Runyon Awards Back Breakthrough Cancer Research

Seven researchers at HMS have been awarded grants by the Damon Runyon Foundation to carry out innovative cancer research.

They were among 18 new Damon Runyon Fellows announced by the foundation, each one receiving a three-year fellowship worth $156,000. The program encourages talented young scientists from across the country to work on breakthrough cancer studies. The awards recognize “outstanding postdoctoral scientists conducting basic and translational cancer research in the laboratories of leading senior investigators.”

This year’s Damon Runyon Fellows from HMS are:

David Hendrickson, a fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the lab of John Rinn, HMS assistant professor of pathology at BID; he aims to identify and describe RNA molecules that may regulate how cancer cells read genetic information. It is hoped that shedding light on these so-called lincRNAs will lead to more accurate diagnostics and effective therapeutics.

Sujun Hua, a research fellow in medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, is studying the shared and distinct features of normal and malignant stem cells. Led by Ronald DePinho, HMS professor of medicine (genetics) at DFCI, the project seeks to produce a comprehensive genomewide assessment of regulatory networks governing self-renewal and fate determination programs in neural stem cells.

Kristen Krukenberg, a postdoc in Systems Biology in the lab of Timothy Mitchison, the Hasib Sabbagh professor of systems biology at HMS; is studying the role of a molecule called poly(ADP-ribose) in cell division and mitotic-spindle formation in order to investigate new avenues for the design of more selective cancer therapeutics.

Research fellow in pathology John Lydeard, in the lab of Wade Harper, the Bert and Natalie Vallee professor of molecular pathology at HMS, is interested in how proteins are targeted for destruction. Defects in the balance between newly made proteins and those to be destroyed are linked with cancer progression, and further study might reveal more effective treatments.

Costas Lyssiotis, a fellow at BID in the lab of Lewis Cantley, the William Bosworth Castle professor of medicine at BID and an HMS professor of systems biology, is studying the differences in cellular metabolism between cancer cells and normal cells. Using breast cancer cells, he hopes to understand how cancer cells rewire their metabolic networks in order to proliferate and what happens to cancer cells when they are forced to behave metabolically like normal cells.

Ian Wong, a research fellow in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, is investigating how malignant cancer cells mount an invasion, with the goal of supporting the development of anti-metastatic therapies. The researchers, led by Mehmet Toner, the Helen Andrus Benedict professor of surgery at HMS and MGH, and Daniel Irimia, HMS assistant professor of surgery at MGH, are developing an experimental platform for characterizing how cancer cells migrate in response to biochemical signals and 3D structural architectures.

Dong Yan, a research fellow in genetics with HMS professor of genetics Norbert Perrimon, is studying the phosphorylation network, which could prompt treatment tailored to aberrant signaling of specific pathways. He aims to generate profiles for each kinase and phosphatase enzyme in the genome.