Jan 24, 2020 2:00 PM

Author: Carley Lehauli

Kimberley Evason, MD, PhD | Gregory Ducker, PhD

Kimberley Evason, MD, PhD, and Gregory Ducker, PhD, were two of only twelve scientists nationwide to receive a Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award. This award is given by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation annually to help “exceptionally creative thinkers” who pursue “high-risk, high-reward” research concepts. 

Evason is a researcher at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), assistant professor of pathology at the University of Utah (U of U), and medical director of pathology at ARUP Laboratories. Gregory Ducker is also an HCI researcher, and an assistant professor of biochemistry at the U of U. The award will fund Evason and Ducker’s research involving zebrafish related to liver cancer. Evason and Ducker study how the liver uses different forms of energy, including fat. They identified that certain kinds of fat are elevated in liver cancer cells and work to understand the impact of this fat on the disease. They use a zebrafish model system because liver tumors of zebrafish share attributes of human liver tumors.

“I would like to thank the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation for granting us this award,” Ducker says. “They have an amazing track of identifying groundbreaking science.”

“It is a great honor for us to have been selected,” says Evason. “This award represents an endorsement of our collaborative approach—facilitated by the environment at Huntsman Cancer Institute—in the fight against liver cancer.”

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation notes that only scientists “with a clear vision and passion for curing cancer are selected to receive [this] prestigious award.” The award provides Evason and Ducker $400,000 to fund their laboratory research on this project, with the potential for additional funds based on the results of their study.

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About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is the official cancer center of Utah and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West. The campus includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital and two buildings dedicated to cancer research. Huntsman Cancer Institute provides patient care, cancer screening, and education at community clinics and affiliate hospitals throughout the Mountain West. It is consistently recognized among the best cancer hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The region’s first proton therapy center opened in 2021 and a major hospital expansion is underway. Huntsman Cancer Institute is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for staff, students, patients, and communities. Advancing cancer research discoveries and treatments to meet the needs of patients who live far away from a major medical center is a unique focus. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center, including genes responsible for breast, ovarian, colon, head and neck cancers, and melanoma. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

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