(October 26, 2010—Toronto, ON) Dr. Daniel Durocher, a Senior Investigator at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute and the Thomas Kierans Research Chair in Mechanisms of Cancer Development, has been selected as one of two winners of this year’s Canadian Cancer Society Young Investigator Prize for excellence in cancer research. The prize is awarded annually by the National Council of the Canadian Cancer Society to an outstanding young investigator in biomedical or translational cancer research.
The Young Investigator Prize was announced today by the Canadian Cancer Society.
“I am delighted that the work of my team on the basic mechanisms of chromosome integrity has been recognized by this prize,” said Dr. Durocher. “However, it is important to remember that the battle against cancer is far from being won and much work remains to be done.”
“Dr. Durocher is an exceptional researcher and has already accomplished a body of work that few have achieved at this early stage of their scientific careers,” said Dr. Christine Williams, Director of Research, Canadian Cancer Society. “His passion makes him a great ambassador for science and has gained him the great respect of colleagues. He is very deserving of this recognition.”
An internationally renowned cancer researcher from Varennes, Québec, Dr. Durocher has made a series of high-impact discoveries through his investigations into how normal cells become cancerous, and how healthy cells detect and repair damage to their DNA. Recent high-impact findings from his lab add to a growing and important body of work in understanding DNA damage and natural repair systems, and have given scientists a deeper understanding of the genetic mechanisms underlying cancer and other human illnesses.
In 2007 Dr. Durocher and his team discovered that a gene known as RNF8 helps guide BRCA1, a protein that repairs DNA damage and, when mutated, is known to cause breast cancer. By guiding BRCA1 to the sites of damaged DNA, RNF8 helps ensure that the necessary repairs can be made. The finding, published in the top journal Science, will significantly advance breast cancer research and, in turn, potential treatments.
In February 2009, Dr. Durocher discovered that a gene known as RNF168 is mutated in RIDDLE syndrome, a rare and genetic immunodeficiency disorder characterized by developmental abnormalities and hypersensitivity to treatments such as radiation therapy. The findings were published in the prestigious journal Cell, and have given insight into the genetic changes that lead to immune disorders, as well as enabled more effective diagnoses of this disease.
More recently, Dr. Durocher found an enzyme that counteracts the RNF8 and RNF168 proteins, which gives researchers new targets for the treatment of RIDDLE syndrome and other diseases.
“Dan is already one the top biomedical researchers in Canada,” noted Dr. Jim Woodgett, Director of Research at the Lunenfeld. “His discovery and expansion of a new system that regulates DNA repair is one of the most exciting developments in cancer research—and he’s led the charge all the way.”
An acknowledged expert in his field, Dr. Durocher’s achievements have been recognized through many awards including his naming this year as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40™, the 2009 Lloyd S.D. Fogler QC Award of Excellence, an Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, and the 2006 Canadian Institutes of Health Research Maud Menten New Principal Investigator Prize. Dr. Durocher holds a Canada Research Chair in Proteomics, Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics, and he is an Associate Professor in the department of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Durocher is also helping to empower the next generation of scientists by mentoring traineesat the Lunenfeld, where several members of his team have recently received significant competitive awards and accolades.
This year, the Canadian Cancer Society review committee recommended that there be two winners, so both Dr. Durocher and Dr. Michael Ohh at the University of Toronto will share the Young Investigator Prize. Each receives $1,000 as a personal prize, and $10,000 will be issued to support their respective research programs.