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Johanna A. Joyce, PhD

University of Lausanne
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
Lausanne, Switzerland

Current Research

  • Seeking to prevent metastasis and drug resistance by enhancing anti-tumor immunity and response to cancer therapies.

  • Laboratory studies are ongiong to understand the role of macrophages and obesity on immune suppression, drug resistance and tumor promotion and to identify new targets to prevent drug resistance.

  • This research may ultimately lead to therapeutic strategies that will improve the effect of cancer killing drugs.

Cancers develop in a complex microenvironment. As the tumor grows, it 'hijacks' other non-cancerous cells from surrounding tissue and the bone marrow to help it grow and spread. One type of cell hijacked by tumors is an immune cell called a macrophage. 

In previous work Dr. Joyce's group found that macrophages accumulate in breast tumors after treatment, and instead of fighting the tumor as one would expect from an immune cell, the macrophages surprisingly protect tumor cells against chemotherapy drugs. Strategies to block these unwanted effects of macrophages on chemotherapy-treated cancer cells may improve the effectiveness of existing anti-cancer drugs.

The team recently found that obesity, a known risk factor for breast cancer that is associate with poor outcomes, promotes the accumulation of another type of immune cell called neutrophils, both in the bloodstream and within the lung. This significantly enhances breast metastasis to the lung in her laboratory models.

This year, Dr. Joyce's team will expand these findings by investigating how macrophages and neutrophils promote metastasis. They will also continue to devise strategies to target the microenvironment-supplied factors that interfere with chemotherapy efficacy. Thus, this research may ultimately lead to therapeutic strategies for enhancing the efficacy of existing FDA-approved drugs.


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.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The ANN INC. Award
ANN INC. is a division of ascena retail group inc.

Area(s) of Focus