Timeline of Results

Since 1946, Damon Runyon scientists, including 12 Nobel Laureates, have made some of the most important discoveries in cancer research.  To this day, our scientists - whether they have Damon Runyon Fellowships or participate in another of our award programs - are at the forefront of new and promising cancer research.  Past discoveries include:

  • Groundbreaking research confirming the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer (1954)
  • Identification of the first cancer-causing gene (1970)
  • Led studies resulting in FDA approval of two breakthrough treatments for advanced melanoma (2011)

The below timeline highlights some of our scientists’ most important accomplishments.  For recent discoveries, including new cancer treatment research and the latest prevention and diagnosis breakthroughs, see our New Discoveries and Honors section, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  

2013 2013 Nobel Prize

2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) "for [his discovery] of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells".

James E. Rothman, PhD (Fellow 1976-1978)

2010 Development of Yervoy

Development of Yervoy, a life-extending immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma, approved by the FDA in 2011.

Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD (Clinical Investigator 2003-08)

2009 Aspirin use and colorectal cancer

Demonstrated that regular aspirin use improves survival rates for colorectal cancer patients

Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH (Clinical Investigator 2008-11)

2008 Synthesis of novel therapeutics

Development of chemical synthesis of organic compounds, including a class of anticancer drugs called the epothilones, a few of which are in early stage clinical trials (awarded three prestigious awards in one year).

Samuel J. Danishefsky, PhD (Grantee 1966-67)

2008 Saliva test for head/neck cancer

Development of a saliva test for head and neck cancers, now being optimized for use in doctors' offices.

Joseph A. Califano, III, MD (Clinical Investigator 2001-06)

2008 Success of immunotherapy

First example of immunotherapy being used to successfully treat advanced solid tumor cancer, without requiring other drugs or chemotherapy.

Cassian Yee, MD (Clinical Investigator 2001-06)

2007 U.S. Science/Technology Adviser

Appointment as Science and Technology Adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her expertise in scientific and societal issues surrounding genetically modified crops.

Nina V. Federoff, PhD (Fellow 1974-75)

2006 Determining cell location and fate

Identification of the role of the homeobox (HOX) gene that determines where cells are located in the body and what type of cell they should become.

Howard Y. Chang, MD, PhD (Scholar 2006-08)
John L. Rinn, PhD (Fellow 2005-07)

2004 Predicting response to Iressa

Discovery of a mutation that predicts the response of lung cancer patients to the targeted therapy Iressa.

William R. Sellers, MD (Clinical Investigator 2001-2005)
Matthew L. Meyerson, MD, PhD (Fellow 1995-1998)

2001 Stem cell differentiation

Identification of the factors that govern differentiation of stem cells into hair follicles, sebaceous glands, or epidermis, and first successful and reproducible cloning of healthy mice from any type of adult stem cell.

Elaine Fuchs, PhD (Fellow 1977-79)

2001 Mechanism of RNA interference

First descriptions of RNA interference (RNAi), a process that can specifically turn off individual genes, and pioneering usage of RNAi to identify potential new gene targets against cancer.

Gregory J. Hannon, PhD (Fellow 1992-94)

2000 HPV linked to head/neck cancer

Identification of the human papillomavirus as a cause of head and neck cancer.

Maura L. Gillison, MD, PhD (Clinical Investigator 2000-05)

1996 Skin cancer gene identified

Co-discovery of the gene responsible for basal cell carcinoma, the most common human skin cancer.

Ronald Lee Johnson, PhD (Fellow 1992-95)

1996 Key steps in “cell suicide”

Unveiling of key biochemical steps in the process of cell suicide (apoptosis), which is essential to preventing cancer formation and is frequently altered in human cancers.

Xiaodong Wang, PhD (Fellow 1991-94)

1996 Discovery of breast cancer gene

Co-discovery of BRCA1, the first human gene to be identified as a cause of breast cancer.

C. Alexander Kamb, PhD (Fellow 1988-91)

1994 Key cellular processes identified

Discovery that growth factors induce the rapid and transient expression of a family of genes whose functions are crucial for neuronal differentiation, cell survival, and adaptive responses.

Michael E. Greenberg, PhD (Fellow 1983-84)

1992 Development of Erbitux

Development of a novel targeted therapy for cancer, Erbitux, which inhibits the growth factor receptor EGFR, approved by the FDA in 2004.

John Mendelsohn, MD (Grantee 1972-74)

1992 Development of Bexxar

Development of Bexxar, a "search and destroy" therapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, approved by the FDA in 2003.

Mark S. Kaminski, MD (Fellow 1983-85)

1991 Development of Herceptin

Instrumental contributions to the development of the breast cancer drug Herceptin, approved by the FDA in 1998.

H. Michael Shepard, PhD (Fellow 1978-80)

1992 Vegetables help fight cancer

Pioneering of the field of chemoprevention with the demonstration that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain a cancer-fighting substance called sulforaphane.

Paul Talalay, MD (Fellow 1950-51)

1989 1989 Nobel Prize

1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (shared) "for [his] discovery of catalytic properties of RNA".

Sidney Altman, PhD (Fellow 1967-69)

1989 Protein transport within the cell

Description of "the instruction book for the assembly of a cell:" how vesicles (tiny sac-like structures that transport proteins within cells) reach their correct destination and release their contents at the proper place and time (2002 Lasker Award).

James E. Rothman (Fellow 1976-78)

1987 1987 Nobel Prize

1987 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for his discovery of the genetic principle for generation of antibody diversity."

Susumu Tonegawa, PhD (Fellow 1969-70)

1986 The myc oncogene and cancer

Discoveries in connection with an oncogene called myc that have been key to understanding how normal cells become cancerous.

Robert N. Eisenman, PhD (Fellow 1971-72)

1986 Blood-producing stem cells

First demonstration that a single blood-producing stem cell in bone marrow, known as a hematopoietic stem cell, can rebuild the entire blood system.

Ihor R. Lemischka, PhD (Fellow 1984-86)

1986 Towards development of Gleevec

Identification of the molecular defect in the Philadelphia chromosome that causes chronic myelogenous leukemia, which gave rise to the development of the breakthough drug Gleevec.

Eli Canaani , PhD (Fellow 1975-77)

1985 Mechanisms of protein action

Fundamental work on protein folding, providing a deeper understanding of how proteins adopt their structures and leading to better computational models for drug design.

Kenneth A. Dill, PhD (Fellow 1979-80)

1982 Proteins that copy chromosomes

Discovery of the protein machinery that enables chromosomes to be copied and the protein complex that regulates the copying process.

Bruce W. Stillman, PhD (Fellow 1979-81)

1980 Colorectal cancer genes found

Demonstration that mutations in human MMR genes are responsible for what is the most common cancer predisposition syndrome, Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC).

Richard A. Fishel, PhD (Fellow 1980-81)

1976 How T cells control immunity

Elucidation of how T cells mediate the body's cellular response against infection from viruses and bacteria and provide immunity against repeated exposure from foreign invaders.

Philippa C. Marrack, PhD (Fellow 1971-73)

1974 1974 Nobel Prize

1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) "for [his] discoveries concerning the structural and functional organization of the cell."

Albert Claude, MD (Grantee 1951)

1973 Epstein-Barr virus and cancer

Discovery of the connection between the Epstein-Barr virus and lymphomas and other cancers.

George Klein, MD, PhD (Fellow 1974-76)

1971 First hereditary breast cancer

First identification of the hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC).

Henry T. Lynch, MD (Grantee 1969-70)

1971 Drug cocktail for AIDS treatment

Landmark contributions to antiviral treatment, including the development of the drug cocktail which has become today's gold standard for AIDS treatment.

Erik D. De Clercq, MD (Fellow 1969-70)

1970 First cancer-causing gene found

Identification of the first cancer-causing gene, or oncogene.

Peter K. Vogt, PhD (Fellow 1959-62)

1970 Bone marrow transplant success

First successful bone marrow transplant using matched family members.

Fritz H. Bach, MD (Grantee 1965-67)

1969 1969 Nobel Prize

1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) "for [his] discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses."

Salvador E. Luria, MD (Grantee 1961)

1967 Blood cancers cured in children

Development of chemotherapy combinations that cured children with acute leukemia and children in Uganda with Burkett's lymphoma (1972 Lasker Award).

Joseph H. Burchenal, MD (Grantee 1962-63)

1967 Seminal findings about immunity

Seminal discoveries about the immune system: white blood cells are comprised of B cells and T cells, these cells act together to produce antibodies, and the thymus functions to produce T cells..

Jacques F. A. P. Miller, PhD (Grantee 1970-71)

1966 1966 Nobel Prize

1966 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for his discoveries concerning hormonal treatment of prostatic cancer."

Charles B. Huggins, MD (Grantee 1955)

1958 1958 Nobel Prize

1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) "for [his] discovery that genes act by regulating definite chemical events."

George W. Beadle, DSc, PhD (Grantee 1952)

1956 Cancer cured with radiotherapy

First cure of cancer with high-dose radiotherapy.

Henry S. Kaplan, MD (Grantee 1956-57)

1956 Tumor cured with chemotherapy

First cure of a solid tumor with chemotherapy.

Min Chiu Li, MD (Fellow 1953-55)

1955 Birth of cancer immunology field

First description of a tumor-specific antigen, establishing the field of cancer immunology.

Dennis Bernard Amos, MD (Fellow 1955-56)

1955 Growth of human cells in culture

Development of the first methods for growing normal human cells in culture (1958 Lasker Award).

Theodore T. Puck, PhD (Grantee 1947-49)

1954 1954 Nobel Prize

1954 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) "for [his] discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue".

John F. Enders, MD (Grantee 1968)

1954 Lung cancer linked to smoking

First scientific correlation between lung cancer and cigarette smoking.

Ernst L. Wynder, MD (Grantee 1952-53)

1953 Red blood cell-inducing hormone

Discovery of erythropoietin, the hormone that causes the body to make more red blood cells.

Allan J. Erslev, MD (Fellow 1950-51)

1953 1953 Nobel Prize

1953 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for his discovery of co-enzyme A and its importance for intermediary metabolism."

Fritz A. Lipmann, MD, PhD (Grantee 1952)

1951 A virus can cause cancer

First demonstration that a virus can cause cancer (1974 Lasker Award).

Ludwik Gross, MD (Grantee 1951-52)

1946 Foundation formed

Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation formed.