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Carroll Wins Vanderbilt’s First Damon Runyon Fellowship

January 27, 2012

Mary Carroll, Ph.D.

Mary Carroll, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in Biochemistry, was recently named one of 18 Damon Runyon Fellows by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

The three-year, $156,000 award provides independent funding for outstanding postdoctoral scientists to pursue innovative projects. Carroll is the first postdoctoral fellow from Vanderbilt to receive this award.

“I am honored to join an elite group of young scientists as a Damon Runyon Fellow,” said Carroll. “The fantastic facilities at Vanderbilt and the excellent guidance of my postdoctoral mentor will aid in my goal of designing novel therapeutics for the treatment of cancer.”

Carroll, working with her sponsor, Stephen Fesik, Ph.D., aims to design small molecule inhibitors of the protein Vav1, an attractive target for treating pancreatic cancer. Although normally found only in cells of the bone marrow, Vav1 is also expressed in some pancreatic cancers, where its presence is correlated with poor prognosis.

Inhibiting the function of Vav1 would potentially prevent the activation of pro-cancer signaling, thereby halting tumor formation and further growth.

“I am very happy that Mary obtained this coveted award,” said Fesik, professor of Biochemistry, Pharmacology and Chemistry and the Orrin H. Ingram II Chair in Cancer Research. “Mary is an outstanding structural biologist with a great work ethic. I am confident that she will have a successful career in science.”

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation is a non-profit organization focused on supporting innovative early career researchers. Each of its award programs is extremely competitive, with less than 10 percent of applications funded.

Since its founding in 1946, the foundation has invested more than $240 million and funded more than 3,300 young scientists.