelerating Cancer Cures Research Symposium. The yearly meeting is designed to encourage collaboration between cancer researchers in industry and their counterparts in academia in order to sidestep many of the issues that currently impede progress against cancer. Hosted by Genentech, the meeting included academic researchers from top universities and research institutions as well as scientists from Eli Lilly and Company, Celgene, Merck, Pfizer, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Co.  
Accelerating Cancer Cures is a unique collaboration between Damon Runyon, a prestigious cancer charity that supports cutting-edge young cancer researchers, and leading biopharmaceutical companies. The goal of this multi-million dollar initiative is to rebuild the ranks of specially trained physician-scientists who conduct both the innovative laboratory research necessary to identify new therapeutics and the clinical trials to bring these new treatments to patients. By collaborating on this initiative with their competitors in the marketplace, the companies involved demonstrate their shared commitment to driving the next generation of breakthroughs in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.   
Richard Gaynor, MD, Senior Vice President of Global Development/Medical Affairs at Eli Lilly, Damon Runyon Board member, and Chair of Accelerating Cancer Cures, opened the meeting by welcoming its attendees and stressing the urgency of collaboration between academia and industry at this crucial moment in cancer research. Richard H. Scheller, PhD, Executive Vice President of Research and Early Development at Genentech, delivered a keynote address about Genentech’s focus and the need to foster new oncology drugs in the earliest stages of their development. Participants also heard research presentations from selected Damon Runyon scientists and enjoyed industry roundtable discussions on career development and bridging the gap between academia and industry. Sandra Horning, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Head, Global Product Development and Nancy Valente, MD, Vice President, Product Development and Global Head, Hematology Development, both of Genentech, provided opening and closing remarks.
”It is extraordinary that industry competitors have come together to address a major obstacle to developing new treatments for cancer patients,” said Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation President and CEO, Lorraine Egan.  “Through Accelerating Cancer Cures, we are ensuring that the best young physician-scientists can continue to be the critical link between the research lab and the patients.”
“Many Damon Runyon alumni have gone on to become leaders in the field, including Nobel Laureates and scientists who are behind some of the key discoveries in the fight against cancer,” said Nancy Valente of Genentech. “Genentech is honored to be a part of the type of collaboration needed to accelerate the discovery of even greater advances in science and for people with cancer.”
Scientists from the nation’s leading research institutions, including Stanford University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Northwestern University, attended the symposium to hear presentations on a diverse range of promising research, from novel new mechanisms to identify drug targets to genomic approaches to assessing cancer risk, and to brainstorm about creative approaches to speed new treatments to cancer patients.
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About Accelerating Cancer Cures

Accelerating Cancer Cures addresses the critical shortage of clinical researchers working on breakthroughs in cancer treatments and cures. Under the leadership of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and with the support of industry and academia, this project fosters the talent desperately needed to accelerate breakthroughs in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.  
Accelerating Cancer Cures is supported by some of the world’s leading companies including:Eli Lilly and Company, Celgene, Genentech, Merck, Pfizer, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Co. For more information, visit www.damonrunyon.org/accelerate.

About the Foundation

To accelerate breakthroughs, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation provides today’s best young scientists with funding to pursue innovative cancer research. The Foundation supports emerging leaders who have great potential to achieve breakthroughs in how we diagnose, treat and prevent cancer. Since its founding in 1946, Damon Runyon has invested nearly $275 million and funded more than 3,420 early career scientists.
100% of all donations to the Foundation are used to support scientific research. Its administrative and fundraising costs are paid from its Damon Runyon Broadway Tickets Service and endowment.

For more information visit http://www.damonrunyon.org.

March 4, 2014 > American Association for Cancer Research names recipients of prestigious awards

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) named two Damon Runyon alumni as 2014 recipients of its prestigious awards. Elaine V. Fuchs, PhD (Damon Runyon Board Member, Damon Runyon Fellow ‘77-‘79) of The Rockefeller University, New York, will be honored with the 2014 Pezcoller Foundation-American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) International Award for Cancer Research, in recognition of her seminal work contributing to the understanding of mammalian skin, skin stem cells, and skin-related diseases, particularly cancers, genetic diseases, and proinflammatory disorders. Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator ‘03-‘08) of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, will be honored with the 38th annual AACR-Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award for his major contributions to the field of immunotherapy for treatment of melanoma and other cancers.

Click here and here for more.

February 19, 2014 > Success of immunotherapy in treatment of advanced leukemia

Renier J. Brentjens, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator ‘06-‘11) and colleagues at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, reported the success of immunotherapy treatment in adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).  This is the largest clinical study conducted thus far; it showed that 88 percent of patients achieved complete remissions after being treated with their own T immune cells, which had been genetically modified to target and attack the cancer cells.  The exciting findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine and featured in The Wall Street Journal

Click here and here for more.

February 11, 2014 > Genetic subtypes of bladder cancer reflect breast cancer biology

William Y. Kim, MD (Damon Runyon-Merck Clinical Investigator ‘09-‘14) of University of North Carolina Lineberger Cancer Center, Chapel Hill, and colleagues, reported the results of a comprehensive genetic analysis of 262 invasive bladder cancer tumors.  The researchers found that the disease shares genetic similarities with two forms of breast cancer, basal-like and luminal.  They hope that the identification of these subtypes will lead to improved diagnosis as well as effective targeted therapies for bladder cancer.  This study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Click here for more.

February 3, 2014 > Common drug effective in treating basal cell carcinoma skin cancer

Jean Y. Tang, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ‘11-‘14) of Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, and colleagues, reported that a common inexpensive anti-fungal drug, called itraconazole, may be useful in treating basal cell carcinoma (the most common form of skin cancer).  The drug was tested in a Phase II clinical trial with 29 patients who had a total of 101 tumors.  Within a month, the size and spread of tumors had decreased in most patients.  The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Click here for more.

January 28, 2014 > 2014 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science

Pardis C. Sabeti, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘04-‘06), Harvard University, Cambridge, was named one of three recipients of the 2014 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science.  The awards from the Vilcek Foundation recognize young foreign-born biomedical scientists, 38 years old or younger, who demonstrate outstanding early achievement.

Click here for more.

Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Awards granted for pioneering ideas in cancer research

Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awards $2.25M to six innovative young scientists 

 

New York, NY (January 21, 2014) – The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, announced that six scientists with novel approaches to fighting cancer have been named 2014 recipients of the Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award.  The grant of $450,000 over three years is awarded each year to early career scientists whose projects have the potential to significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. 

The Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award funds cancer research by exceptionally creative thinkers with “high-risk/high-reward” ideas who lack sufficient preliminary data to obtain traditional funding. The awardees are selected through a highly competitive and rigorous process by a scientific committee comprised of leading cancer researchers who are innovators themselves. At the final stage of selection, candidates are screened by an in-person interview with committee members. Only those scientists with a strong vision and passion for curing cancer are selected to receive the prestigious award.

This program was established thanks to the generosity of Andy and Debbie Rachleff.

Emily P. Balskus, PhD
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Humans live in symbiosis with trillions of microbes, and there is growing evidence that these organisms can impact the development and progression of cancer.

Dr. Balskus' research seeks to elucidate the mechanisms by which molecules produced by microbes inhabiting the human gut influence the development and progression of colorectal cancer. She will combine tools from synthetic chemistry, biochemistry, and microbiology to both characterize and block harmful microbial processes. This work will impact our understanding of how the gut environment influences carcinogenesis, ultimately leading to new strategies for cancer prevention and treatment.

Arvin C. Dar, PhD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York

Genes that are mutated, amplified, or altered in cancer contribute directly to tumor development, maintenance, and metastasis. The Ras-MAPK signaling pathway contains two of the most frequently altered genes across all cancers. Ras-MAPK has important roles in normal development but is also commonly dysregulated in a variety of human cancers. The biochemistry of this pathway is highly complex, thus hampering drug development efforts and resulting in the inability to develop any drug that directly targets Ras-MAPK to date.

Dr. Dar is using two novel approaches to better understand the Ras-MAPK pathway. First, he is reconstructing the pathway from its individual parts, much like an engineer will construct a circuit from relatively simple components. Second, he is developing chemical tools that can perturb functional Ras-MAPK networks in the cell. Both approaches will allow him to investigate questions about how this network functions and how its dysregulation contributes to disease. Ultimately, his goal is to create new drugs that precisely disable the Ras-MAPK pathway in cancer.

Summer L. Gibbs, PhD and Xiaolin Nan, PhD
Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon

Understanding molecular function in biological settings is essential for successful development of targeted therapies for cancer. Advances in biochemical profiling techniques have generated lists of molecules involved in cancer development and progression, but the mechanisms by which these molecules work together within cells and tumors remain largely unclear. Molecularly targeted cancer therapeutics based on incomplete understanding of the tumorigenic mechanisms often demonstrate initial response followed by cancer resistance.

Drs. Gibbs and Nan, both biochemical engineers, will work as a team to address this problem using a revolutionary high-resolution microscopy technique to visualize—at the molecular level—the interactions of an array of proteins involved in the HER2 cell signaling pathway implicated in breast cancer within tumor cells, and their response to therapeutic agents such as Herceptin. They anticipate the findings of this work will significantly improve our understanding of the spatial and temporal organization of cancer cell signaling, enabling development of more effective targeted cancer therapeutics with lasting response.

Moritz F. Kircher, MD, PhD
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York

Dr. Kircher's goal is to develop a new nanoparticle-based technology that will allow the detection and treatment of cancer based on in vivo tumor marker expression profiling. This would enable a single cancer cell to be both imaged and killed in a single process. To date this has not been achieved, in part due to inadequate sensitivity and inability to accurately visualize the expression of multiple tumor markers simultaneously.

A radiologist by training, he has developed a new generation of Raman-MRI nanoparticles, resulting in unprecedented sensitivity and targeted signal specificity. He will work with prostate, pancreatic and breast cancer tumors to develop markers that can be targeted by these nanoparticles. If successful, this approach will have far-reaching implications for cancer detection and image-guided therapy.

Eirini Papapetrou, MD, PhD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York

Dr. Papapetrou studies a disease called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which often progresses to leukemia. She is using a novel approach to identify the specific genetic alterations involved in the development of MDS, which are not currently known.

She aims to understand how tumor suppressor genes can promote cancer through a type of genetic state called "haploinsufficiency." By reprogramming human pluripotent stem cells to harbor specific deletions in their chromosomes, she seeks to characterize novel genetic causes of MDS. This approach could be a model for uncovering genetic mechanisms of other cancers as well.

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DAMON RUNYON CANCER RESEARCH FOUNDATION

To accelerate breakthroughs, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation provides today’s best young scientists with funding to pursue innovative research.  The Foundation has gained worldwide prominence in cancer research by identifying outstanding researchers and physician-scientists.  Twelve scientists supported by the Foundation have received the Nobel Prize, and others are heads of cancer centers and leaders of renowned research programs. Each of its award programs is extremely competitive, with less than 10% of applications funded. Since its founding in 1946, the Foundation has invested more than $270 million and funded more than 3,400 young scientists. This year, it will commit approximately $12 million in new awards to brilliant young investigators.

100% of all donations to the Foundation are used to support scientific research.  Its administrative and fundraising costs are paid from its Damon Runyon Broadway Tickets Service and endowment.

For more information visit http://www.damonrunyon.org/

CONTACT
Yung S. Lie, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
yung.lie@damonrunyon.org
212.455.0521

Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Grants Prestigious Fellowship, Breakthrough Scientist Awards

Grants totaling over $2.8M give early career investigators independence to pursue novel ideas

New York, NY (January 13, 2014) – The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on supporting innovative early career researchers, named 15 new Damon Runyon Fellows at its fall Fellowship Award Committee review. The recipients of this prestigious, three-year award are outstanding postdoctoral scientists conducting basic and translational cancer research in the laboratories of leading senior investigators across the country. The Fellowship encourages the nation's most promising young scientists to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding ($156,000 each) to work on innovative projects.

The Committee also named five new recipients of the Damon Runyon-Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists. This award provides additional funding to scientists completing a prestigious Damon Runyon Fellowship Award who have greatly exceeded the Foundation’s highest expectations and are most likely to make paradigm-shifting breakthroughs that transform the way we prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Each awardee will receive $100,000 to be used toward their research.

Recipients of the Damon Runyon-Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists:

 

David K. Breslow, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘11-‘14), Stanford University, Stanford, California

Dr. Breslow is studying the primary cilium, a cellular structure that enables cells to sense and respond to specific external cues. While disruptions to primary cilia are known to promote tumor formation and cause developmental defects, how cilia orchestrate these processes remains poorly understood. He is using a combination of genomic, biochemical and cell biology approaches to investigate how specific signaling occurs in the cilia.

Costas A. Lyssiotis, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘10-‘13), Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York

Dr. Lyssiotis focuses on how oncogenes affect cellular metabolism in pancreatic cancer. In particular, he is interested in understanding how mutations in the oncogene Kras alter cellular metabolism in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma to facilitate cell growth. He will determine if distinct components of Kras-mediated signaling can be targeted for therapeutic gain. Ultimately, this work aims to translate our understanding of pancreatic cancer cell metabolism into therapies for this devastating disease.

Raymond E. Moellering, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘11-‘13), The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California

Dr. Moellering is interested in understanding the link between alteration of metabolic pathways and corresponding protein modifications that occur in cancer cells. In addition, he is investigating whether cancer cells use small molecule signaling, known as quorum-sensing, to communicate and thus control tumor initiation, growth and metastasis. His goal is to provide insights into many aspects of tumor progression and to potentially identify new opportunities for therapeutic intervention.

Nathan D. Thomsen, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘11-‘13), University of California, San Francisco, California

Dr. Thomsen is studying the molecular interactions that are required for specific signaling pathways in the cell. In cancer cells, these signaling pathways are often disrupted or misregulated. Using sophisticated new techniques he has developed, he will “capture and trap” proteins in real time, as they are signaling—similar to a video freeze-frame. He plans to then engineer antibodies that will specifically target and inhibit these pathways, which can be used to learn more about the molecular mechanisms underlying signaling and may eventually be developed into therapeutics for cancer and other diseases.

Cole Trapnell, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘11-‘14), Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Dr. Trapnell studies the vast complexity underlying cell identity and fate. He will use genomic and computational biology approaches to analyze individual tumor cells and understand how a variety of genetic mutations give rise to aggressive tumor cell behavior. He aims to map the key pathways controlling cell fate, ultimately leading to information that may aid the development of more effective targeted therapies.

November 2013 Damon Runyon Fellows:

Brittany Adamson, PhD [HHMI Fellow] with her sponsor Jonathan S. Weissman, PhD, at the University of California, San Francisco, California, is using large-scale genetic approaches to map the regulatory networks responsible for maintaining molecular equilibria inside human cells. An important question in cancer research is how cancer cells adapt to abnormal growth environments and proliferate under stress. Systematic characterization of the processes that maintain these equilibria will be critical for better understanding cancer formation and growth.

Ryan D. Baldridge, PhD, with his sponsor Thomas A. Rapaport, PhD, at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, focuses on a cellular process called endoplasmic reticulum associated degradation (ERAD), a system involved in recognition, transport and degradation of regulated and misfolded proteins. ERAD plays a role in cancer processes, in some instances by regulating the levels of proteins involved in tumor growth and metastasis. His goal is to understand the mechanism and specificity of the ERAD system.

Liron Bar-Peled, PhD, with his sponsor Benjamin F. Cravatt, PhD, at The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, is exploring how the protease Caspase-8 regulates T cell activation, which represents a critical step in the adaptive immune response to cancer. While Caspase-8 is known to be essential for T cell activation, the molecular mechanisms underlying its role in this process remain poorly understood. His work will focus on identifying and characterizing the proteins cleaved by Caspase-8, which may provide additional therapeutic avenues to activate T cells to target malignant cells in cancer patients.

Ankur Jain, PhD, with his sponsor Ronald D. Vale, PhD, at University of California, San Francisco, California, focuses on understanding how the level of mRNA species in the cell is regulated. Disruption of these regulatory processes can lead to cancer initiation and progression. These processes are carried out at discrete cytoplasmic non-membrane bound organelles called processing bodies (P-bodies). He aims to develop a molecular understanding of P-body architecture, assembly rules, and their role in gene regulation.

Matthew P. Miller, PhD [HHMI Fellow] with his sponsor Susan Biggins, PhD, at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, is investigating how cells ensure the correct partitioning of genetic material during cell division. Errors in this process occur in nearly all tumor cells and are the leading cause of miscarriages and congenital birth defects in humans. He is using novel techniques to isolate and examine the physical binding properties of the molecules that mediate this process. The goal of his work is to determine the molecular mechanisms that direct genome partitioning during cell division and understand how this process becomes error-prone during tumorigenesis.

Antoine Molaro, PhD, with his sponsor Harmit S. Malik, PhD, at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, studies how an ancient “evolutionary arms race” between Krab-Zinc-Finger genes (KZNFs) and DNA sequence elements called retrotransposons has shaped transcriptional networks of stem cells and pluripotency. Because many cancers dedifferentiate to a stem cell-like state, refined knowledge about how KZNFs act may prove essential for the development of new cancer drugs.

Gabriela C. Monsalve, PhD [Robert Black Fellow] with her sponsor Keith R. Yamamoto, PhD, at University of California, San Francisco, California, is studying glucocorticoids (GCs), naturally occurring steroid hormones that can be used therapeutically to kill certain tumor cells. Aggressive blood cancers like lymphomas and leukemias are commonly treated with chemotherapy drugs, including GCs. Unfortunately, some patients do not respond to GCs. To improve the treatment of patients with GC-resistant cancers, and to better understand how GCs destroy cancerous cells, she aims to understand how and where they are absorbed in the body.

Shruti Naik, PhD, with her sponsor Elaine V. Fuchs, PhD, at The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, is studying the interactions between immune cells and adult skin tissue stem cells in an effort to understand the how this crosstalk drives epithelial disorders, including chronic inflammation and cancer. Because adult tissue stem cells are long-lived cells that continually replenish tissues throughout an organism’s lifetime, they represent ideal points of therapeutic intervention. Identification of inflammation-induced molecular changes in skin stem cells that drive epithelial dysfunction will facilitate the development of therapies for various epithelial inflammatory diseases and cancer.

Hanjing Peng, PhD, with her sponsor Jun O. Liu, PhD, at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, seeks to identify compounds that inhibit the proteasome, the protein degradation machinery in the cell that maintains the balance of cell growth and death. Inhibitors that regulate proteasome function are potential anticancer drugs. She has designed and constructed a synthetic library of compounds in search of potent proteasome inhibitors. She hopes to discover new anticancer drug candidates with lower toxicity or side effects than current drugs.

Erin F. Simonds, PhD, with his sponsor William A. Weiss, MD, PhD, at University of California, San Francisco, California, is investigating tumor-initiating cells in pediatric glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor. This rare subpopulation of cells has the unique capacity to re-establish the tumor after therapy, and is therefore a critical therapeutic target. He is using a technique called mass cytometry to determine how these cells respond to communication signals from their environment. The goal of this work is to identify drugs that specifically kill tumor-initiating cells by blocking the signaling networks that sustain their survival.

Alexey A. Soshnev, MD, PhD [HHMI Fellow] with his sponsor C. David Allis, PhD, at The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, studies how genetic information is packaged in the nucleus and how such packaging is interpreted by the cellular machinery. Changes in nuclear architecture may simultaneously affect the function of thousands of genes and are a hallmark of cancer. This research focuses on a family of small nuclear proteins termed “linker histones,” which are thought to orchestrate higher-order folding of DNA in the nucleus. Understanding the molecular connection between the nuclear architecture and gene regulation will shed new light on the processes underlying oncogenic transformation.

Rohan K. Srivas, PhD, with his sponsor Michael P. Snyder, PhD, at Stanford University, Stanford, California, is studying the changes in the composition and function of bacteria inhabiting the human gut (microbiome). The microbiome plays an extensive role in modulating host metabolism and inflammation, which when disrupted can lead to diseases such as cancer. By tracking changes in the gut microbiome of patients undergoing drastic weight loss, this research will map the dynamics of host-microbiome connections, potentially highlighting strategies for modifying the microbiome to treat metabolic disorders and reduce the risk of gastric and colon cancers.

Chenxi Tian, PhD [Sherry and Alan Leventhal Family Fellow] with her sponsor Richard O. Hynes, PhD, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, studies pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). PDAC is characterized by an extremely stiff texture, which is caused by accumulation of excessive extracellular matrix (ECM). The compositions of ECM, known to have major effects on tumor progression, are not well understood in PDAC disease. She aims to identify global ECM changes during PDAC progression by proteomic approaches, and to investigate how these changes impact cancer progression. This research will provide novel insights into diagnosis, prognosis and treatments of this very difficult disease.

Thomas S. Vierbuchen, PhD [HHMI Fellow] with his sponsor Michael E. Greenberg, PhD, at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, aims to understand how neurons adapt to experience by modifying the complement of genes they express. He is using high-throughput sequencing-based approaches to identify and characterize the function of genomic regulatory elements that control neuronal activity-regulated gene transcription.

Eric M. Woerly, PhD, with his sponsor Eric N. Jacobsen, PhD, at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, aims to develop new chemical synthetic methods for the preparation of cancer therapeutics. The introduction of fluorine into pharmaceutical targets is an important element of drug design. The controlled, selective synthesis of fluorinated compounds, however, can be a great synthetic challenge. He plans to enable access to such targets by developing a method for the asymmetric synthesis of fluorinated small molecules, potentially leading to improved cancer therapies.


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DAMON RUNYON CANCER RESEARCH FOUNDATION

To accelerate breakthroughs, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation provides today’s best young scientists with funding to pursue innovative research. The Foundation has gained worldwide prominence in cancer research by identifying outstanding researchers and physician-scientists. Twelve scientists supported by the Foundation have received the Nobel Prize, and others are heads of cancer centers and leaders of renowned research programs. Each of its award programs is extremely competitive, with less than 10% of applications funded. Since its founding in 1946, the Foundation has invested over $270 million and funded more than 3,400 young scientists. This year, it will commit over $12 million in new awards to brilliant young investigators.


100% of all donations to the Foundation are used to support scientific research.  Its administrative and fundraising costs are paid from its Damon Runyon Broadway Tickets Service and endowment.

For more information visit www.damonrunyon.org

CONTACT
Yung S. Lie, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
yung.lie@damonrunyon.org
212.455.0521

 

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