Princeton to be home to branch of prestigious Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

Branch, 1 of just 10 primary Ludwig locations in the world, will focus on cancer metabolism

Princeton University will be the home of a new branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, an international community of distinguished scientists dedicated to preventing and controlling cancer, officials from Princeton and the Ludwig Institute announced Tuesday morning.

The Ludwig Princeton branch will focus on cancer metabolism and its promise for new and better ways to prevent and treat cancer.

The clinical translation of research at the Ludwig Princeton Branch will be conducted in the tristate region, including in partnership with RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey — the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and a consortium cancer center between Rutgers University and Princeton University.

Joshua Rabinowitz, a professor of chemistry and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton who specializes in cancer and metabolism, will serve as director of the branch.

Eileen White, a distinguished professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at Rutgers University, will serve as the associate director. And Yibin Kang, Princeton’s Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology, will serve as a principal investigator and founding member of the branch.

Ludwig Cancer Research is an international collaborative network of acclaimed scientists that has pioneered cancer research and landmark discovery for 50 years. Ludwig combines basic science with the ability to translate its discoveries and conduct clinical trials to accelerate the development of new cancer diagnostics and therapies.

The announcement of the branch puts Princeton in elite company. Ludwig Cancer Research’s other primary locations include Memorial Sloan Kettering, the University of Oxford, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Chicago and the University of Lausanne (Switzerland).

University Provost Deborah L. Prentice, who was instrumental in the development of the relationship with Ludwig, said she is delighted the organizations could come together.

“Ludwig chose Princeton because of our renowned strength in disciplines of critical importance to the study of cancer metabolism, including basic cancer research, metabolomics, genomics, biology and the computational and physical sciences,” she said.

“This new partnership goes to the heart of what Princeton is all about. It draws on Princeton’s breadth of excellence in fundamental science to drive real-world breakthroughs at the cutting edge of cancer care.”

The Princeton branch will be the first Ludwig location to focus on cancer metabolism. It’s an area that Chi Van Dang, the scientific director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, believes “holds considerable promise for the optimization of cancer prevention and therapy.”

Rabinowitz agreed.

“The new branch offers us the chance to capitalize on multiple areas where Princeton is a world leader and has world-leading technologies that haven’t yet been applied to cancer,” he said. “We want to continue to push the frontiers of those technologies, because, ultimately, technologies drive biological understanding, which opens up new avenues for cancer treatment and prevention.”

Rabinowitz is eager to collaborate with White, a longtime colleague and friend.

“Eileen and I have worked together for a long time, and very effectively,” he said. “She is absolutely a world leader, in particular in thinking about nutrient recycling processes and how they impact cancer outcomes. These recycling processes both support cancer growth and suppress anti-cancer immune response. Her recent work on that has been spectacular.”

The research-centered focus of the new branch will complement the patient-centered focus of Rutgers Cancer Institute, Rabinowitz said.

“The Ludwig Princeton Branch will be a second hub of cancer research excellence in the region with a specific focus on cancer, diet, immunity and metabolism,” he said.

The partnership with Ludwig will allow the New Jersey-based researchers to gather the best-in-the-world metabolic information on human tumors, while also bringing Princeton’s and Rutgers’ strengths to the global Ludwig collaboration, Rabinowitz said.

Rabinowitz said he hopes the new branch will attract leading cancer, immune response and metabolism researchers.

“With research support that provides the freedom to pursue critical work, and with access to the Ludwig global community of cancer scientists, as well as to Princeton’s leading faculty from throughout the computational and natural sciences, we see the branch as an opportunity to build something big,” he said.

Kang, a world leader in the mechanisms that drive cancer metastasis, agreed.

“The unique strengths of Princeton in computational biology, physical sciences, biological engineering and policy research will synergize with the broader network of cutting-edge cancer research community at Ludwig to create unprecedented opportunities,” he said.

“Princeton has such a diverse and interdisciplinary research community, in a close-knit environment. We also have a close collaboration with multiple groups at Rutgers. These very close relationships among very diverse research areas allow us to bring in technologies from many different angles. That opens the door to breakthroughs in understanding cancer metabolism — its progression, metastasis and the immune response — and in coming up with new ways to target it.”