Damon Runyon News

June 29, 2017

Marcela V. Maus, MD, PhD is a Damon Runyon Innovator at Massachusetts General Hospital and a featured speaker at our 2017 Annual Breakfast in New York earlier this month. Marcela has developed a way of engineering the body’s own immune T cells, so that they are re-directed to fight deadly brain tumors like glioblastoma. She began her remarks: “I want to introduce you to my favorite cell, the T cell. This is the cell I fell in love with before I even met my husband. It has these two amazing properties. It can kill, and it also has long-term memory. It has the potential to be curative, and it remembers what it’s seen before.”

June 23, 2017

Robyn Coles joined the Damon Runyon Board of Directors one year ago, and she’s more excited than ever about our approach to funding innovative cancer research.

Ms. Coles, you were elected to the Damon Runyon Board of Directors almost a year ago. How has your experience with us been so far?

Robyn Coles:  Damon Runyon is a real gem. The quality of scientists that the organization is able to identify for support is simply amazing. I have had the good fortune to follow the biotech industry since its infancy, studying it closely as an investor and out of fascination with the transformative impact it has.  Additionally, many of the scientists and CEOs in the life sciences have been longstanding family friends, and I have seen firsthand the impact scientists can have.  I am in awe that Damon Runyon has produced so many outstanding scientists, including 12 Nobel Laureates and countless Howard Hughes Investigators, whose science has contributed to the founding of dozens of biotech companies and ultimately life-saving medications.  This achievement has been accomplished on a fraction of the budget of other non-profit foundations.  It’s just truly impressive.

June 1, 2017

Evan Walsh is an agent of the William Raveis Real Estate Company. In two short years he went from raising funds for the Raveis Ride + Walk to support cancer research, to becoming a patient himself with stage three muscle-invasive bladder cancer, to a cancer survivor. Evan delivered the following speech at a conference of fellow William Raveis agents.

Hello everyone. My name is Evan Walsh of The Walsh Team, and I am an agent in the Wellesley Office.

Every year thousands of people across the country shave their heads for charity in support of people battling cancer. Unfortunately, that is not why I stand here, bald, today. Three months ago I was diagnosed with stage three muscle-invasive bladder cancer. I have just completed a six week cycle of chemotherapy and on April 28th I will be going under the knife for robotic surgery, where they will remove my bladder and make me a beautiful new one using a section of my small intestines.

May 26, 2017

Last monthAaron D. Viny, MD, a Damon Runyon-William Raveis Charitable Fund Fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center participated in the March for Science in New York City. Below he explains his unique motivation for marching, and why he read every word of President Trump’s Affordable Healthcare Act.

Last month my wife and I took our 21-month-old daughter to the March for Science.  Irrespective of the tidal wave of political changes that have happened in the last 6 months, as parents, we found ourselves inspired by a Sarah Silverman stand-up comedy routine we saw several years ago. 

“Don’t tell girls they can be anything they want when they grow up, because it would never have occurred to them that they couldn’t.  It’s like saying, ‘Hey when you get in the shower I’m NOT going to read your diary.’ ‘Wait, are you going to read my diary?’ ‘No!  I said I’m not going to read your diary.  Now go take a shower!”

May 23, 2017

To make breakthroughs against cancer, we need scientists willing to break the mold and push science in new directions.  That is the goal of our Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award.  We seek the top emerging talent in cancer research and provide seed funding for their new ideas.

In 2015, we selected a new Innovator at UC Berkeley, Roberto Zoncu, followed the next year by one at UCSF, Rushika Perera.  Little did we know that they were married to each other. As they tell it, rather than Match.com, they had “bench.com.”  They met working side-by-side at a laboratory bench at Yale University, spent some time as a bi-coastal couple, and now are building their own labs across the bay from each other.

May 8, 2017

Damon Runyon Fellow Elise C. Jeffery, PhD, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with prospective donors at the beautiful new home of Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation board member Cindy Sulzberger in West Palm Beach, Florida. Cindy invited several of her friends to the gathering, and they were all eager to hear about the work of Damon Runyon scientists, and the goals of the foundation. As I described my work to the group during dinner, I was impressed by their interest in cancer research. They had a number of good questions such as, “Will we ever find a silver bullet cure?” and “How much progress could be made if we spent an amount equal to the defense budget on cancer research?” Although these questions have no easy answer, they reflect the thoughts of those in the community who have been affected by this disease. ​

May 1, 2017

May is National Cancer Research Month and we are ‘Celebrating Scientists’ who are working to cure, treat and prevent this deadly disease. Throughout the month we will introduce you to some of the brilliant Damon Runyon scientists who are pursuing innovative cancer research.

April 26, 2017

The following Op Ed by Ralph J. DeBerardinis, MD, PhD, a Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator, appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 14, 2017

THE WHITE HOUSE recently proposed slashing support to the National Institutes of Health, the federal agency funding thousands of health-related research projects in the United States. I direct a clinic and research laboratory developing cures for cancer and childhood genetic diseases. My lab runs on NIH funds, and I'm writing to outline why these cuts will be disastrous for our long-term prospects for health.

April 21, 2017

By Peter J. Turnbaugh, Damon-Runyon Innovator

For our 70th Anniversary Annual Report, we recently asked some of our current award recipients how cancer will be prevented, diagnosed, and/or treated differently in the future. What can a future cancer patient, say 10-20 years from now, expect to experience? Their responses were fascinating, and over the next few months we will share their visions for the future on this blog.

Cancer is notoriously hard to treat due to the severity of side effects and the high rate of relapse. While one patient may show a miraculous recovery, the next may show very little response or have an adverse drug outcome. Polymorphisms in the human genome are important, but they can fail to explain most of the observed variation in treatment outcomes. Far less attention has been paid to our “second genome”, the microbiome—comprising the trillions of microbes that thrive in and on the human body.

April 11, 2017

Shruti Naik, PhD, Damon Runyon Fellow, Rockefeller University 

I was recently asked by Lorraine Egan to serve on a panel for women in STEM at her daughter’s school. The girls’ enthusiasm and curiosity for science was unmistakable. “How do you design an experiment?”, “What do you like about research?”, “How do you identify mentors?”. Their ardent inquiries were nothing but reassuring. I thought, “If these girls represent the future, then the future of women in science is secure!” Enjoying this blissful moment I walked back to my research institute and was promptly jolted back to reality.