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Johanna A. Joyce, PhD

University of Lausanne
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
Lausanne, Switzerland

Current Research

Goal: To prevent metastasis and drug resistance by enhancing anti-tumor immunity and response to cancer therapies.

Impact: Dr. Joyce is conducting laboratory studies to understand the role immune cells play in drug resistance and tumor promotion. This work may lead to the development of strategies to harness these cells to reduce—or even prevent—the spread of breast cancer cells.

What’s next: She and her team will explore how immune cells that infiltrate at high numbers into breast cancer brain metastases differ from immune cells in healthy individuals.

In order for tumors to become invasive and spread to other tissues—a process called metastasis—they need help from other non-cancer cells, including immune cells. These cells, when hijacked by the tumor, help the tumor “hide” from the cancer-killing cells of the immune system and resist treatment. Dr. Joyce is conducting studies to understand the underlying biology of this process and devise effective strategies to prevent it from occurring.

Full Research Summary

Research area: Understanding the role of immune cells on drug resistance and tumor promotion and devising ways to intervene.

Impact: Tumors develop in a complex microenvironment in which cancer cells can “hijack” the functions of non-cancerous stromal and immune cells, recruited from the surrounding tissue or from the circulation. Dr. Joyce is investigating the roles of microenvironment-supplied factors in promoting cancer progression, metastasis, and drug resistance in breast cancer. Her work may ultimately lead to therapeutic strategies that will improve the effect of cancer-killing drugs.

Current investigation: Dr. Joyce is exploring how immune cells that infiltrate at high numbers into breast cancer brain metastases differ from those in healthy individuals.

What she’s learned so far: She and her team found that both neutrophils and T lymphocytes within brain metastatic lesions are significantly altered, which directly affects the functions that these cells perform.

What’s next: Because neutrophils and T lymphocytes are two of the most abundant white blood cell types in humans, Dr. Joyce will now work to understand how they can be therapeutically harnessed to reduce—or even prevent—the spread of breast cancer cells to the brain.


Johanna Joyce joined the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research, University of Lausanne, Switzerland in 2016. Prior to that, she led a lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA for 11 years where she was promoted through the ranks to tenured Professor and Full Member. Prof. Joyce has received multiple awards and honours including from the American Cancer Society, the Rita Allen Foundation, the Sidney Kimmel Foundation, the Geoffrey Beene Foundation, and the V Foundation, among others. The Joyce lab is focused on investigating the tumor microenvironment of primary cancers and metastatic disease, and in determining the critical influence that non-cancerous stromal cells can have on tumor progression and therapeutic response. She received her doctorate in Biology from the University of Cambridge, England in 1999 and completed her postdoctoral training in Dr. Douglas Hanahan's lab at University of California, San Francisco.

Grid Researcher Headshot - Joyce

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Ann Taylor and Loft Award (a subsidiary of ascena retail group inc.)

Area(s) of Focus