Dr. Hanahan is a world-renowned cancer researcher with over 30 years of experience in the fields of cancer biology, animal models of cancer, tumor resistance mechanisms and experimental therapeutics including oncolytic viruses. He is currently Director of the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC), and Professor of Molecular Oncology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). His current research includes studies on genetic signatures and physical cues in the microenvironment that modulate tumor invasion and metastasis, with the hope of advancing knowledge of cancer mechanisms and therapeutic applications. For over a decade he was Professor of Biochemistry at UCSF, and was appointed as an American Cancer Society Research Professor.
In 2014, Dr. Hanahan received the Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research Award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). He also serves on the Oncology Advisory Board of Pfizer.
Together with Robert Weinberg, he wrote the seminal paper, “The Hallmarks of Cancer,” published in January 2000; this became the most frequently cited article from the peer reviewed journal Cell, presenting an organizing principle that has conceptually integrated the vast complexity of cancer. In 2011, they published an updated review article entitled “Hallmarks of cancer: the next generation”.
Dr. Hanahan is known as one of the pioneers who helped propel the functional genetic era of cancer research. In the 1980s, working at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, he developed one of the first transgenic mouse models of cancer, described in a single-author Nature paper, illustrating the causality and insufficiency of oncogenes in multistep tumorigenesis. He was one of the first to demonstrate that self-tolerance and autoimmunity could be modeled by transgenic neoantigens. His subsequent research using such mouse models led to the discovery of insulin gene expression in the thymus and evidence for its role in induction of self-tolerance. Dr. Hanahan’s mouse models were used in collaborations with the late Judah Folkman; they co-discovered a discrete “angiogenic switch” during multistage tumorigenesis. Earlier, as a graduate student in the 1970s, he developed new, efficient procedures for plasmid transformation and DNA cloning that markedly facilitated molecular genetics research.
His multidisciplinary approach has contributed to understanding of the tumor microenvironment. He was among the first to show that the tumor microenvironment was a barrier to anti-tumor cytotoxic T-cell attack. He helped establish the concept that inflammation could be tumor-promoting, exploring functions of tumor-infiltrating immune cells, cancer-associated fibroblasts and vascular cells, and extracellular proteases, which through their interactions with cancer cells influence tumor development and progression.
He has held elected positions within the European Molecular Biology Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served on scientific advisory boards at Pfizer, and other pioneering companies in the field including Onyx Pharmaceuticals and Jennerex Biotherapeutics.
Dr. Hanahan has authored and co-authored hundreds of publications and received numerous honors, awards, and fellowships.
He holds a BS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a PhD in biophysics from Harvard University, and an honorary degree from the University of Dundee (Scotland, UK). He was a Professor at UCSF (department of biochemistry and biophysics) for two decades and was appointed as an American Cancer Society Research Professor.