Dr. Donner is a molecular-cell biologist in the Surgical Oncology Research Laboratory. Dr. Donner received his undergraduate degree for Queens College of the City University of New York. He conducted doctoral research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the area of chemical evolution and the origins of life on earth.
His studies on chemical evolution contributed to the first Viking probe that searched for life on Mars. After postdoctoral studies in neurobiology conducted under the mentorship of Dr. George P. Hess at Cornell University, Ithaca New York, Dr. Donner joined the faculty of Cornell University Medical College and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. There Dr. Donner defined how mitogens, cytokines, and their receptors contribute to cancer.
Dr. Donner served an eight-year term as Director of the Biochemistry and Genetics Division at Sloan-Kettering as well as serving on the Executive Committee of the Institute. Dr. Donner has also served on numerous Editorial Boards and Grant Review Committees for the National Institutes of Health and as an Editor for "Endocrinology".
Dr. Donner moved from Sloan-Kettering to the Indiana University School of Medicine as Professor of Physiology, Microbiology and Immunology, and a Member of the Indiana University Cancer Center. Since joining the faculty of UCSF as Professor in Residence in the Department of Surgery and a member of the Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2005, Dr. Donner's laboratory has focused its efforts on identifying and understanding the functions of biomarkers that may predict the course and likelihood of recurrence of human colon cancer.
Dr. Donner is the recipient of numerous awards including the NIH Career Development Award, the American Cancer Society Faculty Research Award, Louise & Alston Boyer Young Investigator Award for Laboratory Research, American Diabetes Association Research and Development Award, NY State Regents Scholarship, and the NY State Scholar Incentive Award.
Dr. Donner's research is aimed at understanding how derangements in tumor suppressor-oncoprotein signaling networks are permissive of cancer. Of particular interest is how signaling through "death receptors" may sometimes induce cancer cells to undergo programmed cell death, yet in other instances may promote the aggressive growth and spread of malignancies. Recently, Dr. Donner's research group identified a novel factor called Sall2 that may act as a molecular switch to determine whether life or death signals predominate downstream of death receptors. Furthermore, the absence or presence of polymorphic forms of Sall2 appears predictive of whether colon cancer will recur. Considerable effort is being directed towards determining whether Sall2 may be a clinically useful biomarker that can predict the course of colon cancer and whether the malignancy will be responsive to therapy.