New Discoveries and Honors

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

December 12, 2018


In its second year, the Innovators in Science Award recognizes research excellence in Regenerative Medicine. Shruti Naik, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '14-'17 and Damon Runyon-Dale F. Frey Breakthrough Scientist '17-'19) of New York University, received the Early-Career Scientist Award with a $200,000 grant.


November 27, 2018

Carla Koehler, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '95-'98 and Scholar '99-'02) of the University of California, Los Angeles, was named an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow for significant contributions in characterizing mechanisms of protein and RNA transport in the mitochondria. The tradition of AAAS Fellows dates to 1874 and comprises an illustrious group of scientists, including many Nobel Laureates.


November 7, 2018

Nicholas Arpaia, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '12-'16) of Columbia University, and his colleague received the $500,000 prize to support research on designing probiotic bacterial strains that find and attack lung cancer. The Young Innovator Team Awards were established in 2014 to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and foster leadership skills among young researchers, instilling confidence in them to drive breakthrough lung cancer research using a collaborative, cross-institutional approach. 


October 16, 2018

Patients with metastatic breast cancer—when the tumor has spread to other organs in the body—face a terminal prognosis and toxic treatments. There is an urgent need for new ways to treat drug metastatic and resistant stages of the disease. Sarat Chandarlapaty, MD, PhD (Clinical Investigator ’12-’17), and colleagues, have developed a novel class of drugs that may help these patients by potentially stopping or even destroying breast cancer tumors.


October 15, 2018

Two Damon Runyon alumni were elected to the National Academy of Medicine. Election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

September 25, 2018

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive and hard-to-treat form of breast cancer. Doctors have observed that TNBC patients with higher numbers of immune cells in their tumors seem to have better survival than those with fewer, but it's not well understood why. Damon Runyon Fellow Leeat Yankielowicz-Keren, PhD, and Dale F. Frey Breakthrough Scientist Sean C.

September 17, 2018

One of the greatest challenges doctors face is predicting, which patients will respond to a particular cancer therapy. Ash Alizadeh, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator '14 - '17) and David Kurtz, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Physician Scientist '16 - '20), at Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a new blood test to guide doctors when treating diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL). This research was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.


August 27, 2018

Christine Mayr, MD, PhD, (Damon Runyon Innovator ’13-‘15), Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ’13-’16), and colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, report new results that suggest malfunctions in messenger RNA (mRNA) processing may be driving chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). mRNAs carry the information encoded in DNA, which is then translated into proteins. Changes at both the DNA and mRNA level can result in malfunctioning proteins.

June 20, 2018

Matthew G. Vander Heiden MD, PhD (Fellowship Award Committee Member, Fellow ’06-’08, Innovator ’11-‘13) and colleagues at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and MIT’s Koch Institute, Boston, have found a new reason pancreatic cancer patients lose weight. They observed in mouse models that tumors interfered with the pancreas’ ability to secrete enzymes that digest food. Unable to obtain enough nutrients from food, the mice entered starvation mode in which their bodies broke down fat to survive.

June 19, 2018

John Mendelsohn, MD (Damon Runyon Grantee ’72-’74), President Emeritus of MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, shared the 2018 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science with former Damon Runyon Sponsors Tony Hunter, PhD, at the Salk Institute, La Jolla, and Brian J. Druker, MD, at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, Portland. Dr. Mendelsohn led the development of a novel targeted therapy: the anti-EGFR antibody cetuximab (Erbitux®).

May 25, 2018

Researchers have long been aware that several viruses have an innate ability to kill cancer cells. Dmitriy Zamarin, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ’13-’16) and Jedd D.

May 23, 2018

Five Damon Runyon alumni are among the 19 individuals named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators this week. These scientists were selected because they ask hard questions in uncharted territories of biology and have the potential to make breakthroughs that will benefit humanity. The appointment provides flexible funding of $8 million over a seven-year term for each scientist, enabling them to pursue provocative fundamental questions of critical importance to biomedical progress.

May 3, 2018

Maria Mihaylova, PhD (Former Damon Runyon Fellow ‘13-’16) of the Whitehead Institute and MIT’s Koch Institute, Cambridge, has found benefits of intermittent fasting beyond weight loss. The researchers discovered that fasting for 24 hours dramatically improves stem cells’ ability to regenerate in the intestines of aged and young mice. When an injury or infection occurs, stem cells are key to repairing damage. This finding may help patients who suffer from GI infections or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

May 1, 2018

Two Damon Runyon alumni were elected to the National Academy of Sciences (the science “Hall of Fame”), one of the highest honors that can be earned by a U.S. scientist. Being elected into this prestigious group of scientists recognizes their distinguished and continuing achievements in biomedical research. This brings the total number of Damon Runyon scientists who are members of the National Academy of Sciences to 74.

April 26, 2018

Gavin Dunn, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator '17-'20), and colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis, are developing a way to detect brain tumor biomarkers through a simple blood test.

April 23, 2018

Benjamin L. Martin, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ’17-’18) and David Q. Matus, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ’17-’18, Damon Runyon Fellow '07-'10) of Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, and colleagues, have developed new cell imaging technology that allows scientists investigating cancer and other diseases insights into how cells operate in real-time. This is the first time high-resolution, three-dimensional footage of the process has been visualized in action.

March 5, 2018

The most deadly process in cancer is metastasis, when tumor cells spread to distant organs. Key to preventing metastasis is understanding how these cells are able to move through the body. Carey K. Anders, MD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ’12-’15) of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Chapel Hill, is shedding light on this process using genetic “snapshots” of both the primary tumor and the tumor after it has spread.

March 1, 2018

Two new studies confirm that pediatric and adult cancers have different mechanisms driving the disease. These are the first large-scale genomic comparisons, combing through the genomes of more than 1,700 tumors, from over 20 different kinds of childhood cancers. Daniela S. Gerhard, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ’83-’85) of NCI, Bethesda, and Angela J. Waanders, MD, MPH (Dale F.

February 19, 2018

The big story in cancer research is the recent success of immunotherapy, which involves training and reengineering the immune system to kill cancers. The New York Times featured four women whose rare, aggressive ovarian cancers were unexpectedly cured with immunotherapy. This story resulted from research by Dmitriy Zamarin, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow '13-'16) of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, who studied these patients to understand why they responded to this treatment (nivolumab/Opdivo).

February 1, 2018

Helen M. Piwnica-Worms, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ’84-’85, Former Fellowship Award Committee Member) of MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, received the 2018 Laura Ziskin Prize in Translational Research from Stand Up to Cancer. She and her collaborator will apply their expertise in DNA damage repair mechanisms and imaging mass cytometry to investigate how the immune system recognizes breast cancer and devise new treatment combinations for more effective treatments. 


January 31, 2018

Feng Zhang, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ‘12-‘14) of the Broad Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, was named one of three recipients of the 2018 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. The awards from the Vilcek Foundation recognize young foreign-born biomedical scientists, 38 years old or younger, who demonstrate outstanding early achievement.  He is recognized for his groundbreaking work in the field of CRISPR genome editing.

January 31, 2018

Ron Levy, MD (Emeritus Board Member), and colleagues at Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, reported the success of an injectable "vaccine" delivered directly to tumors. The vaccine combines two key agents, a short piece of DNA called CpG oligonucleotide with an antibody that binds to OX40, thus activating immune T cells to fight cancer cells. In mice, they found that it could eliminate all traces of the injected tumors, including untreated metastases in the same animal.

January 29, 2018

Amanda Balboni Iniguez, PhD (Damon Runyon-Sohn Fellow ’15-’19) and colleagues at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, reported that a class of cancer drugs called CDK inhibitors may be able to disarm a gene that causes Ewing sarcoma, the second most common form of bone tumor in young people. They showed in mouse models of Ewing sarcoma that CDK12 inhibitors could slow down tumor growth and extend life.

January 23, 2018

Mark W. Zimmerman, PhD (Damon Runyon-Sohn Fellow ’14-’18) and colleagues at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, have identified mechanisms that drive about 10 percent of high-risk neuroblastoma cases. Neuroblastoma is the most common solid tumor affecting infants and young children with few effective treatment options. The researchers found that a protein called c-MYC could cause neuroblastoma, when it is produced at abnormally high levels in tumor cells in a zebrafish model.

January 17, 2018

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will honor 19 individuals with awards in recognition of their extraordinary scientific achievements in a wide range of fields spanning the physical, biological, and medical sciences.  Congratulations to Damon Runyon alumnus and mentor Howard Y.

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