Campus & Community

Six Harvard affiliates receive Damon Runyon fellowships

3 min read

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on supporting exceptional early-career researchers and innovative cancer research, has selected six Harvard affiliates to receive Damon Runyon fellowships.

The 18 total 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) to work on innovative projects. The recipients were announced at the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation’s spring Fellowship Award Committee review.

The fellows and their areas of studies are listed below:

Niels Bradshaw, with his sponsor Richard M. Losick, at Harvard University, is studying the regulation of an enzyme called protein phosphatase that acts in specific cells to promote cellular differentiation. Protein phosphatases are required for many processes, including cell growth, division, differentiation, and stress adaptation. Bradshaw hopes that understanding phosphatase regulation will clarify the role of these enzymes in cancer and potentially aid in the development of anti-cancer therapies that target phosphatases.

Sujun Hua, with his sponsor Ronald A. DePinho, at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, aims to complete a comprehensive, genomewide assessment of regulatory networks governing self-renewal and fate-determination programs in normal and malignant neural stem cells. Tumor progression of certain tumor types, including glioblastoma, depends on a subpopulation of cells within the tumor called tumor stem cells. Understanding the shared and distinct features of normal and malignant stem cells is critical to develop novel therapies that selectively target tumor stem cells but spare their normal counterparts.

Kristin A. Krukenberg, with her sponsor Timothy J. Mitchison, at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is studying the role of a molecule called poly(ADP-ribose) in cell division and mitotic spindle formation. By understanding poly(ADP-ribose) function and regulation in both cancer and noncancer cells, she will investigate new avenues for the design of more effective and selective cancer therapeutics.

John R. Lydeard, with his sponsor Jeffrey W. Harper, at HMS, is interested in studying how proteins are targeted for destruction. Defects in maintaining the balance between newly made proteins and those to be destroyed are often linked with cancer progression. Better understanding of how these processes are regulated will help to develop more effective anticancer therapeutics.

Ian Y. Wong, with his sponsors Mehmet Toner and Daniel Irimia, at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, is developing a new experimental platform for characterizing how cancer cells migrate in response to biochemical signals and 3-D structural architectures. This approach may yield novel insights into how malignant cancer cells invade, which would aid the development of anti-metastatic therapies.

Dong Yan, with his sponsor Norbert Perrimon, at HMS, is aiming to generate profiles of phosphorylation for each kinase and phosphatase enzyme in the genome, and to relate these profiles to their in vivo functions during development. Given the large number of kinase mutations associated with various cancers, understanding the phosphorylation network could prompt treatment tailored to aberrant signaling of specific pathways.

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