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Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awards prestigious fellowships to 13 top young investigators

New York, NY-- The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation named 13 new Damon Runyon Fellows at its November 2008 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 is specifically intended to encourage the nation's most promising young investigators to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding to work on innovative projects. The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has committed more than $200 million to support the careers of cancer researchers across the United States since the program's inception.

November 2008 Damon Runyon Fellows:

  • Christopher S. Campbell, PhD, with his sponsor Arshad B. Desai, PhD, at the University of California, San Diego, California, is studying regulatory mechanisms that prevent instability of the genome. His research will aid in our understanding of how disruption of these processes can lead to cancer.

  • Oscar R. Colegio, MD, PhD, with his sponsor Ruslan M. Medzhitov, PhD, at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, is studying the role of immune cells called macrophages in tumor progression and metastasis (cancer spread). His goal is to identify and characterize molecular pathways critical to metastatic cancers, particularly lung, breast, and skin cancers. These studies may lead to novel therapeutic targets to limit or prevent metastasis.

  • Jason Michael Crawford, PhD, with his sponsor Jon Clardy, PhD, at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, is developing DNA-based methods to discover novel compounds from microbes, such as bacteria and fungi, towards the development of improved anticancer therapeutics.

  • William J. Greenleaf, PhD, with his sponsor X. Sunney Xie, PhD, at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is developing highly-sensitive fluorescence assays that will allow observation of single molecules of individual enzymes, providing insight into how cellular machinery may malfunction in cancers.

  • William Rodney Hardy, PhD, with his sponsor Michael R. Green, MD, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, is studying a process called oncogene-induced senescence, which stops tumor cell development thus protecting the body against cancer. His goals are to improve our understanding of this process. Dr. Hardy hopes to reveal ways by which oncogene-induced senescence can be exploited as a treatment for cancer.

  • Kristina M. Herbert, PhD, with her sponsor Joan A. Steitz, PhD, at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, is studying the mechanism by which small RNAs called microRNAs are produced and the regulation of this process within the cell. She hopes to gain understanding of why certain microRNAs are expressed at low levels in cancers.

  • Simon Jenni, PhD, with his sponsor Stephen C. Harrison, PhD, at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, is studying the structure of kinetochores, protein complexes that mediate the segregation of chromosomes during cell division. Discrepancies in the distribution of chromosomes in divided cells occur in many cancers and diseases such as Down's syndrome. The research will provide a firmer foundation for our understanding of cancer and identify potential avenues for anticancer therapies.

  • Jung-Min Kee, PhD, with his sponsor Thomas W. Muir, PhD, at The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, is attempting to elucidate the mechanism and function of histidine phosphorylation, a particular type of protein modification that can be linked to liver cancer. He is developing novel research tools by combining synthetic chemistry and biology, which could ultimately lead to new and more effective cancer treatments.

  • Young Kwon, PhD, with his sponsor Norbert Perrimon, PhD, at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, is aiming to discover new regulators of the insulin signaling pathway that keep the pathway "in check" during cellular growth. As multiple negative regulators of insulin signaling are already known to function in tumor suppression, this study may lead to the identification of new tumor suppressor pathways.

  • Ken S. Lau, PhD, with his sponsors Kevin M. Haigis, PhD, and Douglas A. Lauffenburger, PhD, at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, is working to identify new protein networks that interact with the oncogenic Ras signaling pathway, which is rewired in over half of colorectal cancer cases. Targeting these new interactions in combinatorial therapy may become an effective way to manage this deadly disease in the future.

  • Tiffany Reese, PhD, with her sponsor Herbert W. Virgin, MD, PhD, at Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri, is exploring how the immune system recognizes persistent viral infections. Because these viruses persist for the life of the host and cause lymphomas and tumors in immunocompromised hosts, understanding the intricate balance between viral persistence and immune control is fundamentally important to elucidating mechanisms of virally-induced cancer.

  • Xu Tan, PhD, with his sponsor Stephen J. Elledge, PhD, at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, is studying the role of the BRCA1 gene, which has been linked to familial breast cancer. His goal is to identify genes that act in concert with BRCA1, which could explain the specific effect of BRCA1 mutations on breast tissue carcinogenesis.

  • Jesse Zalatan, PhD, with his sponsor Wendell A. Lim, PhD, at University of California, San Francisco, California, is studying how specificity is maintained in cell signaling networks, with a particular focus on the role of molecules called scaffold proteins in MAP kinase signaling pathways. Defects in these pathways are often associated with cancer and other physiological disorders.


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

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