David, Sung Receive Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award

(Press Release/Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation) The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation announced that 12 scientists with novel approaches to fighting cancer have been named 2020 recipients of the Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award. 

Six initial grants of $400,000 over two years were awarded to seven early career scientists (five individuals and one collaborative team) whose projects have the potential to significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. 

Each project will have the opportunity for up to two additional years of funding (four years total for $800,000). This year, “Stage 2” continuation support was granted to five awardees who demonstrated significant progress on their proposed research during the first two years of the award.

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. Only those scientists with a clear vision and passion for curing cancer are selected to receive the prestigious award.

Examples of past success stories from Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovators include the gene editing technology CRISPR and single cell sequencing techniques that are revolutionizing not just cancer research, but biomedical sciences globally.

This program was established thanks to the generosity of Andy and Debbie Rachleff.


Duke Awardees

Lawrence David, PhD, and Anthony Sung, MD
Lawrence David, PhD, and Anthony Sung, MD

Lawrence A. David, PhD, and Anthony D. Sung, MD

The human gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively called the microbiota, which affect health and disease. For example, in patients receiving hematopoietic stem cell transplantation as treatment for leukemias, lymphomas and other blood cancers, disruptions in the microbiota have been linked to disease relapse, infections and reduced survival.

To address these treatment complications, Drs. David and Sung are developing ways to manipulate the microbiota through prebiotics, carbohydrates that a patient can ingest to stimulate the growth and maintenance of various beneficial bacteria. The challenge is that each patient has different microbiota and therefore may respond differently to the same prebiotic therapy.

They are developing approaches for personalizing prebiotic treatments for hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HCT) patients based on their individual gut microbiota. After validating their prebiotic personalization with a mouse model, they will test the safety and feasibility of this treatment in a Phase 1 clinical trial with HCT patients.