Ludwig Cancer Research

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Ludwig Cancer Research
Ludwig Cancer Research Logo.jpg
Founded 1971
Founder Daniel K. Ludwig
Focus Cancer Research

New York, NY, USA

Zurich, Switzerland (European Office)
Area served
Key people

Edward A. McDermott, Jr., President and CEO

Chi Van Dang, PhD, Scientific Director
Mission International community of distinguished scientists dedicated to preventing and controlling cancer

Ludwig Cancer Research is an international community of scientists focused on cancer research, with the goals of preventing and controlling cancer.[1] It encompasses the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, an international non-profit organization founded in 1971 by philanthropist Daniel K. Ludwig. The Institute is headquartered in New York City with a European office located in Zurich. In addition, six Ludwig Centers were established at leading US cancer research institutions. Together, the Institute and Centers are known as Ludwig Cancer Research.

Since its founding in 1971, Ludwig Cancer Research has committed more than (US) $2.5 billion to cancer research. Ludwig Cancer Research focuses on both basic research and translational research, with specific emphasis on cell biology, genomics, immunology, neuroscience, prevention, cell signaling, stem cells, therapeutics, and tumor biology, as well as clinical trials and the design and development of small molecules with drug-like properties.[2] Its researchers also focus on particular types of malignancy, including brain cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma.[3]

Founder and history[edit]

Daniel K. Ludwig was a shipping magnate and real estate investor. Born in South Haven, Michigan in 1897, he parleyed a $5,000 loan from his father into a global business empire based on a fleet of supertankers. In the 1960s and 1970s, Ludwig was among the richest men in the world, with a self-made empire of some 200 companies globally.[4]

He founded the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research as an independent organization in 1971, the same year that the “War on Cancer,” declared by his friend President Richard Nixon, led to the establishment of the US National Cancer Institute.[5] Ludwig believed that tackling the problem of cancer required the best minds operating in the most favorable conditions with the best resources to accomplish the task. This principle continues to guide Ludwig Cancer Research.[6]

Daniel K. Ludwig endowed the Institute with all of the foreign assets from his business holdings. Upon his death in 1992, that endowment had grown to more than $700 million,[4] and it stands at more than $1.3 billion today.[5]

After Ludwig’s death, his US-based assets were also put into a trust to support additional cancer research efforts. These funds led to the establishment of Ludwig Centers at six research institutions in 2006.[7] The Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Ludwig Centers have been known collectively as Ludwig Cancer Research since 2012.[8] In total, Ludwig Cancer Research has committed more than (US) $2.5 billion to cancer research worldwide since 1971.[9]

Mission and goals[edit]

The primary objectives of Ludwig Cancer Research are to prevent and control cancer. The organization seeks to achieve these goals by conducting and supporting both basic research and translational research.[1]

Basic and translational research[edit]

Ludwig Cancer Research’s basic research programs utilize researchers in individual laboratories or collaborative teams to understand the biological mechanisms of cancer. The organization approaches basic research into cancer from many directions, operating under the premise that preventing and controlling cancer will require multiple solutions.[10]

The aim of the translational research program is to move basic discoveries from the laboratory into the early stages of clinical testing, to help advance them swiftly into clinical practice for cancer patients.

Long-term support and collaboration[edit]

Upon founding the organization, Daniel K. Ludwig expressed his belief that research guided by short-term, incremental goals would not lead to solutions for cancer. He believed that the greatest progress would be made through long-term, sustaining commitments made to promising research that could evolve over time to incorporate new advances and discoveries. In line with that vision, Ludwig Cancer Research continues to employ its own in-house research teams and provides ongoing long-term funding to its centers.[7]

Ludwig Cancer Research fosters collaboration through its structure of a global community of affiliated scientists conducting complementary research. This model has ensured that its researchers can engage across the spectrum of cancer research, focusing on emerging fields (such as cancer genomics), and in areas that have recently achieved clinical validation (such as cancer immunotherapy), while retaining access to fields that have already yielded several new cancer therapies and continue to do so today (such as cell signaling).[6]


Ludwig Cancer Research comprises the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and six Ludwig Centers.[8]

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research[edit]

The Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research is the original non-profit organization founded by Daniel K. Ludwig in 1971. It is an international organization that operates in the United States and six other countries. The international headquarters is located in the United States in New York City and its European financial office is in Zurich, Switzerland.[5]

The institute employs and/or supports more than 600 scientists, clinicians and support personnel worldwide. It conducts independent research and early stage clinical trials, which are managed by an executive staff. A scientific advisory committee, comprising distinguished independent scientists and clinicians, advises the Institute on promising areas of scientific research.[11]

Since its inception, the institute has invested more than (US) $1.7 billion in cancer research. Its endowment is valued at $1.3 billion as of 2014.[12]

The LICR Fund manages the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research’s endowment. The LICR Fund has (US) $1.3 billion in assets as of 2014.[13] Individuals wishing to support the Ludwig Institute’s activities may make a donation to the LICR fund.[14]

Ludwig Centers[edit]

The Ludwig Centers were established in 2006 at six institutions in the U.S.: Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago. The Ludwig Centers are independent research labs that each focus on a specific area of cancer research. As terms of their establishment, the Centers must work collaboratively with other Ludwig researchers, and coordinate their activities to some extent with those of other Ludwig scientific teams.[15]

Initial funding for the Ludwig Centers came from the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research, an endowment created under the terms of the will of Daniel Ludwig.[16] In 2014, Ludwig Cancer Research announced an additional $540 million in funding to the six Ludwig Centers, split evenly at $90 million for each center. The funding, which resulted from the sale of Daniel K. Ludwig’s remaining New York City real estate assets, was one of the largest contributions ever made exclusively to cancer research by a private organization.[17]

With the initial funding and the 2014 gift, Ludwig Cancer Research has contributed $150 million to each of the six Ludwig Centers, totaling $900 million. Its endowments provide each Center with approximately $4 million to $5 million each year in operating income. The funding for each Ludwig Center is unrestricted. Scientists at the Centers have noted that the stable funding allows them to operate more effectively and pursue long-term research strategies.[15]

Research strategy[edit]

Ludwig Cancer Research uses a collaborative approach to pursue its goal of preventing and controlling cancer. It emphasizes scientific investigation, conducted by both individual labs and international teams, to devise and advance new cancer therapies from basic laboratory research through their translation into potential products that can be evaluated in clinical trials and, ultimately, delivered to patients.[18] By providing long-term support and establishing networks of collaboration, Ludwig Cancer Research seeks to enable its scientists to pursue the most promising research pathways and focus on developing preventive interventions and lifesaving therapies.[7]

Areas of focus[edit]

Ludwig scientists address biological phenomena and specialize in disciplines that are relevant to the study and treatment of a broad range of malignancies. In addition, they focus on particular types of cancer, such as brain cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma.[3]

Fields of study include:[19]

  • cell biology
  • clinical trials
  • genomics
  • immunology
  • immunotherapy
  • metastasis
  • neuroscience
  • prevention
  • cell signaling
  • cancer stem cells
  • therapeutics
  • tumor biology
  • small molecule drugs

Translational and clinical research[edit]

In addition to conducting basic laboratory research throughout the world, Ludwig Cancer Research emphasizes clinical research to test experimental therapies and screening technologies for patients living with or at risk of developing cancer. The organization has its own in-house team of scientists specializing in clinical research, and has six active clinical trials currently recruiting patients as of summer 2015.[20] lists more than 40 additional, active or completed clinical trials involving Ludwig Cancer Research.[21]

Technology licensing and start-up companies[edit]

Ludwig Cancer Research seeks to partner its technologies to speed the delivery of new therapies to patients. To that end, the organization employs an in-house technology licensing team with expertise in intellectual property, patents, licensing, and contracts.[22]

Ludwig Cancer Research also seeds start-up companies that convert its breakthroughs into new cancer therapies.[23] The organization currently has a stake in several ventures, and others have been acquired by biotech and pharmaceutical companies. These ventures include novel approaches to immunotherapy, biomarkers and small molecules.[24]


Scientists working with Ludwig Cancer Research have made breakthroughs in various disciplines that are in clinical development or in use for the detection, prevention, and treatment of cancer. Some of the disciplines through which these advances have occurred include immunotherapy, cell signaling, and genomics.[6]


Dr. Lloyd Old, the organization’s former director and scientific chairman, participated in the discovery of Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF)[25] and the important tumor suppressor p53.[26] He contributed to the immunosurveillance hypothesis, which laid the theoretical foundations of modern cancer immunotherapy.[6]

Dr. Thierry Boon, former director of the organization’s Brussels branch, made foundational contributions to the field of cancer immunotherapy. The prevailing model of carcinogenesis in the late 1970s held that spontaneously arising tumors were unlikely to elicit immune responses. Boon and his team, who believed otherwise, were the first to isolate genes that code for a family of tumor antigens and show that T cells could recognize and target cancer cells bearing such antigens.[27] A number of clinical trials underway today are testing therapies that use this family of cancer antigens in various ways to treat a wide variety of cancers.[28]

Ludwig researchers in Melbourne discovered and cloned[29] the granulocyte-monocyte colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) through a collaboration with renowned Australian immunologist Donald Metcalf. The factor is essential to the maturation of key white blood cells, and has been used extensively over the past few decades to help rebuild the immune system of patients undergoing chemotherapy. It is also being tested as a therapeutic agent in combination with several experimental immunotherapies for cancer. The Oncology Drug Advisory Committee of the US FDA recently recommended approval for T-VEC, a viral therapy for melanoma manufactured by Amgen that incorporates the gene for GM-CSF to support anti-cancer immune responses.[30]

Ludwig researchers in Sao Paulo played a role in establishing that human papillomavirus (HPV) infection causes cervical cancer. They ran the largest epidemiological studies of HPV infection and reported that chronic, though not transient, infection by the virus dramatically increases the risk of cervical cancer, laying the groundwork for the clinical development of an HPV vaccine.[31]

Current and former Ludwig researchers pioneered an emerging class of cancer immunotherapies known as checkpoint inhibitors. They explored the underlying immunology of the response and played a role in evaluating the first such drug in clinical trials for the treatment of advanced melanoma.[32] They led the development of new criteria for evaluating responses of cancer patients to immunotherapy in clinical trials.[33]

Cell signaling[edit]

Contributions to the field of cell signaling include the identification of signaling pathways and subsequent development of therapies. An example is the PI3K family of proteins, which play a key role in cell signaling that fuels cancer.[34] This research led to the first Ludwig spin-off, a biotech named Piramed Ltd., which sought to develop cancer therapies based on this discovery. The company was purchased by the pharmaceutical company Roche. Drugs based on these discoveries are today being tested to treat several types of cancer, including breast and lung cancer.[6]


Contributions in the field of genomics include the work of Ludwig researchers at Johns Hopkins to sequence the full complement of genes expressed in many cancers, including head and neck, colon, and breast cancers, as well as glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Ludwig researchers in San Diego significantly advanced studies of the epigenome, leading such efforts as the NIH’s Roadmap Epigenomics Project.[35]


The Ludwig Cancer Research board of directors helps oversee both the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the Ludwig Fund. Although each of these entities has its own board, the boards comprise the same individuals.[11] The current chairman of the board is John L. Notter, an international financier and developer affiliated with a variety of companies, including Westlake Properties, Inc.[36]

The executive staff manages the organization’s worldwide efforts. Edward A. McDermott, Jr., serves as the CEO and leads the executive management. McDermott has been with the organization since 1988 and assumed the role of CEO in 2010.[37]

It was announced in December 2016 that Chi Van Dang, PhD will take over the role of Scientific Director in July 2017.[38] He will be responsible for coordinating the organization’s global research efforts and activities.

Awards, prizes, and affiliations[edit]

Numerous past and present Ludwig Cancer Research scientists have received recognition for their scientific work. Selected honors include:

National Medal of Science (US):

National Academy of Sciences (US):[43]

Academy of Medical Sciences (UK):[51]


Branches and laboratories[54]

Ludwig Centers[54]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "About Us". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Weintraub, Karen (6 January 2014). "Six cancer centers to share $540 million research gift". USA Today. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Collaborative Areas". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Pace, Eric (29 August 1002). "Daniel Ludwig, Billionaire Businessman, Dies at 95". New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Marshall, Eliot (6 January 2014). "A Billionaire's Final Gift to Six US Cancer Centers". Science. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Lane, Sir David (August 2014). "Trusting in Talent: How Daniel K. Ludwig's formula for success has fuelled four decades -- and counting -- of top-notch cancer research". Oncology News. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c Notter, John (10 April 2014). "Scientific Leaps Require Donors to Give Bigger". Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "New Paths of Discovery: 2012 Research Highlights" (PDF). Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Lane, Sir David (24 March 2014). "Fighting Cancer With Smart Funding". Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  10. ^ "Making Discoveries". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Leadership". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  12. ^ "Institute". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  13. ^ "LICR Fund Inc.". Guidestar. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  14. ^ "Funding". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  15. ^ a b McCambridge, Ruth (9 January 2014). "Grants to Advance a Field: 6 Ludwig Cancer Centers Get Unrestricted Vote of Confidence and $540 Million". NonProfit Quarterly. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  16. ^ "U.S. Centers". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  17. ^ Grens, Kerry (7 January 2014). "Huge Investment for Cancer Research". The Scientist. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  18. ^ "Our Science Overview". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  19. ^ "Research Areas". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  20. ^ "Clinical Research". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  21. ^ "Search results for "Ludwig Cancer Research"". Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  22. ^ "Intellectual Property". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "Start-up companies". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  24. ^ Shaffer, Anita (5 August 2014). "Ludwig Researchers Focus on a New Set of Immune Checkpoints". Oncology Live. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  25. ^ Old, Lloyd J.; et al. (October 1985). "Purification and characterization of a human tumor necrosis factor from the LuKII cell line" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 82 (19): 6637–6641. doi:10.1073/pnas.82.19.6637. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  26. ^ Old, Lloyd J.; et al. (May 1979). "Detection of a transformation-related antigen in chemically induced sarcomas and other transformed cells of the mouse" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 76 (5): 2420–2424. doi:10.1073/pnas.76.5.2420. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  27. ^ Coulie, Pierre G.; et al. (24 January 2014). "Tumour antigens recognized by T lymphocytes: at the core of cancer immunotherapy". Nature Reviews Cancer. 14: 135–146. PMID 24457417. doi:10.1038/nrc3670. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  28. ^ "Search results for "MAGE"". Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  29. ^ Gough, N.M.; et al. (March 1985). "Structure and expression of the mRNA for murine granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor.". The EMBO Journal. 4 (3): 645–653. PMC 554237Freely accessible. PMID 3874057. 
  30. ^ Davenport, Liam (28 May 2015). "Injectable T-VEC Offers Hope to Melanoma Patients". Medscape. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  31. ^ Villa, L.L. (November 2007). "Overview of the clinical development and results of a quadrivalent HPV (types 6, 11, 16, 18) vaccine.". International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 11 Suppl 2: S17–25. PMID 18162241. doi:10.1016/S1201-9712(07)60017-4. 
  32. ^ Hodi, F. Stephen; et al. (19 August 2010). "Improved Survival with Ipilimumab in Patients with Metastatic Melanoma". The New England Journal of Medicine. 363: 711–723. PMC 3549297Freely accessible. PMID 20525992. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1003466. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  33. ^ Wolchok, J.D.; et al. (1 December 2009). "Guidelines for the evaluation of immune therapy activity in solid tumors: immune-related response criteria.". Clinical Cancer Research. 15 (23): 7412–7420. PMID 19934295. doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-1624. 
  34. ^ Katso, R.; et al. (2001). "Cellular function of phosphoinositide 3-kinases: implications for development, homeostasis, and cancer.". Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology. 17: 615–675. PMID 11687500. doi:10.1146/annurev.cellbio.17.1.615. 
  35. ^ Vogelstein, Bert; et al. (29 March 2013). "Cancer Genome Landscapes". Science. 339 (6127): 1546–1558. PMC 3749880Freely accessible. PMID 23539594. doi:10.1126/science.1235122. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  36. ^ "John L. Notter". Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  37. ^ "Edward McDermott Jr.". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  38. ^ "Press Release". Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  39. ^ a b "Lucy Shapiro Lab". Stanford University. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  40. ^ "The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  41. ^ a b "M.I.T. Center". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  42. ^ "The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  43. ^ "Member Directory". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  44. ^ "Web Cavenee Lab". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  45. ^ "Don Cleveland Lab". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  46. ^ "Richard Kolodner Lab". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  47. ^ "MSK Center". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  48. ^ "Stanford Center". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  49. ^ "Johns Hopkins Center". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  50. ^ "Harvard Center". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  51. ^ "Fellows Directory". The Academy of Medical Sciences. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  52. ^ "Xin Lu Lab". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  53. ^ "Peter Ratcliffe Lab". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  54. ^ a b "Location". Ludwig Cancer Research. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 

External links[edit]