New Discoveries and Honors

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

January 30, 2019

Costas A. Lyssiotis, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '10-'13 and Damon Runyon-Dale F. Frey Breakthrough Scientist '13-'17) of the University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, received the American Gastroenterological Association Young Investigator Award for his contributions to immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer and new drug therapies targeting cancer metabolism. His lab has pinpointed several unique metabolic differences specific to the pancreas and is developing drugs to exploit them. Promising results in mice have led to a phase III clinical trial that will open soon at the Rogel Cancer Center comparing chemotherapy alone versus chemotherapy plus a metabolomic drug that switches off two pathways of energy.

January 23, 2019

The Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge brings together the very best researchers from around the globe to unite their talent, pool resources and crack the biggest questions in cancer research. Matthew L. Meyerson, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '95-'98) of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, and Wendy S. Garrett, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '06-'09) of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Cambridge, received £20 million to lead an international, multidisciplinary team of researchers focusing on the microbiome and its role in colorectal cancer. The microbiome is composed of the trillions of different microorganisms including bacteria, fungi and viruses that inhabit the human body and differs from person to person. By the end of the project, they aim to revolutionize the understanding of the role the microbiome plays in cancer development, find new ways to prevent colorectal cancer and define new treatment strategies through manipulating the gut microbiome. 

January 14, 2019

Immunotherapy has saved countless lives but it is not effective for all cancer patients and predicting who should be using this therapy has been difficult. New results from Luc G. Morris, MD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator '14-'17) at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and colleagues, now shed light on this dilemma. Tumors with a large number of DNA mutations are more likely to respond to immunotherapies than are cancers with fewer mutations and result in longer survival for people who receive treatment. The data also showed that the number of mutations that predicted a good response to immunotherapy varied from one type of cancer to another: as few as six mutated genes per million DNA bases in a breast cancer, but colorectal cancer needed 52 to be vulnerable. This means that researchers will need to set a mutation threshold for each cancer type. This new information may help guide doctors in selecting the patients who are most likely to respond to immunotherapies and to spare others from the treatments' side effects, which can include kidney failure and lung problems. 

This research was published in Nature Genetics.