Damon Runyon, Sohn Conference Foundations Name 4 New Pediatric Cancer Research Fellows
New York, NY (July 12, 2013) – The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has named four outstanding young scientists as recipients of the prestigious Damon Runyon-Sohn Pediatric Cancer Research Fellowship Award, committing more than $680,000 to help address a critical shortage of funding for pediatric cancer research. The Sohn Conference Foundation, dedicated to curing pediatric cancers, announced last year that it was granting $1.5 million to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the leading charity supporting innovative young cancer researchers, to establish the award. It provides funding to basic scientists and clinicians who conduct research with the potential to significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of one or more pediatric cancers. Each recipient receives a three-year award ($186,000 for physician-scientists, $156,000 for basic scientists). Since 2012, this award has supported seven innovative pediatric cancer researchers.
July 2013 Damon Runyon-Sohn Fellows:
Kenneth Chen, MD, with his sponsor James Amatruda, MD, PhD, at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, studies Wilms tumor, a pediatric kidney cancer that is the fourth most common childhood cancer. Wilms tumor is treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation; although outcomes have dramatically improved over the decades, they remain poor for children with high-risk disease. His preliminary research has identified a subset of Wilms tumors with dysregulated expression of microRNAs, a type of short noncoding RNA that regulates protein production. He will study how this dysregulation causes cancer in children and aims to use this information to develop a novel therapeutic strategy for these tumors.
Haihua Scott Chu, PhD, with his sponsor Scott A. Armstrong, MD, PhD, at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, focuses on a promising new class of therapy that inhibits epigenetic regulators, proteins that control the expression and activity of genes through DNA sequence-independent chemical modifications. Much remains unknown about how these new drugs induce specific changes in tumors upon treatment or what their efficacy is in sustaining long-term, durable responses in patients. He plans to characterize the changes induced with the use of such inhibitors in animal and human models of leukemia. These studies may serve as a proof of principle for the broader use of epigenetic inhibitors as a part of cancer therapy.
Shuibin Lin, PhD, with his sponsor Richard Gregory, PhD, at Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, is studying neuroblastoma brain cancers. Genetic amplification and aberrant expression of the oncogenes LIN28B and MYCN are associated with high-risk neuroblastoma and poor survival. Interestingly, these genes positively regulate each other and form a self-reinforcing feedback loop to drive neuroblastoma oncogenesis. His research aims to identify novel factors that interact with LIN28B/MYCN in tumor formation. He is characterizing a LIN28B-interacting long intergenic non-coding RNA (lincRNA) and will determine how the lincRNA functions to regulate neuroblastoma progression.
Amit J. Sabnis, MD, with his sponsor Trever G. Bivona, MD, PhD, at the University of California, San Francisco, California, is exploring novel treatment options for rhabdomyosarcomas, the most common pediatric soft tissue sarcomas. These sarcomas uniquely depend on the activity of “protein chaperones” that prevent newly made proteins from forming toxic clumps. His research focuses on small molecules that inhibit one class of chaperones called HSP70s. The goal of these studies is to identify a new target for drug development to help cure this disease.
“These are some of the best young scientists working in pediatric research today, and they’re at a critical juncture in their careers,” says William Carroll, MD, chair of the Damon Runyon-Sohn Pediatric Cancer Fellowship Committee and Director of the New York University Cancer Institute. “They need our financial support, and we need their brilliant minds focused on curing childhood cancers. That is why this award and the work that Damon Runyon and Sohn do are so important.”
Because cancer occurs less frequently in children and young adults than in the adult population, it does not receive significant funding from either the National Cancer Institute (only four percent of its budget) or the biopharmaceutical industry. As a result, there have been limited advances in recent years in treating these cancers, and fewer scientists are working in this field.
“I am inspired by Damon Runyon’s dedication to finding the right projects and young scientists to fund,” says Evan Sohn of the Sohn Conference Foundation. “We are all so excited to invest in these new Fellows and the cutting-edge research they’re doing on behalf of children and young adults with cancer.”
The Foundation was established in memory of Ira Sohn, a Wall Street professional whose life was cut short when he passed away from cancer. For more than fifteen years, the Foundation has raised funds for pediatric cancer research through its highly-respected annual investment conference, the Sohn Investment Conference, which features many of Wall Street’s best and most successful investors. Thanks to the dedication of the conference founders, esteemed speakers, volunteers, and generous donors, the Foundation has invested more than $20 million in innovative research and institutions at the forefront of cancer research and pediatric care.
To accelerate breakthroughs, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation provides today’s best young scientists with funding to pursue innovative research. Eleven scientists supported by the Foundation have received the Nobel Prize, seven have received National Medals of Science, and 65 have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the science “Hall of Fame.”
Since its founding in 1946, Damon Runyon has invested nearly $270 million and funded more than 3,400 young scientists. 100% of all donations to the Foundation are used to support cutting-edge scientific research. Its administrative and fundraising costs are paid from Damon Runyon Broadway Tickets and its endowment.
Sohn Conference Foundation
Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Awards $3.6M to 9 Top Young Clinical Investigators
Public release date: 1-Jul-2013
New York, NY, July 1, 2013 - The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation named six new Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators at its spring 2013 Clinical Investigator Award Committee review. The recipients of this prestigious three-year award are outstanding early career physician-scientists conducting patient-oriented cancer research at major research centers under the mentorship of the nation’s leading scientists and clinicians. Each will receive $450,000 to support the development of his/her cancer research program.
The Foundation also awarded Continuation Grants to three Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators. Each award will provide an additional two years of funding totaling $300,000. The Continuation Grant is designed to support Clinical Investigators who are approaching the end of their original awards and need extra time and funding to complete a promising avenue of research or initiate/continue a clinical trial. This program is possible through the generous support of the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, and Connie and Robert Lurie.
The Clinical Investigator Award program is specifically intended to help address the shortage of physicians capable of translating scientific discovery into new breakthroughs for cancer patients. In partnerships with industry sponsors and through its new Accelerating Cancer Cures initiative, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has committed almost $45 million to support the careers of 70 physician-scientists across the United States since 2000.
2013 Clinical Investigator Awardees
Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD
Dr. Abdel-Wahab specializes in specific blood cancers called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). He recently identified mutations in the gene ASXL1 in patients with MDS and AML. ASXL1 is one of the most commonly mutated genes in MDS patients, and these mutations occur in up to 20% of AML patients. ASXL1 mutations result in a worsened overall survival in MDS and AML patients and contribute to chemotherapy resistance in AML. However, exactly how these mutations contribute to leukemia development remains unknown.
He has demonstrated that loss of ASXL1 results in increased expression of genes that are known to promote development of AML. Preliminary data suggests that ASXL1 regulates expression of key genes by affecting proteins called histones. In a mouse model, loss of ASXL1 alone results in a phenotype remarkably similar to human MDS. Moreover, when ASXL1 loss is combined with other genes known to promote chronic leukemia in mice, an acute leukemia develops that hastens death of the mice. His overall goal is to gain a more thorough understanding of ASXL1 function and to ultimately test approved as well as novel targeted therapeutics for treatment of MDS and AML.
Dr. Abdel-Wahab works under the mentorship of Ross L. Levine, MD, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York.
Himisha Beltran, MD [Damon Runyon-Gordon Family Clinical Investigator]
Many prostate cancers initially respond to treatments that block the hormone testosterone, thus halting tumor growth. These treatments block testosterone by targeting a molecule called the androgen receptor (AR). However, patients often develop resistance to these drugs, giving rise to an aggressive AR-independent form of prostate cancer. Often under-recognized, AR-negative neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC) currently represents approximately 25% of advanced prostate cancers. The clinical diagnosis is most often made when the cancer has metastasized, especially to liver and brain, and is associated with a low prostate specific antigen (PSA) level. The poor prognosis of NEPC is, in part, due to an incomplete understanding of the molecular events underlying its development.
By utilizing valuable tissue resources and state-of-the-art technologies, Dr. Beltran seeks to comprehensively evaluate NEPC tumors for recurrent molecular alterations and determine their functional and clinical impact. She will identify a genomic profile that distinguishes NEPC from the more common type of prostate cancer, prostate adenocarcinoma, and evaluate the impact of NEPC-associated alterations on patient outcomes and their ability to predict patient response to available therapies. Her goal is to improve our understanding of molecular events associated with disease progression and help develop strategies toward preventing NEPC. Distinguishing NEPC will help identify prostate cancer patients unlikely to benefit from additional AR-targeted strategies and select patients for novel targeted treatment approaches for NEPC.
Dr. Beltran works under the mentorship of Mark A. Rubin, MD, at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York.
Christine M. Lovly, MD, PhD
Lung cancer is responsible for more cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and worldwide each year than any other cancer. Historically, patients with advanced metastatic disease have been treated with conventional chemotherapy. Recently, however, subsets of lung cancer patients have been identified with specific molecular alterations that allow for treatment with rationally chosen targeted therapies. One molecular subset of lung cancer is characterized by the presence of alterations in a protein called ALK tyrosine kinase. Patients with lung cancers that harbor ALK fusions derive significant clinical benefit from a newly approved drug that blocks the action of the mutant ALK. Unfortunately, the degree and duration of tumor response to ALK inhibitor drugs varies, and patients inevitably develop progressive disease, or “acquired resistance.” Additional strategies are needed to improve the treatment of these lung cancer patients.
Dr. Lovly’s goal is to develop novel treatment strategies for ALK positive lung cancer.
She plans to improve our understanding of how ALK fusions transmit signals to promote cancer and of how these signals become altered in the context of acquired resistance to ALK inhibitors. Her work will identify novel targets that can be blocked in combination with ALK inhibitors, to promote enhanced anti-tumor responses. Since ALK mutations have been described in a growing number of hematologic and solid organ tumors, an improved understanding of ALK signaling—as well as mechanisms of resistance to ALK inhibition—may also have potential implications for other cancers.
Dr. Lovly works under the mentorship of William Pao, MD, PhD, at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee.
Ann Mullally, MD
Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) are a type of blood cancer sometimes considered to be “pre-leukemias” which can progress to leukemia and are also lethal cancers in their own right. A population of rare hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), called MPN disease-propagating cells, typically harbor mutations that cause the cells to overproliferate. These mutated HSC produce abnormal cancerous blood cells that over time can eliminate the normal blood cells in the bone marrow. In MPN, the cancerous blood cells secrete an excess of substances called growth factors that allow cancer cells to survive.
Dr. Mullally aims to understand which of the growth factors help the mutated HSC to survive and to then use drugs to block the activity of these growth factors, thus killing the mutated HSC. This approach will lead to more successful treatments for MPN and leukemia, resulting in a higher cure rate for patients.
Dr. Mullally works under the mentorship of Benjamin L. Ebert, MD, and Daniel J. Deangelo, MD, PhD, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
Deepak Nijhawan, MD, PhD
Despite recent advances, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer related death in the United States, and there is an urgent need for new therapies. The most successful treatments for lung cancer to date are the targeted drugs erlotinib and crizotinib. These drugs block tumor growth in cancers that respectively harbor either mutations in EGFR or translocations in the ALK gene. Unfortunately, only a minor fraction of patients’ tumors have EGFR mutations or ALK translocations; therefore, the vast majority of patients lack an effective targeted therapy.
Dr. Nijhawan aims to identify novel targets in lung cancer so that similarly effective therapy can be developed for other patients. He has identified a set of chemicals called benzothiazoles that are effective in blocking the growth of 25% of lung cancer cell types tested. The protein target of the benzothiazole and the genetic alterations that predict sensitivity are unknown. His research focuses on identifying both the benzothiazole protein target as well as predictive biomarkers that explain why only certain lung cancers are susceptible to its effect. The identification of these biomarkers in lung cancer patients may highlight a set of patients who could be treated with benzothiazole-related compounds.
Dr. Nijhawan works under the mentorship of Steve L. McKnight, PhD, and David Johnson, MD, at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas.
Cameron J. Turtle, MD, PhD
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT) is a potentially curative procedure for patients with hematologic malignancies who are otherwise incurable with conventional therapies. Despite advances in post-transplant care, the morbidity and mortality of complications such as graft versus host disease (GVHD) and infections remain significant limitations, and hinder the application of this life-saving procedure. Infection and GVHD are influenced by the immune system, which in turn is regulated by the bacterial contents of the human gastrointestinal tract.
Dr. Turtle will test the hypotheses that alterations in the bacterial composition of the human gastrointestinal tract regulate the reconstitution of a specialized bacteria-responsive subset of immune cells after HCT, and that impaired regulation of this immune cell subset is associated with an increased risk of infection or GVHD.
Dr. Turtle works under the mentorship of Stanley R. Riddell, MD, at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington.
2013 Clinical Investigator Continuation Grants
Tobias Carling, MD, PhD
Dr. Carling focuses on endocrine tumors, a type of cancer that affects hormone-producing tissues in the body (such as the thyroid, pituitary gland, adrenal gland and islet cells of the pancreas). The underlying genetic basis for endocrine tumors is not yet known. Dr. Carling’s goal is to complete a comprehensive genomic analysis of patients with endocrine tumor disease in order to identify individual genes involved in early cancer formation. The Continuation Grant will be used to further these studies on endocrine tumors and also characterize thyroid and adrenal cancers. He aims to use these findings to develop improved strategies for personalized medical and surgical treatment of cancer patients.
Dr. Carling works under the mentorship of Richard P. Lifton, MD, PhD, and Robert Udelsman, MD, MBA, at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
N. Lynn Henry, MD, PhD
Due to advances in cancer screening and treatments, the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer will be cured of their disease. However, many will require at least five years of therapy with medications called aromatase inhibitors, which greatly reduce the amount of estrogen circulating in the body. These drugs cause new or worsening aches and pains in about half of women taking them, resulting in decreased quality of life.
The overall goal of this project is to obtain a better understanding of why some patients with breast cancer develop treatment-related pain. Dr. Henry [Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator] will use the Continuation Grant to investigate the impact of chemotherapy on pain processing pathways, which could predispose patients to chronic pain. She will also evaluate factors that could be used to predict which patients with aromatase inhibitor-associated pain will respond to a specific type of therapy called duloxetine. A greater understanding of why breast cancer survivors develop treatment-related pain could lead to prevention or better management of symptoms, thereby improving long-term quality of life.
Dr. Henry works under the mentorship of Daniel F. Hayes, MD, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Brian G. Till, MD
Certain types of lymphoma, such as the indolent B cell lymphomas and mantle cell lymphoma, are incurable with standard therapies. These diseases can, however, be cured using stem cell transplantation, in which immune T cells from the donor kill lymphoma cells. This procedure unfortunately carries the serious risk of graft-versus-host disease, which can be life-threatening.
In order to provide safer therapy options, Dr. Till [Damon Runyon-Pfizer Clinical Investigator] aims to develop a new treatment for lymphoma using patients’ own T cells to fight their cancers: patient cells are collected, a gene is inserted into the cells that allows them to recognize and kill lymphoma cells, and then the cells are infused back into the patient. Using his Continuation Grant, he is leading a phase I clinical trial testing this treatment in lymphoma patients. He is optimistic that this strategy will translate into a safe, curative treatment for patients with lymphoma; insights from this work may help to advance similar treatments for other types of cancer.
Dr. Till works under the mentorship of Oliver W. Press, MD, PhD, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Seattle, Washington.
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. Eleven 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 $270 million and funded more than 3,400 young scientists.
100% 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.
Yung S. Lie, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
June 25, 2013 > Aspirin effectiveness in reducing colorectal cancer risk linked to genetic mutation
Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ‘08-‘13) of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and colleagues, reported that the association between aspirin use and risk of colorectal cancer was affected by mutation of the gene BRAF. Researchers found that regular aspirin use was associated with a lower risk of BRAF-wild-type colorectal cancer but not with risk of BRAF-mutated cancer. These results were published in the journal JAMA.
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June 13, 2013 > Damon Runyon scientist named 2013 Pew Scholar
The Pew Charitable Trusts named 22 new Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences for 2013. The award gives innovative young scientists “the freedom to take calculated risks and the resources to pursue the most promising, but untried, avenues for scientific breakthroughs.” Damon Runyon scientist Avital A. Rodal, PhD (Fellow ‘03-‘06) of Brandeis University, Waltham, is included in this prestigious group.
June 4, 2013 > New targeted therapy for advanced lung cancer
Alice Tsang Shaw, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘04-‘05) of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and colleagues, reported that treatment with the investigational drug LDK378 resulted in an overall response rate of 60% to 78% in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with mutations in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene. In March, LDK378 received Breakthrough Therapy designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
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June 4, 2013 > Drug stalls progression of thyroid cancer
Marcia S. Brose, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ‘05-‘10) of University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and colleagues, reported results from a Phase 3 clinical trial (DECISION trial) demonstrating that the FDA-approved drug Nexavar (sorafenib) stopped metastatic thyroid cancers from progressing – nearly doubling progression-free survival from 5.8 to 10.8 months. This result is particularly exciting because no new drugs have been approved for this form of thyroid cancer in 40 years. The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and featured in The Wall Street Journal.
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June 2, 2013 > Promising new treatment for advanced 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 success of a new combination therapy for advanced metastatic melanoma. The therapy combines two drugs (Yervoy and nivolumab) to block “checkpoint” pathways, thus stimulating T cells in the immune system to attack cancers. In a Phase I clinical trial, the combination was demonstrated to be more effective than either drug administered alone. 65% of patients in the study showed halted disease progression, and 40% experienced tumor reduction. The researchers hope that this therapy might be effective for patients with other advanced cancers, like non-small cell lung cancer and renal cancer. The results were reported at the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual meeting and published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Photos - Annual Breakfast Honoring Sir Martin Sorrell
Runyon 5K—Run/Walk for Cancer Research
Thousands of baseball fans, runners, walkers, cancer survivors, and their friends and family gathered at Yankee Stadium on August 18, 2013 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Damon Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium. One of New York’s most unique summer events, the Runyon 5K is the only charitable run/walk that uses the iconic Stadium as its course. This year’s event has raised nearly $750,000 and counting for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation’s groundbreaking efforts to strike out cancer. Since inception, the event has raised more than $2.7 million.
If you would like to be added to our email list to receive news and updates about the 2014 Runyon 5K, please sign up for our Runyon 5K Email Alert.
Read the full press release on the 2013 Runyon 5K.
See photos from the 2012 Runyon 5K.
See videos on Youtube from the 2012 Runyon 5K.
May 9, 2013 > New HHMI Investigators named
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) selected 27 of the nation’s top biomedical researchers to become new HHMI investigators. Four of these are Damon Runyon alumni:
Chuan He, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘00-‘02), University of Chicago, Chicago
Neil Hunter, PhD (Damon Runyon Scholar ‘04-‘06), University of California, Davis
Ardem Patapoutian, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘96-‘99, Scholar ‘03-‘05), Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla
Russell E. Vance, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘01-‘04), University of California, Berkeley
HHMI investigators are widely recognized for their creativity and research accomplishments. The new group of HHMI investigators were selected for their individual scientific excellence from a group of 1,155 applicants.
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2013 Annual Breakfast Honoring Sir Martin Sorrell Raises $1.35 Million
New York, NY (May 7, 2013) — The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation honored Sir Martin Sorrell, Group Chief Executive of WPP, the world’s largest communications services group, at its 2013 Annual Breakfast, held on Tuesday morning at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. The Breakfast raised more than $1.35 million to support the nation’s most revolutionary young cancer researchers, pursuing work that promises to accelerate cures.
Alan M. Leventhal, Damon Runyon Chairman of the Board, welcomed guests to a program that included research updates from two Damon Runyon scientists: Stirling Churchman, PhD, a Dale F. Frey Breakthrough Scientist at Harvard Medical School, and Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD, a Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Dr. Churchman discussed her work using state-of-the-art technology to enable a “deep and complete view of how genomic information is read by the cell” in hopes of discovering potential targets for new cancer drugs.
Dr. Beatty shared his efforts to create a new immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer. He hopes to use the immune system to suppress signals that cause cancer growth and attack tumors from within.
The event’s keynote speaker was Shirley Tilghman, PhD, a molecular biologist and President of Princeton University. Dr. Tilghman praised the progress made in cancer research and expressed her excitement about breakthroughs to come, telling attendees, “Cancer research is in its golden age. The whole paradigm of how we think about cancer is changing.” She went on to caution against complacency and reiterate the importance of Damon Runyon’s role in funding the best scientists in the early stages of their careers, saying, “The real success of American science is that we’ve always invested in the young.”
The Breakfast concluded with remarks from Sir Martin Sorrell. In accepting his award, Sorrell praised Damon Runyon’s unique approach to fighting cancer, acknowledging the effect the disease had on his own family: “I am highly motivated, from a personal point of view, to eradicate cancer.”
Sorrell was introduced by longtime Damon Runyon Board Member Thomas J. Fahey, Jr., MD, who first met Sorrell at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center when his father was diagnosed with cancer. Dr. Fahey announced that Lydia Finley, PhD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, would be named the Jack Sorrell Fellow of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, in honor of Sir Martin’s father.
Sorrell thanked Damon Runyon and expressed his hopes that Dr. Finley and the other Damon Runyon scientists would make significant strides towards ending cancer, adding, “No pressure, but we’re counting on you.”
ABOUT THE 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. Eleven scientists supported by the Foundation have received the Nobel Prize, seven others have received National Medals of Science, and 63 have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Since its founding in 1946, Damon Runyon has invested more than $260 million and funded more than 3,380 young scientists.
100% 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.
Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
April 30, 2013 > 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, 18 members of the Damon Runyon community of scientists were inducted this April:
DAMON RUNYON FELLOWS
Stephen M. Beverley, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘79-‘81), Marvin A. Brennecke Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Chair, Department of molecular microbiology, Washington University, St. Louis
Daniel A. Portnoy, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘83-‘85), Professor of biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology, Department of molecular and cell biology, University of California, Berkeley
Robert H. Singer, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘70-‘72), Co-director, Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center, and Professor and Co-chair, Department of anatomy and structural biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Bronx
DAMON RUNYON AWARD COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Jef D. Boeke, PhD (Former Fellowship Award Committee, Fellowship Sponsor), Professor of molecular biology and genetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore
Norbert Perrimon, PhD (Former Fellowship Award Committee, Fellowship Sponsor), Investigator, HHMI, and Professor, Department of genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston
Stephen R. Quake, DPhil (Current Innovation Award Committee), Investigator, HHMI, and Lee Otterson Professor, Departments of bioengineering and of applied physics, Stanford University, Stanford
DAMON RUNYON FELLOWSHIP SPONSORS
Ben A. Barres, MD, PhD; Professor and chair, Department of neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford
Edward M. De Robertis, MD, PhD; Investigator, HHMI, and Professor of biological chemistry and Norman Sprague Professor, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles
Christopher C. Goodnow, PhD; Professor of immunology and Head, Department of immunology, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra City
Mitzi I. Kuroda, PhD; Professor, Department of genetics and department of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston
Peter J. Novick, PhD; Professor of cellular and molecular medicine and George Palade Endowed Chair, department of cellular and molecular medicine, University of California, San Diego
Yigong Shi, PhD; Endowed Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Dean, School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China
Nicholas C. Spitzer, PhD; Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego
Louis M. Staudt, MD, PhD; Deputy Chief, metabolism branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda
Galen D. Stucky, PhD; Professor, Departments of chemistry and biochemistry and of materials, University of California, Santa Barbara
Gerhard Wagner, PhD; Elkan Rogers Blout Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Department of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston
Graham C. Walker, PhD; Professor, Department of biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
Fred M. Winston, PhD; John Emory Andrus Professor of Genetics, Department of genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston
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April 21, 2013 > Identification of novel targets to block cancer cell metabolism
Matthew G. Vander Heiden, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ‘11-‘13, Damon Runyon Fellow ‘06-‘08) of MIT, Cambridge, and colleagues, reported the results of a large study analyzing gene expression data from 22 tumor types. They identified multiple changes in genes that regulate metabolism in cancer cells. The analysis also identified hundreds of potential drug targets that could block tumor growth. The study was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
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April 11, 2013 > Super-enhancers are master regulators of gene expression
James E. Bradner, MD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ‘11-‘13) of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, and colleagues, discovered a set of powerful gene regulators -“super-enhancers” that control cell state and identity. Important for gene control in healthy cells, super-enhancers are co-opted by cancer cells to overexpress oncogenes that lead to aggressive tumors. Treatment of multiple myeloma tumor cells with the drug JQ1 blocked the super-enhancer of the MYC oncogene and resulted in tumor growth arrest. Researchers hope that novel cancer therapeutics can be developed against super-enhancers in other tumor types. These findings were published in the journal Cell.
April 1, 2013 > Mutation linked to pediatric brain cancer
Oren J. Becher, MD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ’12-’15) of Duke University, Durham, Laura A. Banaszynski, PhD (Angelo Family Fellow ‘08-‘11) of The Rockefeller University, New York, and colleagues, reported results that, for the first time, link a mutated histone protein to a rare brain stem cancer in children called diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG). This histone typically silences expression of certain genes; when the histone is mutated in DIPG, cancer-promoting genes are aberrantly turned on. This study was published in the journal Science.
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Annual Breakfast to Support Cancer Research
New York’s leading business people and philanthropists come together each year to raise funds in support of innovative cancer research.
Held at a premier New York City location, our Annual Breakfast is an entertaining cancer fundraising event that gives guests the chance to learn about the important work of our scientists and network with well known New Yorkers – all before the work day starts.
Annual Breakfast 2013
The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation honored Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive of WPP, the world's leading communications services group, at our Annual Breakfast held on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. The event's keynote speaker was Shirley M. Tilghman, President of Princeton University and a leader in the fields of science and American higher education. Guests also heard from two current Damon Runyon scientists, Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and Stirling Churchman, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, who discussed their current projects and the importance of funding innovative cancer research.
March 20, 2013 > Promising immunotherapy for acute 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 of adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Patients were treated with their own T immune cells, which had been genetically modified to target and attack the cancer cells. The treatment induced rapid remissions in these patients. The exciting findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine and featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
March 18, 2013 > 2013 Pasarow Award
Elaine V. Fuchs, PhD (Damon Runyon Board Member, Damon Runyon Fellow ‘77-‘79) of The Rockefeller University, New York, is one of three recipients of the Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation Medical Research Awards in Cancer Research. She is honored for her extraordinary achievement, creativity and distinction in the field of skin stem cells. Matthew P. Scott, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellowship Sponsor) of Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, is also a recipient of the award.
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March 11, 2013 > Aspirin and melanoma prevention
Jean Y. Tang, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator '11-'14) of Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, and colleagues, reported that women who take aspirin regularly have a reduced risk of developing melanoma. Overall the risk is reduced by over 20 percent. The findings, based on a study of nearly 60,000 women aged 50 to 79, suggest the anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin may help protect against this type of skin cancer. The study was published in the journal Cancer.
Industry and Academic Researchers Gather for Innovative Accelerating Cancer Cures Research Symposium
Accelerating Cancer Cures is a unique collaboration between Damon Runyon, a prestigious cancer charity that supports the most innovative 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 cutting-edge laboratory research to identify new therapeutics, as well as the clinical trials to bring these new treatments to patients. The companies involved in this initiative, while competitors in the marketplace, are committed to supporting the best young clinical investigators so that they can drive the next breakthroughs in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
The President and CEO of Millennium, Dr. Deborah Dunsire, opened the meeting with remarks that focused on the need for greater collaboration between industry and academia. Additionally, David Nathan, MD, President Emeritus, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the Robert A. Stranahan Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, delivered a keynote address about the promise of cancer research and the critical role of patient-oriented physician-scientists in advancing progress against the many forms of cancer. Richard B. Gaynor, MD, Vice President, Cancer Research/Clinical Investigation, of Lilly, and Alan Leventhal, Chairman and CEO of Beacon Capital Partners and Chairman of the Board of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, also spoke about this groundbreaking collaboration.
”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.”
“The future of oncology research and the creation of novel treatments rests in the hands of talented scientific leaders like those who are presenting at this year’s Accelerating Cancer Cures symposium, which Millennium is proud to host,” stated Dr. Karen Ferrante, Chief Medical Officer, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company. “This event underscores the importance of collaboration between the biopharmaceutical industry and its academic partners, and how these partnerships will ultimately create new cancer treatments for patients.”
Scientists from the nation’s leading research institutions, including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Stanford University, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, attended the symposium to hear presentations on a diverse range of promising research, from advances in colorectal cancer detection to novel therapeutic approaches to breast cancers, and to brainstorm about new approaches to speed new treatments to cancer patients.
Accelerating Cancer Cures is supported by some of the world’s leading companies including: Eli Lilly and Company, ARIAD, Celgene, Genentech, Merck, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, and Pfizer. For more information, visit www.damonrunyon.org/accelerate.
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.