Ludwig Cancer Research extends hearty congratulations to Roeland Nusse and Stephen Elledge, recipients of the prestigious Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for their separate and seminal contributions to the field. The $3 million prize honors researchers who have made paradigm-shifting discoveries in fundamental physics, the life sciences and mathematics.
Nusse, a Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Professor in Cancer Research, investigator at the Ludwig Center and chair of developmental biology at Stanford University, was recognized for his work on the Wnt family of proteins. Beginning in the 1980s, when he discovered that a gene named Wnt appeared culpable in a mouse model of breast cancer, Nusse conducted a methodical, decades-long exploration of how the proteins encoded by the Wnt and other closely related genes participate in such processes as embryonic development, the genesis of tumors and the function of adult stem cells during tissue repair. Both his discoveries and his methods of inquiry have had a lasting influence on the field.
An investigator at the Ludwig Center at Harvard and Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, Elledge too was honored for his contributions to a wide variety of fields—ranging from cell division to aging to virology to cancer. But he was especially noted for illuminating the intricately choreographed mechanisms by which cells sense damage to their DNA and then either engage the machinery of repair, or self-destruct. Failures in these processes play an important role in the initiation and progression of cancer.
The Breakthrough prizes, totaling some $25 million this year, were officially awarded to a dozen individual recipients during a black tie ceremony and celebration held at the NASA AMES Research Center in Mountain View, California, on December 4.