Success Stories

Making discoveries

Ludwig has a long history of pioneering cancer discoveries. Today, Ludwig scientists around the world are collaborating on new projects, and on ways to move breakthroughs toward the ultimate goal of patient benefit. These are some of the novel ways Ludwig researchers have teamed up to advance our understanding and control of cancer.

Skirmantas Kriaucionis of Ludwig Oxford has been hooked on epigenetics since his undergraduate years as a biology major in Lithuania. This past year, he showed that a characteristic sloppiness in the way some types of cancer cells handle epigenetically marked bases may be harnessed to devise a new kind of therapy for various cancers.

For more than a century, researchers have parsed the structure and biochemistry of the centrosome. A collaborative study led by Ludwig’s Karen Oegema, Andrew Shiau and Timothy Gahman finally solved two lingering mysteries about the structure, and may have opened the door to implementing a new strategy for treating cancer.

Bing Ren of Ludwig San Diego submitted his very first research proposal in middle school, in the hopes of joining NASA. Now, his scientific forays into the cell’s nucleus are illuminating how the genome controls its own expression—and how that control runs awry in diseases such as cancer.

About four years ago, Luis Diaz of Ludwig Johns Hopkins had a hunch. He thought he knew why a certain kind of immunotherapy elicited intense anti-tumor responses in some patients. His hypothesis laid the foundation for a clinical trial, which found that cancers of any type that are deficient in their ability to repair DNA are more susceptible to this type of treatment.

Paul Mischel of Ludwig San Diego dedicated himself to eradicating cancer after his father – a refugee and later US intelligence officer – died from the disease. His most recent studies have unveiled a promising therapeutic strategy for glioblastoma multiforme, and not only revealed a novel mechanism of drug resistance, but also exposed the potentially counterproductive effects of a drug often given to GBM patients.

Ash Alizadeh

Ash Alizadeh and Maximilian Diehn of Ludwig Stanford have been working side by side - sharing food, reagents and ideas - since graduate school. Their extended collaboration has led to, among other things, the uncovering of complex associations between patient survival and the presence of some 22 distinct types of immune cells in tumors. 

Jedd Wolchok of Ludwig MSK and Stephen Hodi of Ludwig Harvard are among the pioneers of evaluating immunotherapies in combination for a variety of cancer types. They have focused on testing the effects of combination checkpoint blockade in patients with advanced melanoma. In 2015, they caused a stir in the medical community with their publication of the results of a multicenter, Phase 3 trial they led.

In the early 1990s, Ludwig’s former CEO and scientific director Lloyd Old decided to form a partnership with the Cancer Research Institute to test the implications of tumor immunology in clinical trials. That venture, now known as the CVC Clinical Trials Network, has become a vital force in the design and testing of novel immunotherapeutic concepts and combination strategies.

In 2015, Web Cavenee handed over the reins of Ludwig San Diego to a new director and took on a new role as Ludwig’s director of strategic alliances in central nervous system cancers

An engineered bird virus delivered together with an immunotherapy in mouse models crashes tumor defenses