The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation awarded 17 new fellows at its spring 2013 Fellowship Award Committee meeting, including Harvard’s Michael A. Cianfrocco, a postdoctoral fellow in molecular and cellular biology. 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 encourages the nation’s most promising young scientists to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding ($156,000 each for basic scientists; $186,000 for physician-scientists) to work on innovative projects.

Cianfrocco, along with his sponsors, Harvard professors Andres Leschziner and Samara L. Reck-Peterson, studies proteins called dynactin and dynein, which function to transport organelles within the cell, a process that is particularly important during cell division. He aims to elucidate the structural basis for dynactin’s ability to regulate dynein activity. Because many viruses, including cancer-causing oncoviruses, require dynein to be transported from the cell membrane to the nucleus for genome replication, understanding the molecular details of dynein-dynactin function may provide novel targets for cancer therapies.

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