Damon Runyon News

June 15, 2022
Latest News

Immune checkpoint inhibitors work by releasing the “brakes” on immune T cells, unleashing them upon cancer cells. After the discovery of two of these brakes, PD-1 and CTLA-4, and the subsequent cascade of drugs targeting them, the search for new checkpoints to target stalled. But this spring, the FDA approved a new melanoma drug called relatlimab, which targets LAG-3—the first new checkpoint in almost a decade.

June 13, 2022
New Discovery

Damon Runyon alumni Ash Alizadeh, MD, PhD, and David Kurtz, MD, PhD, and others have shown that cancer can be detected via blood sample by measuring circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). This approach, however, requires high concentrations of tumor DNA in the bloodstream and provides low resolution—in other words, it can detect cancer but cannot identify a specific cancer subtype.

June 10, 2022
Latest News

Just before dawn on Monday, October 4, 2021, David Julius, PhD, a longtime Damon Runyon mentor and former Fellowship Award Committee member, and Ardem Patapoutian, PhD, a former Damon Runyon awardee, received news that they had won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. The award recognized the two scientists’ independent “discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.” Ardem and his team at Scripps Research discovered the Piezo channel proteins, essential for our sense of touch. For David, the Nobel culminated over three decades of research at the University of California, San Francisco, on the proteins that help us sense temperature and pain.

June 9, 2022
New Discovery

Cells absorb hormones, proteins, and other molecules from their environment through a process called endocytosis. In this process, the molecule being absorbed—the “cargo”—binds to a receptor on the surface of the cell membrane, recruiting a protein called clathrin to the inside of the cell membrane. The membrane then pinches inward to form a clathrin-coated vesicle with the cargo protected inside. Endocytosis is mediated by a protein complex called AP2, which links the cargo-bound receptors to the clathrin coat (see below). The functionality of AP2 depends on its shape. When “closed,” it can only bind to the cell membrane; when “open,” it can bind to cargo-bound receptors and clathrin proteins. But how exactly it makes this conformational change from “closed” to “open” has long been unclear. 

June 8, 2022
Latest News

Three scientists with exceptional promise and novel approaches to fighting cancer have been named the 2022 recipients of the Damon Runyon Physician-Scientist Training Award. The awardees were selected through a highly competitive and rigorous process by a scientific committee comprised of leading cancer researchers who are themselves physician-scientists.

June 7, 2022
Awards and Honors

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is both an honorary society that recognizes and celebrates the excellence of its members and an independent research center that convenes leaders from across disciplines to address significant challenges facing the world. This year, four Damon Runyon scientists were among the 261 exceptional individuals elected to the Academy.

June 6, 2022

Damon Runyon scientists and industry partners gathered in person and virtually on Thursday, May 19 for the 2022 Accelerating Cancer Cures Symposium, hosted by Merck in South San Francisco.

May 24, 2022
Awards and Honors

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), established in 1863, is the body of distinguished researchers “charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology.” Election to membership is among the highest honors a scientist can receive. This year, eight Damon Runyon alumni join the NAS ranks, bringing the total number of Damon Runyon alumni in NAS to 97.

May 16, 2022
New Discovery

Patients with ovarian cancer have a 92% five-year survival rate if they are diagnosed at stage I. But a lack of effective screening methods and absence of symptoms in its early stages makes ovarian cancer particularly difficult to catch before it spreads. Patients and clinicians need a kind of internal alarm system, a device that can detect and communicate the presence of cancer cells in the body before they have a chance to inflict damage.

May 10, 2022
New Discovery

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines have been shown to elicit immunity against a number of infectious diseases—including, notably, COVID-19—as well as several types of cancer. Unlike traditional vaccines, which introduce a small amount of the pathogen into the body, mRNA vaccines provide the body with instructions for how to make a specific protein found on the surface of a virus or cancer cell. Once the vaccine is delivered, molecular machines called ribosomes bind to the mRNA, “read” its instructions, and build the protein. This, in turn, prompts the immune system to produce the corresponding antibodies, so that it is ready when it encounters the real virus or cancer cell. Importantly, the mRNA molecules that contain these protein-making instructions are broken down by the cell after they have delivered their “message.”