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Damon Runyon Funds New Cancer Research Fellows

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has awarded $2.5 million in new funding to 17 researchers, including a number of investigators who aim to explore the molecular and genetic basis of cancer.

The new awards include several new Damon Runyon Fellows grants, which provide $156,000 to promising young scientists who are pursuing innovative research projects.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering investigator Nicholas Arpaia will use his fellowship award to study how the immune system distinguishes between beneficial gut bacteria and those microbes that are pathogenic and cause cancer-associated disease like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis

Baylor College of Medicine scientist Christine Beck will study mechanisms involved in complex genomic rearrangements, such as gene duplications and triplications, with the goal of uncovering the processes that may cause cancer.

Junjue Guo, a researcher at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research will use the fellowship funding to study how regulatory RNAs function and interact with target RNAs with the goal of developing a high-throughput experimental strategy to identify how these RNA interactions may be involved in tumorigenesis.

Johns Hopkins University investigator Chih-Yung Lee will seek to identify how genes and pathways are involved in germ cell development and how germ cell fate is triggered during tumorigenesis.

Scripps Research Institute researcher Evgenia Nikolova will seek to understand the molecular mechanism of gene silencing that is mediated by the protein Kaiso. Studies have suggested that Kaiso may act as a tumor suppressor gene that keeps cells from progressing to cancer, and irregular Kaiso function has been linked to a number of human cancers, including colon, prostate, breast, and lung cancers and leukemia.

Harvard University researcher Summer Thyme is developing protein tools to alter epigenetic modifications in developmental pathways in zebrafish. Thyme's goal is to use these protein tools to reprogram cell fate to treat cancer and other epigenetically mediated diseases.

Damon Runyon has also awarded two Breakthrough Scientist awards, which provide $100,000 to researchers who are completing their Damon Runyon Fellowships.

Stanford University researcher Adam de la Zerda will use his funding to develop visualization tools to study the signaling that takes place between cancer cells within the tumor. The hope is that these tools could lead to better diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to treating cancer.

Scripps Research Institute scientist Gabriel Lander received a Breakthrough Award to support efforts to use cryo-electron microscopy to characterize the structural organization of large protein complexes in cells. He intends to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in cell cycle regulation and cell division, with the idea that this knowledge may lead to new ways to detect and suppress the onset of tumorigenesis in a wide range of cancers.

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