Since our founding in 1946, in partnership with donors across the nation, we have invested nearly $450 million and funded nearly 4,000 scientists.

For 75 years, Damon Runyon has provided funding to scientists who bet their careers on high-risk, high-reward hypotheses, concepts, and strategies. In this time, Damon Runyon scientists have advanced cancer research exponentially – because each one builds upon the achievements of those who came before.

As we celebrate this milestone of scientific achievement, we honor the scientists who have contributed to this legacy and continue to carry it forward. With them, we look to the future.

Every breakthrough in cancer research is a culmination of all the discoveries that came before it. Damon Runyon scientists lay the foundation for future advancement, not only through their work but also through their mentorship of the next generation of leaders in cancer research. We are truly honored to support them.

The below timeline provides a sample of significant accomplishments by Damon Runyon scientists.

  • 2021

    Nobel Prize

    Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) “for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.”

    David Julius, PhD
    (former member of Fellowship Committee and mentor to 4 Fellows)
    Ardem Patapoutian, PhD
    (Fellow 1996–99 and Scholar 2002–05)
  • 2020

    First therapy targeting "undruggable" KRAS approved

    Leadership of the clinical trials for the first KRAS inhibitor, Lumakras, FDA approved for treatment of lung cancer in 2021.

    Piro Lito, MD, PhD
    (Clinical Investigator 2017–22)
  • 2019

    Nobel Prize

    2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) “for [his] discovery of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”

    William G. Kaelin, Jr., MD
    (Damon Runyon Board of Directors)
  • 2018

    Completion of the Pan-Cancer Atlas

    Compilation of data from more than 11,000 tumors, representing 33 different cancer types, which is an essential resource for scientists developing targeted drugs.

    Matthew L. Meyerson, MD, PhD
    (Fellow 1995-98)
  • 2015

    First combination immunotherapy approved for advanced melanoma

    Demonstration of effectiveness of Yervoy plus Opdivo for treatment of advanced melanoma, leading to first FDA approval of a combined immunotherapy the same year.

    Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD
    (Clinical Investigator 2003–08)
  • 2013

    Nobel Prize

    2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) “for [his discovery] of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.”

    James E. Rothman, PhD
    (Fellow 1976-1978)
  • 2013

    Revolutionary gene editing tool

    Development of the CRISPR/Cas9 system capable of editing specific genes in living organisms.

    Feng Zhang, PhD
    (Innovator 2012-14)

  • 2013

    Success of CAR-T cell therapy

    Used genetically modified T immune cells to treat leukemia patients, resulting in remarkable rates of remission.

    Renier J. Brentjens, MD, PhD
    (Clinical Investigator 2006-11)
  • 2012

    Targeted Therapy for lung cancer

    Demonstrated the potential of ALK inhibitor therapies for patients with non-small cell lung cancer harboring certain genetic alterations.

    Alice Tsang Shaw, MD, PhD
    (Fellow 2004-05)
  • 2010

    Development of Yervoy

    Led the clinical trials of Yervoy, a life-extending immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma approved by the FDA in 2011.

    Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD
    (Clinical Investigator 2003-08)
  • 2009

    Aspirin use and colorectal cancer

    Demonstrated that regular aspirin use improves survival rates for colorectal cancer patients

    Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH
    (Clinical Investigator 2008-11)
  • 2008

    Cancer Genome Atlas results

    First report (on glioblastoma) issued by a national consortium to comprehensively map the genomic alterations of different cancer types and subtypes.

    Matthew L. Meyerson, PhD
    (Fellow 1995-98)

  • 2008

    Success of immunotherapy

    First example of immunotherapy being used to successfully treat advanced solid tumor cancer, without requiring other drugs or chemotherapy.

    Cassian Yee, MD
    (Clinical Investigator 2001-06)
  • 2004

    Predicting response to Iressa

    Discovery of a mutation that predicts the response of lung cancer patients to the targeted therapy Iressa, the first demonstration of the potential of genomics for personalized medicine.

    William R. Sellers, MD
    (Clinical Investigator 2001-2005)

    Matthew L. Meyerson, MD, PhD
    (Fellow 1995-1998)

  • 2001

    Stem cell differentiation

    Identification of the factors that govern differentiation of stem cells into hair follicles, sebaceous glands, or epidermis, and first successful and reproducible cloning of healthy mice from any type of adult stem cell.

    Elaine V. Fuchs, PhD
    (Fellow 1977-79)
  • 2001

    Immune checkpoint pathway

    Demonstration that proteins called PD-1 and PD-L1 are part of a "checkpoint" pathway that protects cancer cells from the immune system, leading to a new class of cancer immunotherapies.

    Gordon J. Freeman, PhD
    (Fellow 1979-81)
  • 2000

    HPV linked to head/neck cancer

    Identification of the human papillomavirus as a cause of head and neck cancer.

    Maura L. Gillison, MD, PhD
    (Clinical Investigator 2000-05)

  • 1996

    Skin cancer gene identified

    Co-discovery of the gene responsible for basal cell carcinoma, the most common human skin cancer.

    Ronald Lee Johnson, PhD
    (Fellow 1992-95)
  • 1996

    Key steps in "cell suicide"

    Unveiling of key biochemical steps in the process of cell suicide (apoptosis), which is essential to preventing cancer formation and is frequently altered in human cancers.

    Xiaodong Wang, PhD
    (Fellow 1991-94)
  • 1996

    Discovery of breast cancer gene

    Co-discovery of BRCA1, the first human gene to be identified as a cause of breast cancer.

    C. Alexander Kamb, PhD
    (Fellow 1988-91)
  • 1994

    Key cellular processes identified

    Discovery that growth factors induce the rapid and transient expression of a family of genes whose functions are crucial for neuronal differentiation, cell survival, and adaptive responses.

    Michael E. Greenberg, PhD
    (Fellow 1983-84)
  • 1992

    Development of Erbitux

    Development of a novel targeted therapy for cancer, Erbitux, which inhibits the growth factor receptor EGFR, approved by the FDA in 2004.

    John Mendelsohn, MD
    (Grantee 1972-74)
  • 1992

    Vegetables help fight cancer

    Pioneering of the field of chemoprevention with the demonstration that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain a cancer-fighting substance called sulforaphane.

    Paul Talalay, MD
    (Fellow 1950-51)
  • 1991

    Development of Herceptin

    Instrumental contributions to the development of the breast cancer drug Herceptin, approved by the FDA in 1998.

    H. Michael Shepard, PhD
    (Fellow 1978-80)
  • 1989

    Nobel Prize

    1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (shared) “for [his] discovery of catalytic properties of RNA.”

    Sidney Altman, PhD
    (Fellow 1967-69)
  • 1989

    Protein transport within the cell

    Description of “the instruction book for the assembly of a cell:” how vesicles (tiny sac-like structures that transport proteins within cells) reach their correct destination and release their contents at the proper place and time (2002 Lasker Award; 2013 Nobel Prize).

    James E. Rothman
    (Fellow 1976-78)
  • 1987

    Nobel Prize

    1987 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for his discovery of the genetic principle for generation of antibody diversity”

    Susumu Tonegawa, PhD
    (Fellow 1969-70)
  • 1986

    Blood-producing stem cells

    First demonstration that a single blood-producing stem cell in bone marrow, known as a hematopoietic stem cell, can rebuild the entire blood system.

    Ihor R. Lemischka, PhD
    (Fellow 1984-86)
  • 1986

    The myc oncogene and cancer

    Discoveries in connection with an oncogene called myc that have been key to understanding how normal cells become cancerous.

    Robert N. Eisenman, PhD
    (Fellow 1971-72)
  • 1986

    Towards development of Gleevec

    Identification of the molecular defect in the Philadelphia chromosome that causes chronic myelogenous leukemia, which gave rise to the development of the breakthrough drug Gleevec.

    Eli Canaani, PhD
    (Fellow 1975-77)
  • 1985

    Mechanisms of protein action

    Fundamental work on protein folding, providing a deeper understanding of how proteins adopt their structures and leading to better computational models for drug design.

    Kenneth A. Dill, PhD
    (Fellow 1979-80)
  • 1982

    Proteins that copy chromosomes

    Discovery of the protein machinery that enables chromosomes to be copied and the protein complex that regulates the copying process.

    Bruce W. Stillman, PhD
    (Fellow 1979-81)
  • 1980

    Colorectal cancer genes found

    Demonstration that mutations in human MMR genes are responsible for what is the most common cancer predisposition syndrome, Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC).

    Richard A. Fishel, PhD
    (Fellow 1980-81)
  • 1976

    How T cells control immunity

    Elucidation of how T cells mediate the body’s cellular response against infection from viruses and bacteria and provide immunity against repeated exposure from foreign invaders.

    Philippa C. Marrack, PhD
    (Fellow 1971-73)
  • 1974

    Nobel Prize

    1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) “for [his] discoveries concerning the structural and functional organization of the cell.”

    Albert Claude, MD
    (Grantee 1951)
  • 1973

    Epstein-Barr virus and cancer

    Discovery of the connection between the Epstein-Barr virus and lymphomas and other cancers.

    George Klein, MD, PhD
    (Fellow 1974-76)
  • 1971

    First hereditary breast cancer

    First identification of the hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC).

    Henry T. Lynch, MD
    (Grantee 1969-70)
  • 1971

    Drug cocktail for AIDS treatment

    Landmark contributions to antiviral treatment, including the development of the drug cocktail currently used for AIDS treatment.

    Erik D. De Clercq, MD
    (Fellow 1969-70)
  • 1970

    First cancer-causing gene found

    Identification of the first cancer-causing gene, or oncogene.

    Peter K. Vogt, PhD
    (Grantee 1959-62)
  • 1970

    Bone marrow transplant success

    First successful bone marrow transplant using matched family members.

    Fritz H. Bach, MD
    (Grantee 1965-67)
  • 1969

    Nobel Prize

    1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) “for [his] discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses.”

    Salvador E. Luria, MD
    (Grantee 1961)
  • 1967

    Blood cancers cured in children

    Development of chemotherapy combinations that cured children with acute leukemia and children in Uganda with Burkitt’s lymphoma (1972 Lasker Award)

    Joseph H. Burchenal, MD
    (Grantee 1962-63)
  • 1967

    Seminal findings about immunity

    Seminal discoveries about the immune system: white blood cells are comprised of B cells and T cells, these cells act together to produce antibodies, and the thymus functions to produce T cells.

    Jacques F. A. P. Miller, PhD
    (Grantee 1970-71)
  • 1966

    Nobel Prize

    1966 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for his discoveries concerning hormonal treatment of prostatic cancer.”

    Charles B. Huggins, MD
    (Grantee 1955)
  • 1958

    Nobel Prize

    1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) “for [his] discovery that genes act by regulating definite chemical events.”

    George W. Beadle, DSc, PhD
    (Grantee 1952)
  • 1956

    Tumor cured with chemotherapy

    First cure of a solid tumor with chemotherapy.

    Min Chiu Li, MD
    (Fellow 1953-55)
  • 1956

    Cancer cured with radiotherapy

    First cure of cancer with high-dose radiotherapy.

    Henry S. Kaplan, MD
    (Grantee 1956-57)
  • 1955

    Birth of cancer immunology field

    First description of a tumor-specific antigen, establishing the field of cancer immunology.

    Dennis Bernard Amos, MD
    (Fellow 1955-56)
  • 1955

    Growth of human cells in culture

    Development of the first methods for growing normal human cells in culture (1958 Lasker Award).

    Theodore T. Puck, PhD
    (Grantee 1947-49)
  • 1954

    Nobel Prize

    1954 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (shared) “for [his] discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue.”

    John F. Enders, MD
    (Grantee 1968)
  • 1954

    Lung cancer linked to smoking

    First scientific correlation between lung cancer and cigarette smoking.

    Ernst L. Wynder, MD
    (Grantee 1952-53)
  • 1953

    Red blood cell-inducing hormone

    Discovery of erythropoietin, the hormone that causes the body to make more red blood cells.

    Allan J. Erslev, MD
    (Fellow 1950-51)
  • 1953

    Nobel Prize

    1953 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for his discovery of co-enzyme A and its importance for intermediary metabolism.

    Fritz A. Lipmann, MD, PhD
    (Grantee 1952)
  • 1951

    A virus can cause cancer

    First demonstration that a virus can cause cancer (1974 Lasker Award).

    Ludwik Gross, MD
    (Grantee 1951-52)
  • 1946

    Foundation formed

    Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation formed by Walter Winchell in honor of his friend and fellow renowned journalist Damon Runyon.