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News / 11.22.16

William Sellers appointed to faculty at Broad Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Harvard Medical School

William Sellers
By Veronica Meade-Kelly

Cancer genomics and therapeutics expert returns to academia after decade in industry

William Sellers, a widely-respected cancer researcher with deep experience in cancer genomics and therapeutic discovery, is returning to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), and Harvard Medical School (HMS) as a faculty member.

Effective January 1, 2017, Sellers will become a core institute member at the Broad and a senior advisor to the president for experimental therapeutics at DFCI. At the Broad, he will lead a research lab, extending the Broad’s expertise in cancer genomics and translation. At Dana-Farber, he will provide advice and expertise on DFCI’s growing experimental therapeutics program, which spans the drug discovery spectrum from chemistry to target validation, to lead optimization, to early phase trials.

“Bill Sellers is one of the early pioneers in the application of systematic genome analysis to cancer and was involved in the early days of the Broad,” said Broad Institute founding director Eric Lander. “As a faculty member, his research will continue to help advance our understanding of the mechanisms of cancer and how best to target them for better diagnostics and treatment. His leadership will enrich our shared academic community and contribute to new discoveries that will ultimately benefit human health.”

Laurie Glimcher, president and CEO of DFCI, says of Sellers’s return to the institute: “We are delighted to welcome Bill back to Dana-Farber. He was a much beloved and esteemed faculty member at Dana-Farber, and we look forward with great enthusiasm to having him here as an engaged advisor and mentor to our experimental therapeutics ‘bench to bedside’ program.“

Sellers has spent his academic career at the intersection of cancer biology and cancer genomics, joining the DFCI faculty and Harvard Medical School in 1997 and becoming a Broad associate member in 2004. His research efforts focused on investigating the basic mechanisms of tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes, and elucidating the molecular pathways of cancer, through high-throughput genetic sequencing and other genomics approaches.

Notably, Sellers collaborated with his DFCI and Broad colleague Matthew Meyerson to lead the Broad’s first major foray into cancer genome sequencing. Their work, as well as work by other groups including investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital, led to the identification of EGFR mutations in lung cancer—a finding that helped pave the way for EGFR-inhibiting drugs becoming standard-of-care for patients. In addition, Sellers’s efforts to understand the genetic alterations in prostate and other cancers contributed to the discovery of MITF as an important gene in the development of melanoma.

In 2005, Sellers took a position as vice president and global head of oncology for the Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research. There, he pioneered the use of cutting-edge genetic and functional genomic approaches to drug discovery, creating an oncology drug discovery unit that became world-renowned.

“It is exciting to be re-joining these outstanding, world-renowned institutions and to reunite with many colleagues who share the passion for translating innovative science into improved treatments for patients,” Sellers said. “I look forward to resuming the mentoring and development of young scientists who are the key to building upon the immense progress that has been made in treating cancer.”  

Sellers earned his B.S. in biology from Georgetown University and his M.D. from University of Massachusetts Medical School. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at University of California San Francisco before completing a clinical oncology fellowship at DFCI. He has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Novartis Excellence Award for Innovation, the Abbott Bioresearch Award, the Tisch Family Outstanding Investigator Award, and the National Institutes of Health Physician-Scientist Award. He currently serves on the scientific advisory boards of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation, and Mount Sinai Medical Center, and was appointed by President Barack Obama as a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board.