Runyon Foundation names fellows from Harvard

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The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has named six Harvard affiliates among its 13 new fellows. 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.

Harvard’s 2009 Damon Runyon Fellows:

Research fellow in biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) Jason Michael Crawford (with his sponsor Jon Clardy), is developing DNA-based methods to discover novel compounds from microbes — such as bacteria and fungi — toward the development of improved anticancer therapeutics.

Postdoctoral fellow in chemistry and chemical biology William J. Greenleaf (with his sponsor X. Sunney Xie) is developing highly sensitive fluorescence assays that will allow observation of single molecules of individual enzymes, providing insight into how cellular machinery may malfunction in cancers.

Research fellow in biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at HMS Simon Jenni (with his sponsor Stephen C. Harrison) is studying the structure of kinetochores, protein complexes that mediate the segregation of chromosomes during cell division. The research will provide a firmer foundation for understanding cancer and will identify potential avenues for anticancer therapies.

Research fellow in genetics at HMS Young Kwon (with his sponsor Norbert Perrimon) is aiming to discover new regulators of the insulin signaling pathway that keep the pathway “in check” during cellular growth. As multiple negative regulators of insulin signaling are already known to function in tumor suppression, this study may lead to the identification of new tumor suppressor pathways.

Research fellow in pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital Ken S. Lau (with his sponsors Kevin M. Haigis and Douglas A. Lauffenburger) is working to identify new protein networks that interact with the oncogenic Ras signaling pathway, which is rewired in more than half of colorectal cancer cases. Targeting these new interactions in combinatorial therapy may become an effective way to manage this deadly disease in the future.

Research fellow in medicine at HMS and Brigham and Women’s Hospital Xu Tan (with his sponsor Stephen J. Elledge) is studying the role of the BRCA1 gene, which has been linked to familial breast cancer. His goal is to identify genes that act in concert with BRCA1, which could explain the specific effect of BRCA1 mutations on breast tissue carcinogenesis.

The fellowship is specifically intended to encourage the nation’s most promising young investigators to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding to work on innovative projects. The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has committed more than $200 million to support the careers of cancer researchers across the United States since the program’s inception.