Bleakley, Mostaghel win Damon Runyon awards

Marie Bleakley’s $450,000 clinical investigator award supports leukemia research; Elahe Mostaghel’s $300,000 continuation grant aids prostate cancer studies
Dr. Marie Bleakley and Dr. Elahe Mostaghel
Immunologist Dr. Marie Bleakley (left) received a three-year, $450,000 clinical investigator award; oncologist Dr. Elahe Mostaghel received a two-year, $300,000 continuation grant. Photos by Dean Forbes and Philip Meadows

Two Hutchinson Center researchers have received prestigious awards from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Clinical investigator award supports immunologist Bleakley

Dr. Marie Bleakley, an immunologist in the Clinical Research Division, received a three-year, $450,000 award for her research separating the beneficial graft-vs.-leukemia effect from detrimental graft-vs.-host disease after bone marrow or stem cell transplantation.

Bleakley’s goal is to identify specific subsets of immune cells that promote GVHD; these cells can then be eliminated to reduce the frequency or severity of GVHD, while at the same time maintaining and improving the GVL effect. About 50 percent to 75 percent of donor transplant recipients get chronic GVHD. In addition, she aims to discover novel leukemia-associated proteins that could be potential targets for therapeutics.  

Bleakley works under the mentorship of Dr. Stan Riddell, an immunologist in the Clinical Research Division.

Damon Runyon’s clinical investigator award program is specifically intended to help address the shortage of physicians capable of translating scientific discovery into new breakthroughs for cancer patients.  In partnerships with industry sponsors and through its new Accelerating Cancer Cures initiative, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has committed more than $38 million to support the careers of 58 physician-scientists across the United States since 2000.

Continuation grant aids hormone therapy-resistant prostate cancer work

Dr. Elahe Mostaghel, a prostate cancer researcher and oncologist in the Clinical Research Division, received a two-year, $300,000 continuation grant from Damon Runyon. Her research aims to define key mechanisms underlying resistance of prostate cancer to hormone-deprivation therapy treatment. Suppression of the hormone testosterone is currently the most effective treatment for advanced prostate cancer; however, tumors frequently develop resistance to this therapy. The continuation grant will enable Mostaghel to continue developing novel treatments for prostate cancer that can be rapidly moved into the clinic.

Mostaghel works under the mentorship of the Human Biology Division’s Dr. Pete Nelson.

Damon Runyon continuation grants are designed to support clinical investigators who are approaching the end of their original awards and need extra time and funding to complete a promising avenue of research or initiate/continue a clinical trial.

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

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