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March 28, 2018
South San Francisco, CA (March 28, 2018) – Today, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (Damon Runyon) held the seventh 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 overcome many of the issues that currently impede progress against cancer.  Hosted this year by Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, the meeting included academic researchers from top universities and research institutions as well as scientists from Celgene, Eli Lilly and Company, Genentech, Gilead Sciences, Merck, and Novartis. 

Accelerating Cancer Cures is a unique collaboration between Damon Runyon, a prestigious cancer charity that supports pioneering early career 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, the companies involved demonstrate their shared commitment to driving the next generation of breakthroughs in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. 

Over the past two decades, innovative cancer treatments have helped increase survival rates and improved quality of life, allowing cancer patients to spend more time with family and loved ones.

The cancer death rate has fallen by 25% since its peak in 1991, in large part due to innovative cancer medicines.

Survival is increasing dramatically for many forms of cancer. The five-year survival rate has increased 21% for breast cancer; 50% for prostate cancer; 36% for colon cancer; and 54% for lung cancer since 1975.

The five-year survival rate for patients with leukemia has nearly tripled since the early 1990s.

For children, the five-year relative survival rate increased from 58% in the mid‐1970s to 83% today due to new and improved treatments.

Richard B. Gaynor, MD, President of Research and Development for Neon Therapeutics, Damon Runyon Board member, and Chair of the Accelerating Cancer Cures Advisory Committee, opened the meeting by welcoming its attendees and stressing the urgency of collaboration between academia and industry at this crucial moment in cancer research.  Timothy K. Lu, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Biological Engineering and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and Core Faculty Member, Synthetic Biology Center and Associate Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, delivered a keynote address about engineering synthetic circuits for immunotherapy.  Participants also heard research presentations from selected Damon Runyon scientists and learned from an industry panel discussion on bridging the gap between academia and industry.  Lorraine Egan, President and CEO of Damon Runyon, and Dietmar Berger, MD, PhD, Senior Vice President, Global Clinical Development Hematology/Oncology, Genentech, provided opening remarks. Nancy Valente, MD, Vice President, Product Development and Global Head, Hematology Development, provided closing remarks.

“We are encouraged that innovative industry leaders have partnered with us to brainstorm models that will help advance the development of new treatments for cancer patients,” said Ms. Egan.  “Through Accelerating Cancer Cures, we are ensuring that the best young physician-scientists are a part of this program and can continue to be the critical link between the research lab and the patients.”

“Genentech is honored to support the Damon Runyon researchers and scientists who are driving new approaches in the fight against cancer," said Dr. Nancy Valente, Genentech. “Collaborations between the industry and academia are critical to accelerating the development of transformative therapies for patients with serious illnesses. We are confident that this will result in more breakthroughs that lead us toward cures."

Dr. Gaynor added, “This is an exciting time in cancer research with major discoveries in fields such as immunology and genomics leading to innovative cancer therapies. Today we heard presentations from young investigators who are at the forefront of these fields, bringing novel insights from the laboratory into the clinic. The efforts of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and programs like Accelerating Cancer Cures are helping to make the hope of new cancer therapies a reality.”

Scientists from the nation’s leading research institutions, including Columbia University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, University of Wisconsin, and Washington University participated in the symposium and presented on a diverse range of promising research, from novel therapeutic strategies for brain metastases to next-generation immunotherapies, and to brainstorm about creative approaches to speed new treatments to cancer patients.



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, Gilead Sciences, Merck, and Novartis. For more information, visit

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, the Foundation has invested over $340 million and funded more than 3,650 young 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