November 4, 2014, New York, NY—Ludwig Cancer Research announced today the appointment of Sebastian Nijman as Associate Member of its Oxford Branch. Nijman joins the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Oxford after several years as a principal investigator at the prestigious Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, where he has developed cutting-edge technologies to explore the molecular interactions by which drugs—and drug candidates—exert their effects within cells. His aim is to apply such novel pharmacogenomic technologies to improve the use of existing cancer drugs and to develop novel therapies, with a special emphasis on breast and lung cancers.
“I am very excited to join the Ludwig team,” said Nijman. “The organization has developed a strong reputation not only as a powerhouse of basic cancer research, but for its ability to translate key discoveries into novel therapies. I look forward to establishing close collaborations with other Ludwig researchers to generate and assess new ideas for cancer treatment.”
Nijman will contribute significantly to such efforts. Most tumors harbor a genetically diverse population of cells. This heterogeneity often accounts for their resistance to therapy. It also hinders systematic analysis of how drugs affect their cellular constituents. Further, a lack of clarity about how key mutations globally alter the interconnected signaling networks of cancer cells means that knowledge of such aberrations can’t be readily exploited to tailor therapies or design new drugs.
To address this problem, Nijman and his team have developed “isogenic,” or genetically uniform, cell lines whose genomes can be engineered to mimic the heterogeneity of cancers. These can be used to systematically study the interaction of various drugs with genes, the proteins those genes encode and the signaling networks in which they participate. Nijman has, for example, developed a pharmacogenomic screening platform with such cells and applied it to identify surprising candidate drug targets in breast and lung cancers, and to describe the first known mechanism of resistance to a new class of drugs that target the critical PI3K/mTOR signaling pathway.
Nijman has also developed cell lines that harbor only half the usual number of chromosomes. Such “haploid” cell lines can significantly improve the scope and clarity of information captured in pharmacogenomics experiments. It is possible, for instance, to use them to study on a large scale the effects of knocking out, one at a time, nearly every gene encoded by the human genome.
“We are confident that Nijman’s scientific creativity and technical prowess will contribute enormously to Ludwig’s mission to improve the prevention and treatment of cancer,” said Xin Lu, director of Ludwig Oxford. “I look forward to his joining our team at Ludwig Oxford, and am sure many of our researchers at other locations have more than a few projects that have good use for his formidable pharmacogenomics expertise.”
About Ludwig Cancer Research
Ludwig Cancer Research is an international collaborative network of acclaimed scientists with a 40-year legacy of pioneering cancer discoveries. Ludwig combines basic research with the ability to translate its discoveries and conduct clinical trials to accelerate the development of new cancer diagnostics and therapies. Since 1971, Ludwig has invested more than $2.5 billion in life-changing cancer research through the not-for-profit Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the six U.S.-based Ludwig Centers.