New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

Read the latest cancer research and recognition from the members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle.
May 1, 2019
Five Damon Runyon Alumnae Elected to Prestigious National Academy of Sciences

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. Those elected today bring the total number of active members to 2,347 and the total number of foreign associates to 487. Here they share comments about what Damon Runyon funding has meant for their careers.



Karla A. Kirkegaard, PhD (Damon Runyon Fellow ’82 – ’85), Stanford University, Stanford, CA 

Dr. Kirkegaard focuses on understanding the cell biology of viral infections and the genetics of viral diversity.

“As always, I am appreciative of the Damon Runyon Foundation for a vote of confidence when I really needed it.”


Dianne K. Newman, PhD, (Damon Runyon Fellow ‘98 – ‘99), California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

Dr. Newman’s research focuses on how microorganisms generate energy when oxygen is scarce—from soils to chronic infections to cancer.

“I really have appreciated Damon Runyon’s support, both then and now!”


Elaine A. Ostrander, PhD, (Fellow ’87-’90), National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD

Dr. Ostrander is a pioneer in the field of comparative genomics, advancing our understanding of mammalian growth and development, behavior and disease susceptibility, especially cancer.

“I owe so much to Runyon and I’ve never forgotten. Thank you!”


Cynthia Wolberger, PhD (Fellow ’87-’90 and Sponsor), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

Dr. Wolberger develops 3D models to study the cellular machinery that controls DNA packaging, revealing how the process may go awry in human disease and potential drug targets that may correct the process.

“I’m proud to be among the Damon Runyon alumni and excited that we are all women!”


Mariana F. Wolfner, PhD (Fellow ’81 – ’82) Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Dr. Wolfner focuses on understanding the important reproductive processes that occur around the time when a sperm fertilizes an egg. Using the fruit fly Drosophila model, the laboratory studies the molecular signals that "activate” embryo formation.

“[Damon Runyon] support was really important in launching me into the area that was recognized by this academy election. Thank you…for your faith in me. Clearly Damon Runyon has had an incredibly positive effect in fostering the careers of scientists at a critical time in their training. I know it continues to do so.”