Johanna Joyce
Tumor immunology, Tumor microenvironment


Undergraduate, Genetics, Trinity College Dublin,

PhD, University of Cambridge, UK

I am a cancer biologist and geneticist, and my research interests focus on exploring the critical functions of the tumor microenvironment in regulating cancer progression, metastasis and therapeutic response, with the ultimate goal of exploiting this knowledge to devise rational and effective therapies.

My fascination with cancer genetics began during my undergraduate studies in Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, and continued during my PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK, where I investigated dysregulation of genomic imprinting in cancer predisposition syndromes. I did my postdoc at the University of California, San Francisco, in Doug Hanahan’s lab, focusing on mechanisms of tumour angiogenesis and invasion in pancreatic cancers.

In December 2004, I started my lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA and was promoted through the ranks to tenured Professor and Full Member in 2014. During these years, we have identified key molecular mechanisms driving the education of tumor-promoting macrophages, and determined the epigenetic and transcriptomic regulatory machinery underlying differential ontogeny and tumor-mediated education between distinct macrophage populations in multiple brain malignancies. We uncovered re-education of macrophages as a potent therapeutic strategy in gliomas, and determined that an altered brain microenvironment underlies the acquisition of resistance to such therapies. We have also investigated the interplay between cancer cells and their microenvironment in different organs over the course of metastatic progression.

In January 2016, I was recruited to the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research. My lab continues to unravel the complex mechanisms of communication between cancer cells and their microenvironment that regulate tumor progression, metastasis, and response to anti-cancer therapy. We are especially intrigued by the study of brain tumors – including glioblastoma and brain metastases – with the ultimate goal of developing effective new therapies against these deadly cancers.

I have been fortunate to receive a number of awards in recognition of our research including the Robert Bing Prize, Cloetta Prize, Swiss Bridge Award, American Cancer Society Scholar Award, Rita Allen Foundation Award, V Foundation Award, and Sidney Kimmel Foundation Award, among others. In 2017, I was elected as a Member of EMBO and a Fellow of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences, and in 2020 I was elected to serve on the Women in Cancer Research Council of the American Association for Cancer Research.



The future of cancer research in the “new normal”

This panel discussion with Ludwig Harvard Co-director George Demetri, Ludwig Harvard Investigator Peter Sorger, Ludwig Lausanne Member Johanna Joyce and Ludwig MSK Member Jedd Wolchok, moderated by Rachel Reinhardt, Ludwig’s Senior Vice President for Communications, focuses on how to keep cancer research moving forward in these unprecedented times while ensuring the safety of our teams and patients. The panelists shared how they have pivoted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, best practices for conducting cancer research in our current environment, and how they are returning, or plan to return, safely to the lab.

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Strategies to investigate and target the tumor microenvironment

Ludwig Lausanne’s Johanna Joyce introduces the general features of the tumor microenvironment; discusses critical functions of tumor-promoting myeloid cells in regulating cancer progression, metastasis and therapeutic resistance; and outlines current strategies for therapeutic targeting.

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