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Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awards prestigious fellowships to 14 top young investigators

New York, NY-- The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation named 14 new Damon Runyon Fellows at its May 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.

May 2008 Damon Runyon Fellows

  • Laura A. Banaszynski, PhD, [Angelo Family Fellow] with her sponsor C. David Allis, PhD, at The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, is studying how modifications of proteins called histones regulate gene expression and maintain genome stability. Understanding the misregulation of these modifications will lead to a greater understanding of tumor initiation and progression.

  • Sarah K. Bowman, PhD, with her sponsor Robert E. Kingston, PhD, at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, is investigating how the position of nucleosomes, proteins that package DNA, contributes to heritable gene silencing. This will provide insight into how tumor suppressor genes are inactivated during carcinogenesis.

  • Lee Stirling Churchman, PhD, with her sponsor Jonathan S. Weissman, PhD, at the University of California, San Francisco, California, is exploring the cell engulfment process called endocytosis using quantitative RNAi-based genetic interaction maps. Understanding endocytosis is directly relevant to cancers involving viral entry and indirectly involved in most cancers due to its integral role in intercellular signaling.

  • Michael J. Emanuele, PhD, with his sponsor Stephen J. Elledge, PhD, at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, is working to identify the molecules involved in repairing damage to genetic material. Since defects in DNA repair processes cause cancer, these studies will further elucidate the underlying causes of cancer initiation.

  • Sunny D. Gilbert, PhD, with her sponsor James C. Carrington, PhD, at the Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, is using a model of small RNA biogenesis in plants to study the basic mechanisms governing the process of RNA silencing, which is conserved in different organisms. As this process is differentially regulated in several types of cancer, this work will be lead to insights in the understanding of cancer biology.

  • Christopher A. Johnston, PharmD, PhD, with his sponsors Kenneth E. Prehoda, PhD, and Chris Q. Doe, PhD, at the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, is investigating the molecular mechanism of mitotic spindle orientation during asymmetric cell division of model progenitor stem cells. Failure in this process can lead to aberrant cell division and subsequent tumor development.

  • Adam G. Matthews, PhD, with his sponsor Stephen P. Bell, PhD, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is investigating how human DNA replication is regulated to ensure faithful duplication of the genome, maintain genome stability, and prevent the development of cancer.

  • Akinyemi I. Ojesina, MBBS, PhD, with his sponsor Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, seeks to discover infectious microorganisms and characterize genetic changes associated with lymphomas and other AIDS-related cancers. These findings have the potential to facilitate the diagnosis, treatment and vaccine prevention of many cancers.

  • Carolyn M. Phillips, PhD, with her sponsor Gary Ruvkun, PhD, at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, is examining the relationship between small RNAs and nuclear organization. The organization of the genome is of particular importance because defects can result in misregulation of genes, missegregation of chromosomes during cell division, and instability of the genome, all of which are thought to be early steps in cancer progression.

  • Avi Priel, PhD, with his sponsor David J. Julius, PhD, at the University of California, San Francisco, California, is identifying molecules that contribute to pain sensation under normal or disease states, such as cancer, with special focus on molecules that confer temperature sensation.

  • Melanie A. Samuel, PhD, with her sponsor Joshua R. Sanes, PhD, at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is investigating age-related changes that occur in the nervous system and the molecules that cause these alterations. Because aging, cancer susceptibility, and neural function are molecularly linked, these studies may identify factors that promote healthy aging and also enhance cancer resistance.

  • Timothy O. Street, PhD, with his sponsor David A. Agard, PhD, at the University of California, San Francisco, California, is investigating the molecular mechanism by which the Hsp90 protein chaperone affects the folding of substrate proteins. The effect of Hsp90 on folding is important because this chaperone activates a wide variety of proteins that are over-expressed in cancerous cells.

  • Elaine M. Youngman, PhD, with her sponsor Craig C. Mello, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, is examining how small noncoding RNAs control gene expression. Understanding this novel regulatory mechanism may provide paths to new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of many types of cancer.

  • Xiaomeng Milton Yu, PhD, with his sponsor Liqun Luo, PhD, at Stanford University, Stanford, California, is studying how a cell senses its environment and uses this information to control its own survival and regeneration. Development of a tumor in the human body is dependent upon sensation and adaptation to its tissue environment. Understanding the mechanisms of how a cell responds to its environment may thus give rise to new therapies to interfere with tumor development.


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

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