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The one hundred honoree: William R. Sellers, MD

Innovation Story

The one hundred honoree: William R. Sellers, MD

Mass General Giving

William Sellers, MD, global head of oncology at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), has earned an international reputation in both translational and basic research. He has focused on the basic mechanisms of tumor suppressor genes—genes that protect against cancer—and oncogenes—genes that predispose cells to develop into cancer, and the development of cancer drugs that interrupt these mechanisms.

Dr. Sellers has played a key role in the discovery of molecular pathways of cancer and the understanding of cancer genetics, including co-leading the team that discovered EGFR mutations in lung cancer. At NIBR, he oversees drug discovery efforts conducted by research and clinical groups in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Basel, Switzerland; East Hanover, New Jersey; and Shanghai, China.

Specifically, his past research efforts focused on understanding genetic alterations in prostate cancer and decoding the role of mutations in PTEN in the deregulation of PI3K signaling. He served as a principal investigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Broad Institute and co-directed efforts to develop the use of high-resolution genomic approaches, which led to the discovery of MITF as an oncogene in melanoma and oncogenic activating mutations in EGFR in lung adenocarcinoma and glioblastoma. His efforts overseeing the oncology groups at NIBR led to the advancement of more than 30 new medicines into cancer clinical trials. In addition, he oversaw the development of the first allosteric ABL inhibitor along with CART and ADC therapeutics. He co-led the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia project and the development of the NIBR PDX Encyclopedia.

Dr. Sellers joined NIBR in 2005 from Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he was associate professor of Medicine and an associate member of the Broad Institute.