Damon Runyon News

February 15, 2022

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition caused by chronic acid reflux, in which stomach acid repeatedly flows up into the esophagus, eventually affecting the cells at the juncture of the esophagus and the stomach. While not harmful in itself, Barrett’s esophagus can develop into esophageal cancer in a minority of cases. Patients are advised to get regular imaging of their esophagus to check for abnormal-looking (precancerous) cells, which can be treated if discovered on time. But until recently, scientists misunderstood exactly what kind of cells they were looking at.

February 10, 2022

For decades, a weakened immune system has been considered an unavoidable side effect of receiving radiation or chemotherapy. These treatments, while highly effective at killing cancer cells, also deplete the body’s store of blood stem cells and damage the area in the bone marrow where new ones are produced. Blood stem cells, also known as hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), are critical for a functioning immune system because they give rise to all other blood cells, including white blood cells.

February 7, 2022

An effective immune system response requires coordination among many types of immune cells, including CD4+ (helper) T cells, CD8+ (cytotoxic) T cells, and B cells. Helper T cells recognize antigens—identifying molecules on the surface of a pathogen—and release warning signals. These signals activate cytotoxic T cells, which kill the infected or cancerous cells, and B cells, which produce antibodies to attack the pathogen directly.

February 4, 2022

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), which help immune T cells identify and kill tumor cells, are most effective in patients who have tumor antigen-specific T cells in circulation. Studies have shown that patients with ovarian cancer do have such tumor-reactive T cells in their blood, indicating a “naturally occurring, antitumor immune response.” So why do only 10-15% of ovarian cancer patients respond favorably to ICI therapy? This was the question former Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Ronald J. Buckanovich, MD, PhD, and his team at the University of Pittsburgh set out to answer in a recent study.

January 28, 2022

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has announced its newest cohort of Damon Runyon Fellows, 13 outstanding postdoctoral scientists conducting basic and translational cancer research in the laboratories of leading senior investigators. This prestigious, four-year Fellowship encourages the nation's most promising young scientists to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding ($231,000 total) to work on innovative projects.

January 24, 2022

A growing body of evidence links the gut microbiome—the vast collection of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in the digestive tract—to the body’s immune response to cancer. But the role of specific bacteria, and the nature of their interaction with immune cells, remain a critical subject of research. A better understanding of the crosstalk between the gut microbiota and the immune system would allow us, among other strategies, to use probiotics as part of cancer treatment.

January 18, 2022

‘‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’’ This principle, borrowed from Leo Tolstoy, is how Damon Runyon alumni Pavan Bachireddy, MD, and Catherine J. Wu, MD, summarized the conditions of immunotherapy response and resistance in a recent study.

January 11, 2022

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has announced ten recipients of the 2022 Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award, established to support “high-risk, high-reward” ideas with the potential to significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of cancer. Five initial grants of $400,000 over two years have been awarded to six extraordinary early-career researchers (four individuals and one collaborative team), each of whom will have the opportunity to receive two additional years of funding (for a total of $800,000). This year, “Stage 2” continuation support was granted to four Innovators who demonstrated significant progress on their proposed research during the first two years of the award.

January 10, 2022

Current imaging technology allows scientists to view tissue samples at such high resolution that they can gather information about individual cells. Looking at a high-resolution image of a tumor, for example, an oncologist can locate and measure the amount of a specific mutant protein in a cancer cell. The information gleaned from image-based single-cell analysis can aid both in diagnostics and tracking disease progression.

December 8, 2021

When Megan Miller was twenty weeks pregnant, the doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) noticed her baby was unusually large for his gestation age. After further examination, Megan was informed that he likely had a condition known as Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome—a diagnosis she had never heard of. Naturally, the expecting mother consulted Google, where she found alarmingly little information. “The only place that had good scientific facts,” she recalls, “was CHOP’s website.”