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Damon Runyon Funds High-Risk Cancer Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has awarded three grants totaling more than $1.3 million to researchers pursuing high-risk cancer research involving genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, the foundation said today.

The 2010 Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Awards will give three investigators grants of $450,000, to be spread out over three years at $150,000 per year.

Raffaella Sordella, an assistant professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, won a grant to study cancer gene mutations involved in non-small cell lung carcinomas. Sordella plans to conduct molecular and genetic characterization studies of cancer cells in order to identify mechanisms that enable them to survive and spread and develop drug resistance.

These studies are aimed at developing knowledge that will lead to methods of targeting cells for treating lung and other cancers.

"While risky, this project has the potential to provide life-changing benefits for a large number of cancer patients," Sordella said in a statement, adding that the grant would "allow us to fast-track this research."

Heather Christofk, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, will use the grant to identify the proteins in cancer cells that are responsible for altering their metabolism of glucose.

She plans to grow tumors in mice and manipulate these metabolic switches and then use imaging to determine whether targeting tumor metabolism is a feasible approach for cancer therapy.

"The field of cancer metabolism has emerged with a great deal of promise in the last few years, yet there are several fundamental questions still to be answered," Christofk said.

"This award will dramatically accelerate my research and allow me to answer some of these critical questions on a much shorter timetable," she added.

Joshua Munger, an assistant professor at the University of Rochester, will conduct studies aimed at finding the genetic triggers for cancer-specific metabolic activities. He also will study multiple metabolic behaviors in the body and tumors in an effort to develop a systems-based approach to blocking these behaviors and destroying cancerous cells.

"Most funding agencies will not fund researchers whose proposals they deem 'too ambitious,' instead preferring 'safer' projects," Munger noted.

"The Damon Runyon Foundation is unique in supporting the ambitious ideas of young researchers, and in this respect, they fund research that otherwise would likely not occur," he said.

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