Facilitating Cross-Disciplinary Interactions to Stimulate Innovation: Stand Up to Cancer’s Matchmaking Convergence Ideas Lab



In the fall of 2014, the leaders of the high-profile nonprofit program Stand Up To Cancer (“SU2C”), whose mission is to raise awareness and funds to increase the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly, and a group at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, a world-famous center for theoretical research in physics and mathematics, teamed up to propose a multidisciplinary meeting to explore novel approaches to cancer research. The participants would include quantitative scientists from various areas of the physical sciences (theoretical physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and engineers) and clinical oncologists, two groups whose disparate research fields do not traditionally intersect. They would be invited to a multiday meeting in order to develop research projects integrating quantitative approaches and clinical cancer research—an exercise in convergence science. The success of the meeting that eventually resulted from this partnership, in engaging a very diverse group of researchers in developing creative, quantitative science-based approaches to advance cancer research using clinical data, ultimately led to the formation of four cross-institutional, multidisciplinary teams of researchers pursuing novel translational research projects that are being funded through a combination of private–public grants. The collaborative efforts that resulted in the February 2015 Convergence Ideas Lab meeting and these Convergence Teams are described below, and might provide guidance for others seeking to organize and facilitate cross-disciplinary interactions to stimulate innovation.


Novel translational cancer research Convergence science Public–private funding partnerships 


  1. Alexandrov LB, Nik-Zainal S, Wedge DC, Campbell PJ, Stratton MR. Deciphering signatures of mutational processes operative in human cancer. Cell Rep. 2013;3(1):246–59. Scholar
  2. Balachandran VP, Łuksza M, et al. Identification of unique neoantigen qualities in long-term survivors of pancreatic cancer. Nature. 2017;551:512–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Guryanova OA, Shank K, Spitzer B, Luciani L, Koche RP, Garrett-Bakelman FE, Ganzel C, Durham BH, Mohanty A, Hoermann G, Rivera SA, Chramiec AG, Pronier E, Bastian L, Keller MD, Tovbin D, Loizou E, Weinstein AR, Gonzalez AR, Lieu YK, Rowe JM, Pastore F, McKenney AS, Krivtsov AV, Sperr WR, Cross JR, Mason CE, Tallman MS, Arcila ME, Abdel-Wahab O, Armstrong SA, Kubicek S, Staber PB, Gönen M, Paietta EM, Melnick AM, Nimer SD, Mukherjee S, Levine RL. DNMT3A mutations promote anthracycline resistance in acute myeloid leukemia via impaired nucleosome remodeling. Nat Med. 2016;22(12):1488–95. Scholar
  4. Hata AN, Niederst MJ, Archibald HL, et al. Tumor cells can follow distinct evolutionary paths to become resistant to epidermal growth factor receptor inhibition. Nat Med. 2016;22(3):262–9. Scholar
  5. Le X, Antony R, Razavi P, Treacy DJ, Luo F, Ghandi M, Castel P, Scaltriti M, Baselga J, Garraway LA. Systematic functional characterization of resistance to PI3K inhibition in breast cancer. Cancer Discov. 2016;6(10):1134–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Łuksza M, Riaz N, Makarov V, Balachandran VP, Hellmann MD, Solovyov A, Rizvi NA, Merghoub T, Levine AJ, Chan TA, Wolchok JD, Greenbaum BD. A neoantigen fitness model predicts tumour response to checkpoint blockade immunotherapy. Nature. 2017;551:517–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ni X, Zhuo M, Su Z, et al. Reproducible copy number variation patterns among single circulating tumor cells of lung cancer patients. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2013;110(52):21083–8. Scholar
  8. NRC (National Research Council). Convergence: facilitating transdisciplinary integration of life sciences, physical sciences, engineering, and beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2014.Google Scholar
  9. Tanne A, Muniz LR, Puzio-Kuter A, Leonova KI, Gudkov AV, Ting DT, Monasson R, Cocco S, Levine AJ, Bhardwaj N, Greenbaum BD. Distinguishing the immunostimulatory properties of noncoding RNAs expressed in cancer cells. PNAS. 2015;112(49):15154–9. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Simons Center for Systems Biology, School of Natural SciencesInstitute for Advanced StudyPrincetonUSA

Personalised recommendations