Damon Runyon News

December 8, 2022

Pancreatic cancers are notoriously resistant to treatment, in part because more than 90% of tumors are driven by mutations in the notorious KRAS gene. Once considered an “undruggable” cancer target, the first KRAS inhibitors are now making their way into clinics, but so far therapies have only been approved for the treatment of lung cancer.

November 14, 2022

We are delighted to announce that former Damon Runyon-Illini 4000 Fellow Daniel J. Blair, PhD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, has been named a 2022 STAT Wunderkind. This award, granted annually to “the best early-career researchers in health and medicine in North America,” recognizes Dr. Blair’s exceptional promise in the field of synthetic chemistry.

October 26, 2022

In 2018, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) established the FNIH Trailblazer Prize for Clinician-Scientists to recognize “the outstanding contributions of early career clinician-scientists” whose research “translates basic scientific observations into new paradigm-shifting approaches for diagnosing, preventing, treating or curing disease.” 

October 21, 2022

Each year, the Damon Runyon-Jake Wetchler Award for Pediatric Innovation is given to a third-year Damon Runyon Fellow whose research has the greatest potential to impact the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of pediatric cancer. This year, the award recognizes the work of Anand G. Patel, MD, PhD, a Damon Runyon-Sohn Pediatric Cancer Fellow at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. As a physician-scientist, Dr. Patel both provides care for children with cancer and their families and investigates ways to improve their treatment options.

October 12, 2022

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, in which a patient’s own immune cells are genetically engineered to target cancer cells, has revolutionized the treatment of certain blood cancers. Unfortunately, CAR T cell therapy is much less effective against solid tumors, such as pancreatic or skin cancer. Part of the problem in these cases is that the genetically altered T cells quickly become dysfunctional; even those that exhibit a strong anti-tumor response at first soon reach a state of exhaustion. At the University of California, Los Angeles, Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Anusha Kalbasi, MD, and his colleagues are investigating how to make these T cells last longer to better treat melanoma and other deadly solid tumors. Recently, they had a breakthrough.

October 11, 2022

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer, occurring primarily in patients with chronic liver damage, such as that caused by hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or long-term alcohol use. It is the third-highest cause of cancer mortality worldwide. Unfortunately, because HCC develops slowly and can be asymptomatic for years, patients are often diagnosed at an advanced stage.

September 26, 2022
New Discovery

Follicular lymphoma is a slow-growing cancer that occurs when the body produces abnormal B cells that form clumps, or “follicles,” in the lymph nodes. Like T cells, B cells are a type of white blood cell integral to the immune system. Unlike T cells, which attack the body’s own cells when they become infected or cancerous, B cells produce antibodies that target invading bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.

September 15, 2022
New Discovery

As we know well by now, vaccines must be updated periodically because viruses constantly evolve new strains that may or may not bind to our existing antibodies. The influenza vaccine, for example, is updated every year; it seems likely that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine will follow the same cadence. To develop and update these vaccines, researchers must test how panels of antibodies respond to panels of viruses. The number of possible antibody-virus combinations makes testing every interaction impractical, so even the most laborious studies have to settle for non-exhaustive data.

September 1, 2022
New Discovery

The proteins CDK4 and CDK6 are well-known regulators of the cell cycle, driving cells into the DNA replication phase that occurs before cell division. Since their discovery in the 1990s, scientists have understood that mutations in these regulatory proteins can lead to uncontrolled cell division, or cancer.  Thanks to persistent research efforts over the past thirty years, CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of breast cancer, but given the disruptive power of these oncoproteins, it is likely that such inhibitors could be effective for other types of cancer as well. When it comes to targeted therapies, more specific means less toxic, so understanding which proteins to target in each cancer is a crucial first step.

August 22, 2022
New Discovery

The outermost layer of the human brain, known as the cerebral cortex, is responsible for our highest mental capacities—language, memory, emotion, decision-making, and much more. It contains an immense diversity of cells, between 14 and 16 billion neurons, organized in patterns complex enough to elude the farthest reaches of neuroscience.