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Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awards prestigious fellowships to 11 top young scientists

New York, NY -- The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on supporting exceptional early career researchers and innovative cancer research, named 11 new Damon Runyon Fellows at its November 2009 Fellowship Award Committee review. The recipients of this prestigious, three-year award are outstanding postdoctoral scientists conducting basic and translational cancer research in the laboratories of leading senior investigators across the country. The Fellowship encourages the nation's most promising young scientists to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding ($140,000 each) to work on innovative projects.

November 2009 Damon Runyon Fellows:

Meelad M. Dawlaty, PhD, with his sponsor Rudolf Jaenisch, MD, at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is establishing the significance of epigenetic alterations (chemical modifications of DNA) in brain cancer formation, or glioblastomagenesis. The goal of his research is to determine the role of epigenetic changes in glioblastomagenesis.

Harrison W. Gabel, PhD, with his sponsor Michael E. Greenberg, PhD, at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, is investigating how dysfunction of ubiquitin ligase UBE3A, an enzyme that normally regulates amounts of specific proteins in the cell, leads to diseases such as the neurodevelopmental disorder Angelman Syndrome and common cervical cancers. These studies can provide important insights into the mechanism of disease.

Nicholas R. Guydosh, PhD, [HHMI Fellow] with his sponsor Rachel D. Green, PhD, at The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, is studying how proteins are manufactured in cells. Small changes in this process can lead to the production of defective proteins and result in many types of cancer.

Tom A. Hartl, PhD, with his sponsor Matthew P. Scott, PhD, at Stanford University, Stanford, California, is studying proteins called insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), molecules that are essential for normal growth during development. When hyperactive, IGF signaling has been implicated in uncontrolled cell proliferation and can lead to a variety of cancers. His goal is to understand key events in IGF regulation and how these may go awry in the development of human cancers.

Bjrn F.C. Kafsack, PhD, [HHMI Fellow] with his sponsor Manuel Llins, PhD, at Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, is examining how cell behavior is dependent on cell density (the number of other cells nearby). He is using the parasite Plasmodium falciparum as an experimental model. His goal is to apply this knowledge to understanding how cancer cells respond to their surrounding environment, resulting in tumor growth and metastasis.

Rebecca S. Mathew, PhD, [HHMI Fellow] with her sponsor Danesh Moazed, PhD, at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, is studying how cell identity is maintained throughout the life of an organism. She is focusing on the role of a protein complex called CLRC in modifying chromosome architecture. Failure to maintain cell identity has catastrophic consequences, often resulting in cancer or other diseases.

Jelena Nedjic, PhD, with her sponsor Iannis Aifantis, PhD, at the New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, aims to understand the role of molecules that regulate cellular migration and adhesion during the development and metastasis of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), a blood cancer arising from transformed immune cells. The progression of the disease leads to severe metastasis to the central nervous system.

Duncan J. Smith, PhD, [HHMI Fellow] with his sponsor Iestyn Whitehouse, PhD, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, is investigating how the higher-order structure of DNA is accurately transmitted when cells divide. Defects in this process are likely to play a role in the early stages of oncogenesis by giving rise to inappropriate gene expression.

Sabrina L. Spencer, PhD, with her sponsor Tobias Meyer, PhD, at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, is studying the cellular decision to proliferate or remain in a non-dividing state. Using fluorescence time-lapse microscopy and mathematical modeling, she is working to extend our current understanding of this cellular decision and its deregulation in cancer.

Robin Evans Stanley, PhD, with her sponsor James H. Hurley, PhD, at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, Maryland, aims to understand how autophagy, the process of cellular "self-digestion," is regulated in the cell. She hopes that her research will help shed light on the role of autophagy in different types of cancer.

Alexandra Zidovska, PhD, with her sponsor Timothy J. Mitchison, PhD, at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, is studying the physical properties of the cell during cell division. To do so, she is mechanically perturbing cells by physical confinement or application of external forces. Her findings may result in new insights about the mechanics of cell division, contributing to a better understanding of how this process is disrupted in cancer.


Contact: Yung S. Lie, Ph.D.
Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

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