Leaders in Fight Against Cancer Join Historic Initiative to Address Critical Shortage of Clinical Investigators

-- Pharma/biotech companies join together to fund Accelerating Cancer Cures, a new model of collaboration in cancer research led by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

-- $25 Million Fund to Support 50 Clinical Investigators Over Next Five Years

-- Newest Clinical Investigator Award Winners Announced Today

NEW YORK, June 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation today announced the formation of "Accelerating Cancer Cures," a historic collaboration of the biopharmaceutical industry and academia with a strong commitment to achieving key breakthroughs in cancer treatments.  A five-year, $25 million program will be established to rebuild the ranks of young clinical investigators by funding and training more than 50 physician-scientists. The project will help advance a translational research model whereby industry and academia work together in a new effort to discover tomorrow's cancer cures.

"We risk losing tremendous ground in our effort to find cures for cancer if we cannot attract new talent and new ideas to clinical research," said Lorraine W. Egan, Executive Director Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. "Accelerating Cancer Cures will accelerate our mission to identify and fund the best young scientists working on innovative cancer research. It will bring industry and academia together to collaborate on new research. Our best hope for crucial breakthroughs to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer lies with the committed young scientists who will be able to pursue critical research, thanks to this effort."

Accelerating Cancer Cures is supported by some of the world's leading biopharmaceutical companies working to find cures for cancer. Charter participants include Eli Lilly and Company, Celgene, Merck, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, Pfizer, and The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Although these companies are competitors in the marketplace, they have a shared belief that funding young physician-scientists with a commitment to innovation in cancer research will have a profound impact on the next generation of cancer breakthroughs. Together, they have already pledged over $5 million.

The program builds on the success of the prestigious Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award program, which has made possible some of the most critical breakthroughs in oncology research of the last decade. Yervoy, a newly approved drug featured at the most recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and the first treatment that improves overall survival in melanoma skin cancer patients, resulted from the clinical research of Dr. Jedd Wolchok, a previous Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Awardee.  Since 2000, 58 outstanding physician-scientists have received these Damon Runyon awards; all of those scientists remain in clinical cancer research today. At least 17 of these scientists presented their work at ASCO 2011.

Future cancer breakthroughs require more support. Accelerating Cancer Cures will:

  • Fund the work of early career physician-scientists to meet the critical shortage of young scientists entering the clinical oncology research field.
  • Provide the investigators with access to the expertise of senior oncology executives and leaders in academic cancer research to help translate discoveries into therapeutic treatments.
  • Create opportunities for the investigators to collaborate with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and to learn about industry science as visiting scientists.
  • Foster collaboration between researchers by hosting an annual translational research summit that connects young scientists and leaders from industry and academia.

"The biopharmaceutical industry is committed to developing cancer cures fueled by partnerships with leading researchers in academia. Key oncology breakthroughs of the coming decade will arise from this type of collaborative scientific research," said Richard Gaynor, M.D., Vice President of Product Development and Medical Affairs at Lilly Oncology. "Damon Runyon's prestigious track record of identifying and supporting talent makes them the natural leader for this effort. Accelerating Cancer Cures is critical to enabling those future breakthroughs."

Newest Clinical Investigator Award Winners Announced

The new funding from Accelerating Cancer Cures will increase the number of Clinical Investigator Awards up to 10 per year. Award selections are made by the Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award Committee, comprised of leading cancer researchers nationwide. The five newest investigators were announced today.  Those scientists are:

  • Marie Bleakley, MD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle. Dr. Bleakley is working on new approaches to separate the graft versus leukemia (GVL) effect from graft versus host disease (GVHD) after bone marrow transplantation.
  • Ralph J. DeBerardinis, MD, PhD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. Dr. DeBerardinis is working to understand the role of metabolism in tumor growth and use those findings to improve cancer treatment.
  • Joshua D. Schiffman, MD, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. Dr. Schiffman is working to understand the underlying molecular genetics of pediatric sarcoma.
  • Zsofia K. Stadler, MD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York. Dr. Stadler is working to determine the genetic basis of sporadic cancers in young adults.
  • Jean Y. Tang, MD, PhD, Stanford University, Stanford. Dr. Tang is working to characterize mechanisms of drug resistance in treatment of skin cancer.

"Accelerating Cancer Cures is an opportunity to build a new generation of leaders in clinical cancer research that not only produce exceptional science, but can work with industry to bring new treatments to patients," said John J. Castellani, President and CEO, PhRMA. "At a time of tremendous financial challenge for industry and academia, this novel collaboration demonstrates industry-wide commitment to progress against cancer. It's a win-win for biomedicine, our economy and millions of patients worldwide."

"We recognize the importance of partnerships that help accelerate drug discovery and development and improve the outlook of cancer patients worldwide," said Mikael Dolsten, President, Pfizer Worldwide Research & Development. "We are excited to be collaborating with the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation through the Accelerating Cancer Cures initiative, as engaging and motivating young researchers to pursue clinical cancer research today is critical to achieving tomorrow's medical breakthroughs.

About Accelerating Cancer Cures

Accelerating Cancer Cures addresses the critical shortage of new clinical researchers working on breakthroughs in cancer treatments and cures. Under the leadership of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and with the support of industry and academia, the efforts to help identify breakthrough treatments in the fight against cancer will be accelerated. Accelerating Cancer Cures is supported by some of the world's leading companies including: Eli Lilly and Company, Celgene, Merck, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, Pfizer, and The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). For more information, visit www.damonrunyon.org/accelerate.

ABOUT THE FOUNDATION

To accelerate breakthroughs, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation provides today's best young scientists with funding to pursue innovative cancer research. The Foundation supports emerging leaders who have great potential to achieve breakthroughs in how we diagnose, treat and prevent cancer. Since its founding in 1946, Damon Runyon has invested over $235 million and funded more than 3,250 early career scientists. For more information, visit www.damonrunyon.org.  

SOURCE Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

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