JANUARY 14, 2020, New York— Ludwig Cancer Research is pleased to announce the appointment of Douglas Hanahan as a Distinguished Scholar at the Lausanne Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. A pioneering molecular biologist and renowned cancer researcher, Hanahan has made several seminal discoveries in cancer biology and immunology over the course of his career.
“Everybody working in cancer research today knows of Doug’s iconic work, since much of it has had a profound influence on the field,” said Chi Van Dang, scientific director of the Ludwig Institute. “He continues to do outstanding, multidisciplinary research, providing significant insights into mechanisms of cancer progression and the tumor microenvironment. Ludwig researchers will benefit enormously from the insights and mentorship of such an accomplished scientist. We couldn’t be happier to have him on board.”
While still a Harvard graduate student working at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York in the 1970s, Hanahan developed new and more efficient methods for gene cloning and bacterial genetic engineering. After earning his PhD, Hanahan stayed on at Cold Spring Harbor and by the late 1980s had developed among the first mouse models engineered to develop cancers in specific organs. He went on to use these models to examine the stages by which precancerous cells progress to invasive malignancies, the role cancer genes play in this transformation and the immune system’s response to cells bearing novel mutations associated with cancers.
In collaboration with the late Judah Folkman, Hanahan identified in these mouse models the “angiogenic switch”—a defined step in which the new blood vessels absolutely required for solid tumor growth are induced in the early stages of tumorigenesis. He and Folkman subsequently explored the pharmacological inhibition of that step, work that ultimately contributed to the development of anti-angiogenic drugs for cancer therapy.
Hanahan is also noted for his co-authorship with Ludwig MIT Director Robert Weinberg of The Hallmarks of Cancer, a landmark perspective on cancer biology published in Cell in 2000, as well as an update the pair published in the journal in 2011. Their essay drew from all corners of the sprawling field of cancer biology to create a unifying conceptual framework for understanding tumor initiation and progression, identifying a handful of capabilities cells must acquire to become malignant. The papers, which remain among the most influential publications in modern cancer biology, have shaped efforts to develop new cancer therapies.
Hanahan’s lab today continues to unravel the stages and drivers of tumor progression and investigate pharmacologic strategies to disrupt each step of the process. It also explores how the tumor microenvironment contributes to drug resistance, with a focus on its role in thwarting immune clearance—a phenomenon that is being investigated from multiple angles by researchers at Ludwig Lausanne.
“Working with me over the past seven years, Doug played an important part in making the Swiss Cancer Center in the Lemanic region a reality, and he is more than familiar with our goals and plans at the Lausanne Ludwig Branch,” said Ludwig Lausanne Director George Coukos. “His experience and scientific creativity will be of immeasurable value to the researchers here and, I expect, across the Ludwig organization.”
Hanahan, who earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT and his PhD in biophysics from Harvard in 1983, has been widely recognized for his contributions to cancer biology. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in 2014 and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the U.S. National Academies of Science and of Medicine, the AACR Academy and the European Molecular Biology Organization.
In addition to his Ludwig Distinguished Scholar appointment, Hanahan is currently Professor and Director of the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research within the School of Life Sciences at EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and Co-director of the new multi-institutional Swiss Cancer Center Leman.