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Graduate’s work offering hope of improving survival rates of patients with brain tumors

April 09, 2018

When Damián A. Almiron Bonnin ’10 was a young child dreaming of becoming a doctor and helping people, he probably had no idea that he would be leading research that may improve the survival rates of patients with certain brain tumors.

At Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center, he is devising therapeutic strategies to prevent brain tumors from becoming resistant to anti-tumor drug treatments.

Damián A. Almiron Bonnin ’10Almiron Bonnin says he feels fortunate to have the opportunity to be lead author on several projects and explore unanswered medical questions at Dartmouth.

“When you lead a research project, you help coordinate every aspect of the research effort including experimental design, data collection, interpretation and writing,” he says. “Having the support of a team of collaborators with a multidisciplinary background is fundamental to the scientific enterprise. I was lucky to find an exceptional team at Norris Cotton Cancer Center.”

One of the team’s latest studies found that insulin signaling allows tumor growth despite treatment with state-of-the-art therapies. Blocking this signaling pathway prevents resistance to target therapy and may prove to prolong the survival rates of patients with aggressive brain tumors. Their findings were recently featured on the cover of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

Almiron Bonnin has just completed the Ph.D. portion of Dartmouth’s MD/Ph.D. program, which combines hands-on clinical training with a rigorous Ph.D. curriculum. He is the latest Earlhamite to contribute to the College’s reputation as one of the leading institutions for the percentage of graduates earning Ph.Ds.

“My day-to-day incorporates a wide range of activities like evaluating patients in the clinic, attending scientific lectures and performing biomolecular experiments in the laboratory,” he says. “In other words, the day-to-day at Dartmouth is hectic, challenging, fun and very intellectually rewarding.”

He hopes to continue the work he dreamed of as a child.

“Much like my MD-Ph.D. training, my ideal job would combine clinical medicine with translational research,” he says. “In more concrete terms, I would like to do research than can directly benefit the patients I see in order to provide the best care possible to those with complex clinical conditions.

“During my Ph.D. training, I had the privilege of mentoring several students which was very rewarding. So as part of my ideal job, I would also love to help train the next generation of physicians and scientists that will advance our knowledge of health care and the human condition.”

As a young child he was fascinated by doctors and their ability to heal people. At age 13, he was volunteering at a local health center in his hometown in Paraguay. He was selected to study high school at the United World College in the United States and then applied to Earlham.

“I had many reasons to attend Earlham,” he says. “One of the deciding factors for me was the quality of its educators. During my time there, I had the privilege of being taught by an outstanding group of faculty who did not only give amazing lectures, but they also took the time to know you personally and answer your questions in a one-on-one setting. Earlham has some of the best educators I have ever met. They are not only exceptionally knowledgeable in their fields, but they are also kind, passionate and devoted individuals. They want you to succeed, and they will do all they can to help their students achieve their professional and personal goals.”

Almiron Bonnin, who graduated from Earlham with honors, says he has plenty of anecdotes attesting to this, including helping to establish Earlham’s Pre-Health Club and Earlham’s chapter of the American Medical Student Association.

“These professors laid the foundation for my career in health care and clinical investigation to a much greater degree than I could possibly have anticipated when I chose to become a part of the Earlham family,” he says. “Two of my biggest motivators are intellectual curiosity and a strong desire to help alleviate some of the suffering in the world. I always felt a strong calling to help those in need. Through clinical medicine and translational research, I can do that, while also immersing myself in the fascinating world of scientific exploration and innovation.”

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success.

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and


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