Ludwig Cancer Research announces the appointment of W.K. Alfred Yung and Victor Velculescu to its Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). A group of distinguished scientists and clinicians convened by the scientific director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, the SAC advises Ludwig’s leadership on the organization’s strategic direction and emerging areas of cancer research. It also works with the scientific director to review the progress and plans of Institute scientists.
“Al and Victor are both highly accomplished researchers with a depth of scientific knowledge and insight that will be of great value to Ludwig,” said Ludwig Scientific Director Chi Van Dang. “Their expertise—which, between them, covers everything from cancer genomics to intracellular signaling to the development of therapeutics and diagnostics—overlaps extensively with research across Ludwig’s Branches and Centers. I look forward to their joining the SAC’s ongoing conversation about the direction and future of Ludwig’s research program.”
Yung, a cancer survivor, clinical oncologist and researcher, specializes in malignancies of the brain. He and his colleagues reported in 1997 that the PTEN tumor suppressor gene is disrupted in many glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) tumors and exposed the critical role of a growth signaling pathway mediated by an enzyme known as PI3 kinase in many subtypes of the disease. Yung has overseen pivotal clinical trials assessing novel treatments for GBM and his work has led to the regulatory approval of the chemotherapy temozolomide and bevacizumab—an inhibitor of tumor blood vessel growth—as therapies for GBM.
Yung is a professor of neuro-oncology and cancer biology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas, where he is a member of the Glioblastoma Moon Shot team. He was physician to Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Beau Biden, who died of GBM in 2015, and serves as an advisor to the national Cancer Moonshot initiative launched by the former vice president. Yung is also special advisor to the CEO and scientific director of Defeat GBM of the National Brain Tumor Society and a member of the executive committee for GBM AGILE, a global, adaptive clinical trial that seeks to revolutionize the development of new treatments and biomarkers for glioblastoma—an initiative in which Ludwig researchers have taken a leading role. His lab continues to explore PI3 kinase inhibition as a treatment for GBM as well as mechanisms of resistance to such therapies.
Also a physician-scientist and cancer researcher, Velculescu is co-director of cancer biology and professor of oncology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. His laboratory has contributed enormously to our understanding of the cancer genome. Velculescu pioneered the global analysis of cellular gene expression—or transcriptomics—and completed the first analysis of the transcriptome of a eukaryotic cell. In collaboration with researchers at Ludwig Johns Hopkins, he then applied his technology to analyze the genomes of breast, colorectal, brain, ovarian and pancreatic cancers. These studies broadly illuminated the mutational landscape of malignancies and significantly shaped the design of new therapies and our current understanding of cancer initiation and evolution.
In recent years, Velculescu and his colleagues have developed technologies for detecting and sequencing vanishingly rare traces of DNA shed by cancer cells. Such technologies, known as liquid biopsies, are among the most exciting developments in cancer research and promise to revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of every type of malignancy. Velculescu has won many awards and honors for his work, including the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research, the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research and three AACR Team Science Awards—for research in Pancreatic Cancer, Brain Cancer, and Liquid Biopsies.