Drs. Gibbs, Nan honored with Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Awards

02/10/14  Portland, Ore.

Summer Gibbs, Ph.D., and Xiaolin Nan, Ph.D., assistant professors in the School of Medicine Department of Biomedical Engineering and members of the Knight Cancer Institute, were awarded Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Awards for pioneering ideas in cancer research.

Understanding molecular function in biological settings is essential for successful development of targeted therapies for cancer. Advances in biochemical profiling techniques have generated lists of molecules involved in cancer development and progression, but the mechanisms by which these molecules work together within cells and tumors remain largely unclear. Molecularly targeted cancer therapeutics based on incomplete understanding of the tumorigenic mechanisms often demonstrate initial response followed by cancer resistance.

Drs. Gibbs and Nan, both biochemical engineers, will work as a team to address this problem using a revolutionary high-resolution microscopy technique to visualize—at the molecular level—the interactions of an array of proteins involved in the HER2 cell signaling pathway implicated in breast cancer within tumor cells, and their response to therapeutic agents such as Herceptin. They anticipate the findings of this work will significantly improve our understanding of the spatial and temporal organization of cancer cell signaling, enabling development of more effective targeted cancer therapeutics with lasting response.

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation announced that six scientists with novel approaches to fighting cancer have been named 2014 recipients of the Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award. The grant of $450,000 over three years is awarded each year to early career scientists whose projects have the potential to significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award funds cancer research by exceptionally creative thinkers with “high-risk/high-reward” ideas who lack sufficient preliminary data to obtain traditional funding. The awardees are selected through a highly competitive and rigorous process by a scientific committee comprised of leading cancer researchers who are innovators themselves. At the final stage of selection, candidates are screened by an in-person interview with committee members. Only those scientists with a clear vision and passion for curing cancer are selected to receive the prestigious award.

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