Douglas Hanahan is Director of the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (Suisse de Recherche Expérimentale sur le Cancer, ISREC), Professor of Molecular Oncology in the School of Life Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, EPFL), and Co-Director of the new multi-institutional Swiss Cancer Center Lausanne. Hanahan received a bachelor’s degree in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Ph.D. in Biophysics from Harvard University, where he was elected a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows. He worked at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York first as a graduate student and then as a faculty member. Subsequently he spent twenty-one years as a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco before moving to EPFL in 2009. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, a member of the US National Academies of Medicine and of Science, and of the European Molecular Biology Organization. Hanahan received an honorary degree from the University of Dundee (Scotland) in 2011, and was further honored by the exceptional invitation to present a lecture to the public in the University’s “Greatest Minds” series. In 2012, Hanahan received the annual award for distinguished cancer research from the Fondazione San Salvatore, in Lugano, Switzerland. In 2014, Hanahan was elected as a fellow of the Academy of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and honored with the AACR’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
In the mid-1980’s Hanahan helped pioneer the genetic engineering of mice that were heritably endowed to develop organ-specific cancers that mimicked human cancers. His research program has centered ever since on using such mouse models of human cancer first to investigate the mechanisms by which tumors develop, and then to identify and flight test targeted therapies aimed at disrupting key functions inside tumors and thereby prevent disease progression; a strategic goal is to incentivize and guide clinical trials of new drugs and regimens with promise to improve the treatment of human cancers. He discovered, in collaboration with the late Judah Folkman of Harvard, the ‘angiogenic switch’, which is activated to produce new blood vessels that are necessary for early stage pre-cancerous lesions to progress toward lethal tumors. He conceptualized, with Robert Weinberg of MIT, an organizing principle with which to rationalize the daunting complexity of human cancer types; their landmark publication in 2000, entitled ‘The Hallmarks of Cancer’, proposed that six distinctive functional capabilities were necessarily acquired in one way or another by most human cancers, a concept that is now widely accepted, and beginning to influence cancer therapy. This publication and an update published in 2011 are amongst the most highly cited publications in the history of cancer research.