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 3, 2019

This year, five Damon Runyon alumni were chosen as American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellows in honor of their invaluable contributions to science and technology. 

November 20, 2019

Scientists first noticed circles of DNA floating alongside the regular chromosomes inside some cells, but they didn’t know the purpose of this “extrachromosomal DNA.” Now, Former Damon Runyon Scholar Howard Chang, PhD, of Stanford University, and colleagues have found that these doughnut-shaped pieces of DNA increase the malignancy of cancer cells.

October 21, 2019

Three 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: Edwin (Ted) G. Abel, PhD (Former Fellow ’93-’96); Julie A. Segre, PhD (Former Fellow ’97-’00); and Catherine J. Wu, MD (Former Clinical Investigator ’07-’12).

October 2, 2019

Peter J. Turnbaugh, PhD (Damon Runyon Innovator '16-'20), at the University of California, San Francisco, discusses his recent discovery that eating a diet of cooked food fundementally changes the microbes living in the gut compared to a diet of raw foods.

September 18, 2019

Surprising new research from Jason M. Sheltzer, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ’18 - ’20) and colleagues at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory suggests why 97% of cancer drugs in clinical trials fail to stop cancer in patients and never make it to market.

September 10, 2019

Two Damon Runyon alumni have been awarded the 2019 Lasker Awards, which “honor innovations that have advanced knowledge, treatment, or prevention of disease,” and are considered to be one of the highest international honors in medical research. H. Michael Shepard, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ’78-’80), shares the prize for his contribution to the discovery of the breast cancer treatment Herceptin. Jacques F.A.P. Miller, PhD (Damon Runyon Grantee ’73-’75), shares the award for pioneering immunology research that has led to many new therapeutic approaches. 

July 24, 2019

CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T cell immunotherapy has generated much excitement in the last two years— saving the lives of some blood cancer patients when other treatments have failed. Developing CAR T therapies for solid tumors has been far more challenging. That could be changing. Marcela V. Maus, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ’17-’20), and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital have turned CAR T cells into virtual armored vehicles, capable of launching deadly strikes against glioblastoma brain tumors.

July 16, 2019

Nicholas Arpaia, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ’13–’16), and Tal Danino, PhD, at Columbia University, have genetically programmed E. Coli bacteria to uncloak tumor cells and activate the immune system to attack them. The innovative approach eliminated tumors and distant metastases in mice and may lead to therapies that combat cancer more effectively in patients, without side effects.

July 9, 2019

Jason M. Sheltzer, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ’18 – ‘20), and Christopher Jewell, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ’14 – ’18), have received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government to researchers at the beginning their independent research careers, who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

June 26, 2019

Emily P. Balskus, PhD (Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovator ’14 – ’16), received the Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists in Chemistry, the largest unrestricted scientific prize ($250,000) offered to the most promising, faculty-level scientific researchers in the United States. Dr. Balskus, a chemical biologist at Harvard University, is being recognized for her “transformative work identifying the novel chemistry of the gut microbiome and deciphering its role in human health and disease.”

May 22, 2019

Adrienne A. Boire, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ’17-’20), and Alex Kentsis, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator ’16-’19), both of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, each received a 2019 Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research. Recipients receive $200,000 per year for up to three years and  opportunities to present their work to scientific and business audiences, helping to bridge the gap between the academic and business communities. 

May 10, 2019

The five-year survival rate for leukemia has almost doubled in the past 45 years. Still, about 20 percent of children and more than half of adults with leukemia fail to respond to treatment or form drug resistance and eventually succumb to the disease. New findings published in the journal Cancer Cell from Former Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Alejandro Gutierrez, MD, and his colleagues at Boston Children’s Hospital offer hope to these vulnerable leukemia patients. 

May 1, 2019

Five Damon Runyon alumnae were elected to the National Academy of Sciences (the science “Hall of Fame”), one of the highest honors given to a U.S. scientist. This membership recognizes their distinguished and continuing achievements in biomedical research. The total number of Damon Runyon scientists who are members of the National Academy of Sciences is now 79. This is a milestone year with women comprising 40 percent of the 100 newly elected members and 25 foreign associates, the most ever elected in any one year since the Academy was established in 1863.

April 16, 2019

Former Damon Runyon Fellow and Board Member Elaine V. Fuchs, PhD, and Former Fellow and Nobel Laureate James E. Rothman, PhD, have been elected foreign members of the Royal Society of the United Kingdom. In July, they will travel to London to sign the book that includes esteemed members such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking.

April 9, 2019

Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Joshua Brody, MD, and his colleagues at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai report a promising new cancer vaccine that activates the immune system to fight tumors throughout the body. This exciting new reserach was published in Nature Medicine.

April 4, 2019

As high fructose corn syrup — common in soda and processed foods — has crept into everyday diets, rates of obesity and diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure have increased. Now, Former Damon Runyon Fellow Jihye Yun, PhD, and colleagues have discovered another reason to avoid the sweetener: consuming the equivalent of 12 ounces of sugary soda a day accelerated tumor growth in mice that were predisposed to colon cancer.

April 3, 2019

Nicknamed Canada’s Nobels, the Gairdner Awards for medical research celebrate the world’s best biomedical and global health scientists. This year Bruce W. Stillman, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ’78-81’), President and CEO of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, received the honor for his work describing the exact sequence of events involved in DNA replication.

April 1, 2019

The American Association for Cancer Research announced the winners of this year's Scientific Achievement Awards, which recognize scientists and clinicians who have made significant contributions to our understanding of the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer. Congratulations to three Damon Runyon Alumni for receiving this honor.

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.

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.