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Chi Van Dang Appointed Scientific Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

Dec 20, 2016

It is with great pleasure that the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research announces the appointment of Chi Van Dang as its Scientific Director. A hematological oncologist and renowned researcher, Dang joins Ludwig from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center, which he has directed since 2011.

“We are very pleased to have Dr. Dang on board and have every confidence that his scientific insight and experience leading some of the best research institutions in the world will be of great benefit to Ludwig,” said John L. Notter, Chair of the Board of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

“Having launched a series of translational cancer research centers at Abramson, Dr. Dang brings with him a valuable breadth of experience in converting the findings of basic research into effective clinical interventions,” said Edward McDermott, President and CEO of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

As Scientific Director, Dang will oversee the execution of Ludwig’s scientific strategy to advance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, with a special focus on the operations and staffing of the Lausanne, Oxford and San Diego Branches of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. He will also align these efforts with those of the six independent Ludwig Centers across the U.S. to further cultivate collaboration within Ludwig’s global research community.

“Ludwig has a rich history of discovery in basic and translational cancer research and I am excited and honored by the opportunity to lead its network of accomplished scientists,” said Dang. “We are today at a unique place in the history of this field, in which advances in a variety of biomedical disciplines are converging at an unprecedented rate to revolutionize our understanding of cancer. Ludwig is well positioned to take advantage of this phenomenon, as many of its scientists and research groups are playing a leading role in driving this convergence. I look forward to working with Ludwig researchers across institutions and disciplines, drawing on each group’s expertise and interests to forge collaborations aimed at solving specific and significant challenges of cancer research—and to translating their insights into therapies and diagnostics that will benefit patients.”

Dang is best known for his elucidation of the molecular signaling pathways and mechanisms that govern the unusual metabolism of cancer cells, which require vast quantities of energy and molecular supplies to sustain their wild proliferation. His laboratory was the first to show that a master regulator of gene expression named MYC—a gene whose mutation or aberrant expression is associated with many types of cancer—alters the utilization of a key sugar in cancer cells.

This body of work, which explained a hallmark of tumor metabolism known as the “Warburg effect”, bolstered the hypothesis that cancer cells can become addicted to their reengineered signaling pathways and dependent on particular nutrients. Dang and his colleagues also showed that disrupting those pathways could be a powerful approach to treating cancer and identified drug targets to that end. Therapies based on this work are today in various stages of clinical development.

“Chi is highly respected in the cancer research community and beyond as a scientist of significant stature,” said Christopher Walsh, a former member of Ludwig’s Scientific Advisory Committee and the Hamilton Kuhn Distinguished Professor at Harvard Medical School, who helped recruit Dang to Ludwig. “But we were equally impressed by Chi’s strategic and executive skills—his ability to reach across narrow scientific disciplines, identify opportunities and forge multidisciplinary collaborations to solve tough problems in cancer research. This rare combination of capabilities will serve Ludwig well as it works to translate its scientific discoveries into interventions across the continuum of cancer care.”

Dang was born in Saigon, Vietnam, one of 10 children and the son of the nation’s first neurosurgeon and dean of the University of Saigon’s School of Medicine. He came to the U.S. in 1967 and went on to obtain a Ph.D. in chemistry from Georgetown University. Dang subsequently obtained an M.D. from Johns Hopkins University and completed a fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, before returning to Hopkins, where he rose to become Vice Dean for Research and Director of the Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering before joining the Abramson Cancer Center. He was recently appointed to the Blue Ribbon panel that provided strategic guidance to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and currently chairs the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors.