Agnel Sfeir Receives Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award

Fri, 01/11/2013 - 8:58pm

Agnel Sfeir, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Cell Biology, was recognized with a Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. The three-year grant is designed to support early career scientists conducting "high-risk, high-reward" research that lacks sufficient preliminary data to be eligible for more traditional funding. The work must represent an exceptionally creative idea that has the potential to significantly impact approaches to preventing, diagnosing, or treating cancer. Dr. Sfeir is one of seven recipients of the award in 2013.

Each cell contains organelles called mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of cells, producing energy in the form of ATP. Mitochondria contain their own separate DNA, which codes for key energy-producing enzymes. Maintaining the integrity of the mitochondrial genome is necessary for optimal cellular function and for protection against diseases. Alterations in mitochondrial DNA are associated with and can promote metastasis of many tumors, such as lung, breast and prostate. Such aberrations range from single base substitutions to large-scale deletions that remove segments of the mitochondrial genome. The mechanism by which these aberrations influence disease progression remains unclear. Dr. Sfeir aims to uncover the underlying basis for accumulation of these highly dangerous deletions in mitochondrial DNA and the mechanism by which they shape tumor behavior. This work will help identify novel strategies to preserve mitochondrial function and thwart tumor progression.