Damon Runyon News

March 14, 2024

Damon Runyon scientists and industry partners gathered on Thursday, March 7, for the 2024 Accelerating Cancer Cures Symposium, hosted by AbbVie on their campus in South San Francisco.

Accelerating Cancer Cures (ACC) is a multi-million-dollar project aimed at supporting a new generation of clinical investigators as they translate the latest scientific discoveries into new diagnostics and therapeutics for patients. Founded in 2011 and led by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the initiative has included participants from AbbVie, Amgen, ARIAD, Celgene, Eli Lilly and Company, Genentech, Gilead, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Co., as well as scientists from the nation’s top universities and research institutes. The annual Symposium is designed to foster communication and collaboration between cancer researchers in industry and academia.

“Training the next generation of physician-scientists is a critical pillar in our mission, as these cancer researchers are uniquely positioned to carry breakthroughs from the lab into the clinic. Accelerating Cancer Cures provides vital support and resources toward this goal,” said Yung S. Lie, PhD, President and CEO of Damon Runyon. “We look forward each year to the opportunity to bring our remarkable scientists together with industry leaders to discuss the best path forward.”

Following opening remarks from Vice President of Early Oncology Research and Development at AbbVie and Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award Committee Member Theodora S. Ross, MD, PhD, Damon Runyon scientists Daniel R. Wahl, MD, PhD, Jennifer M. Kalish, MD, PhD, and Srinivas R. Viswanathan, MD, PhD, presented updates on their research. From glioblastoma to childhood kidney cancer, their projects are illuminating the genetic and metabolic pathways of tumor growth to aid in the development of better therapies for their patients.

After a lively fireside chat between Dr. Ross and Arthur D. Levinson, PhD, Founder and CEO of Calico, attendees also heard from current Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators Nathan Singh, MD, Melody Smith, MD, and Pavan Bachireddy, MD, all of whom aim to improve immunotherapy options for patients with blood cancer. Dr. Singh and Dr. Smith are specifically focused on developing longer-lasting, more effective CAR T therapies.

Later in the afternoon, Damon Runyon alumna and current Physician-Scientist Training Award Committee member Jean Y. Tang, MD, PhD, moderated a panel discussion among industry leaders about the key components of successful industry-academia collaborations.

"The scientists present at this year’s event demonstrated the breadth of translational research that Damon Runyon is currently funding,” said Megan Allen, PhD, Scientific Director of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. “It’s gratifying to provide an opportunity for our scientists to share their work and get feedback from their peers and senior investigators.”

Every year, ACC connects Damon Runyon scientists with each other and with industry professionals who become valuable collaborators. As former Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD, recalls, his attendance at the symposium resulted in some of his most fruitful partnerships, including with an editor at Nature, where he has published groundbreaking findings about specific mutations that drive blood cancer, and with scientists at drug companies who have helped him translate these findings into new targeted therapies.

“It’s events like these,” he says, “that show how the impact of the Damon Runyon award goes way, way beyond the funding.”