AUGUST 4, 2021, NEW YORK – It is with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of Mikaël Pittet as a full Member of the Lausanne Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.
Pittet’s research focuses on myeloid cells, frontline soldiers of the innate immune system that infiltrate tumors and, depending on their functional states, play complex roles in cancer—supporting tumor growth, suppressing anti-tumor immunity or targeting cancer cells.
“We are very excited to have a scientist of Mikaël’s caliber join Ludwig Lausanne,” said Ludwig Institute Scientific Director Chi Van Dang. “His pioneering exploration of myeloid cell states has enriched our understanding of the tumor microenvironment, exposed previously unknown vulnerabilities in tumors and furnished potential leads for the development of novel immunotherapies.”
Pittet’s laboratory employs advanced imaging and the comprehensive profiling of gene expression patterns in individual cells to unravel the subtle but functionally important differences between myeloid cells, such as neutrophils, dendritic cells and macrophages. His team has, for example, discovered a state of dendritic cells, which direct the immune system’s cytotoxic T cells (CTL) to their targets and stimulate their activity. Named DC3s, these cells form something like a welcoming committee for cancer-killing CTLs flooding into tumors and are required for therapeutic responses to anti-PD-1 checkpoint blockade.
Pittet and his team have also identified several neutrophil states and shown that some of them can have opposing roles in antitumor immunity. They have, additionally, discovered through advanced microscopy that certain immunosuppressive macrophages within tumors physically remove anti-PD-1 antibodies from CTLs to undermine checkpoint blockade. Each of these discoveries holds significant promise for the development of novel immunotherapies.
“Mikaël is not only delightfully collaborative and creative, but highly accomplished in an area of research—myeloid cells in the tumor microenvironment—that is also a major focus of the Lausanne Branch,” said Ludwig Lausanne Director George Coukos, who is currently collaborating with Pittet on a study examining the immunological effects of a new type of cancer therapy known as FLASH radiotherapy. “We look forward to working with him to advance our research program and develop new treatments for cancer patients.”
Before moving to Switzerland in 2020, Pittet was a full professor at Harvard Medical School. He currently holds the ISREC Foundation Chair in immuno-oncology and is a professor at the University of Geneva Faculty of Medicine.
“What an incredible honor to be part—again!—of the Ludwig Institute. This, exactly 20 years after having conducted my doctoral studies there. Returning to my roots makes this new stage in my career even more special. I am particularly looking forward to interactions with an outstanding international community that focuses, in part, on tumor microenvironment and tumor immunology.”
Pittet completed his graduate studies and first postdoctoral fellowship at the original Lausanne Branch of the Ludwig Institute. His exploration of myeloid cells and their functional states, captured in more than 150 research publications, has earned him recognition as a leader in the field. He is also recognized as a highly cited researcher and has received many awards for his work, including the Distinguished Investigator Award of the Academy of Radiology Research and the Robert Wenner Award of the Swiss Cancer League.