New Discoveries and Honors

Read about the latest discoveries by Damon Runyon scientists and honors received by scientists in the Damon Runyon scientific community.

November 19, 2020

Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator Elli Papaemmanuil, PhD, and colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have uncovered new clues that may help answer a troubling question—why do some patients develop a secondary blood cancer after receiving radiation or chemotherapy treatment for their initial cancer diagnosis? 


November 18, 2020

Pancreatic cancer is particularly difficult to diagnose since people usually have no symptoms until the cancer reaches a more advanced stage or spreads to other organs. Though progress against this cancer has been slow, Damon Runyon researchers are making an impact through understanding the biology and developing novel treatments.


November 4, 2020

Researchers have conducted the biggest study ever into the path that individual blood cells take to becoming leukemia. Former Damon Runyon-Sohn Fellow Robert L. Bowman, PhDFormer Fellow Aaron D. Viny, MD, and colleagues at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center examined how a series of stepwise mutations in normal blood cells could trigger the transformation to cancer. 


October 29, 2020

Many cancer immunotherapies, drugs that activate a patient’s immune system, have emerged in recent years, but none are universally effective. To address this shortcoming, Clinical Investigator Anusha Kalbasi, MD, and colleagues at the University of California Los Angeles found a drug that activates the body's natural defenses by behaving like a virus and may uncloak certain stealthy melanoma tumors, so they can be better targeted by immunotherapy.


October 15, 2020

Former Damon Runyon Innovator Guillem Pratx, PhD, and colleagues at Stanford University have devised a way to use a common imaging technology called positron emission tomography, or PET, to watch the movement of a single cell injected into a laboratory mouse in real time. 


October 15, 2020

In developing a treatment plan for a patient, doctors rely on genetic tests on biopsied tumors in bulk rather than individual cells, which fails to capture the full extent of cellular diversity within tumors. A more complete picture of what is happening in a lung cancer tumor could yield clues for effective therapies that may benefit patients. 


October 8, 2020

Seven Damon Runyon scientists are recipients of the National Institutes of Health's High-Risk, High-Reward Research awards that will fund highly innovative and unusually impactful biomedical research proposed by extraordinarily creative scientists.


September 25, 2020


Lung cancer is often missed in its earlier stages and, as a result, is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. To tackle this issue, Damon Runyon Fellow Aaron L. Moye, PhD, and colleagues have developed a platform to study early-stage lung cancer and to identify potential new treatments. 


September 25, 2020


Faster, cheaper diagnostic tests for COVID-19 could potentially help control the spread of disease and facilitate safe openings of schools and businesses. Former Damon Runyon Innovator Feng Zhang, PhD, and colleagues have developed a CRISPR-based diagnostic for COVID-19 that gives accurate results in less than an hour and, in principle, could be made inexpensively to allow for regular testing at home.


September 11, 2020


COVID-19 has mobilized scientists across the globe in an unprecedented effort to understand the SARS-CoV-2 virus and stop this disease. Some Damon Runyon scientists have temporarily pivoted their research to contribute to this critical goal by investigating how the virus enters human cells, developing more efficient testing, and searching for treatments. 


August 24, 2020


Former Damon Runyon Fellow John Blenis, PhD, and colleagues at Weill Cornell Medicine have discovered a molecule produced by our own cells that can accumulate in the blood as we age and help cancer cells spread from one site in the body to others. The researchers found that the level of methylmalonic acid (MMA)—a by-product of protein and fat digestion—is significantly higher in the blood of otherwise healthy people over the age of 60.


August 13, 2020


Former Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, and his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, have published surprising new results that for older individuals with advanced cancer, taking aspirin may increase their risk of cancer growth and early death.


August 7, 2020


Damon Runyon Fellow Lindsay M. LaFave, PhD, and colleagues at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, discovered that elevated levels of a protein called RUNX2 in human lung tumors predict a worse prognosis—a finding which could lead to new diagnostics and drug targets.


July 23, 2020


When cancer cells escape their primary tumor and move to the fluid and tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord—a condition called leptomeningeal metastasis—the result is devastating. Now, Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Adrienne A. Boire, MD, PhD, and colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering have discovered how these rogue cells are able to survive in the barren environment of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and suggest a possible strategy for treatment.


July 21, 2020


A new publication from Damon Runyon Physician-Scientist Jonathan E. Shoag, MD, and colleagues at Weil Cornell Medicine shows that PSA screening has benefits beyond lowering prostate cancer death risk, such as prevention of metastatic disease and the impaired quality of life associated with its treatment. The researchers suggest that the balance of benefits and harms of screening may be more favorable than previously recognized.


July 2, 2020


Damon Runyon Physician-Scientist Andrew L. Ji, MD, and colleagues at Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a population of specialized cells living at the edges of a tumor that potentially guide the metastasis of skin cancer and help it evade the body’s immune system.


June 23, 2020


The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has presented the 2020 AACR-Joseph Burchenal Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research to Damon Runyon alum Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD. This award recognizes Dr. Wolchok for his leadership in the groundbreaking clinical development of immunotherapy drugs called checkpoint inhibitors for treating cancer.


June 16, 2020


The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust have named Damon Runyon-Dale F. Frey Breakthrough Scientist Shruti Naik, PhD, and Former Damon Runyon Fellow Jihye Yun, PhD, as part of the 2020 class of the Pew-Stewart Scholars Program for Cancer Research. 


May 27, 2020


Damon Runyon Alumnus Ardem Patapoutian, PhD, of Scripps Research, was awarded the 2020 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience for his breakthrough discovery of sensory receptors that respond to pressure. This award recognizes outstanding achievement in advancing our knowledge and understanding of the brain and nervous system.


May 20, 2020


Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator Rushika M. Perera, PhD, at University of the California, San Francisco, and colleagues at NYU Grossman School of Medicine have discovered that pancreatic cancer cells can appropriate an internal waste removal process to dispose of tags (MHC-1) on their surfaces which trigger the immune system to destroy tumors.


May 11, 2020


Since COVID-19 cases escalated to pandemic levels worldwide, Damon Runyon scientists are contributing to the unprecedented global effort to stop the disease by investigating how this specific coronavirus enters human cells, developing more efficient testing and searching for a treatment. 


April 28, 2020


Seven Damon Runyon alumni were elected to the National Academy of Sciences (the science “Hall of Fame”), one of the highest honors that can be given to a U.S. scientist. This brings the total number of Damon Runyon scientists who are members of the National Academy of Sciences to 86.


April 21, 2020


Damon Runyon-Gordon Family Clinical Investigator Geoffrey R. Oxnard, MD; Board Member Michael V. Seiden, MD, PhD; and colleagues published results of a new blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer, often before symptoms develop. This may give patients and doctors a huge advantage and opportunity to treat the disease before it reaches advanced stages.


March 31, 2020


Damon Runyon Board Member Elaine V. Fuchs, PhD, the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development at The Rockefeller University, has received the 2020 Canada Gairdner Award in recognition of her pioneering work on tissue stem cells, the cells of our tissues that are responsible for repairing wounds. 


February 21, 2020


After decades of trying, scientists developed drugs that target one of the most elusive cancer-causing proteins, KRAS, which is activated in nearly a third of cancers, including difficult to treat lung and colorectal cancers. In 2016, Piro Lito, MD, PhD, (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ‘17-’20) and his colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center showed that a compound could shut down the most common form of the KRAS mutation in lung cancer without harming healthy cells.


January 31, 2020


Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ‘13-‘16), from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Adrian R. Krainer, PhD, from Cold Spring Harbor, collaborated to uncover how a genetic mutation can cause RNA messages to be blocked, triggering biological steps that lead to most leukemias.


January 28, 2020


Inventing new drugs from scratch is expensive and time consuming—and even after that significant investment, over 50 percent of drug candidates fail in the final stages. Damon Runyon Board Member Todd R. Golub, MD, Former Damon Runyon Fellow Matthew L. Meyerson, MD, PhD, and colleagues, at the Broad Institute of MIT, Harvard and Dana-Farber Cancer Center, have developed a novel way to test FDA-approved non-oncology drugs for activity against cancer more efficiently, lowering the risk and cost involved in drug discovery.


January 13, 2020


Karuna Ganesh, MD, PhD (Clinical Investigator ’19-’22), and her colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, have discovered a novel framework for approaching metastasis and developing treatments. The researchers found that metastasis-initiating cells can hijack the body’s natural wound-healing abilities to colonize distant organs.


January 7, 2020


The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research has awarded six grants to promising early career scientists for projects aimed at addressing unmet needs in cancer research. Eliezer Van Allen, MD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ’15-’20), of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, received the competitive award for his research to improve clinical care for prostate cancer patients.


January 6, 2020


Scientists have found a clue as to how melanoma cells are able to metastasize. Ralph J. DeBerardinis, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ’11-’14) and colleagues at Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) discovered that some melanoma cells carry proteins on their surface that help them survive the hostile environment of the bloodstream as they travel to distant organs and form new tumors.