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Damon Runyon Funds Young Investigators Studying Molecular Basis of Cancer

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has awarded $3.6 million to nine young investigators who are pursuing a range of efforts to better understand, and eventually treat, cancer at the molecular level.

The foundation said yesterday that it has named six new Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators, each of whom will receive $450,000 for three years to launch their projects, and three continuation grants of $300,000 each to previous awardees.

Omar Abdel-Wahab, an investigator at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, received an award to look further into mutations in the ASXL 1 gene that are linked to low survival rates in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), and contribute to chemotherapy resistance in AML patients.

He hopes to use this funding to get a better understanding of ASXL 1 function and to test already approved and novel therapeutics for treating both MDS and AML.

Himisha Beltran, an investigator at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, plans to use the grant to evaluate the role of molecular alterations found in AR-negative neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC) tumors. She aims to find out the functional and clinical impacts those alterations have on prostate cancer patients.

Beltran plans to work up a genomic profile that will distinguish NEPC from prostate adenocarcinoma, the more common type of prostate cancer, and evaluate the impact of alterations on patient outcomes and their ability to predict patient response to available therapies. Ultimately, she hopes to develop a better understanding of the molecular events involved in NEPC progression and develop ways to prevent it.

Yale University School of Medicine researcher Tobias Carling will use his continuation grant to continue efforts to understand the genetic basis for endocrine tumors. He plans to conduct a complete genomic analysis of patients with endocrine tumor disease in order to identify individual genes that are involved in early cancer formation. This project could provide information that might be used to develop improved strategies for personalized medical and surgical treatments.