Prospective Use of DNA-guided Personalized Cancer Treatment
Emile E. Voest, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Department of Medical Oncology at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht in the Netherlands
René Bernards, Ph.D., head of the Division of Molecular Carcinogenesis at the Netherlands Cancer Institute
Emile E. Voest, M.D., Ph.D., is head of the department of medical oncology at the University Medical Center Utrecht. He also serves as chair of the Center for Personalized Cancer Treatment (a joint effort of the UMC Utrecht, Erasmus MC and NKI/AvL), director of the Graduate School of Life Sciences Ph.D. program “Clinical and Translational Oncology” of the University of Utrecht and as chair of the scientific council of the Dutch Cancer Society.
His translational research has focused on improving systemic treatment for patients with cancer. This includes the clinical development of targeted agents, discovery and validation of biomarkers and identification of new targets of treatment to overcome chemoresistance.
Voest became registered as a medical doctor in 1985. He became board certified as an internist in July 1993, and as a medical oncologist in January 1995. He completed his Ph.D. program on the enhancement of the efficacy of anthracyclines by modulation of iron metabolism in tumor cells in June 1993 (cum laude). In 1994 and 1995, he was a postdoctoral fellow of the Dutch Cancer Society. As a postdoctoral fellow he joined the laboratory of Dr. Judah Folkman at Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., and worked on endogenous inhibitors of angiogenesis. Thereafter, he worked at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam on high dose chemotherapy. In November 1999, he became a full professor in medical oncology. He currently serves in a variety of scientific committees and advisory boards. He has several patents to his name in the field of angiogenesis and biomarkers and recently founded the spin-out company PIFA Therapeutics that investigates reversal of resistance to anti-cancer treatment. He has co-authored more than 180 manuscripts that together have been cited almost 6,000 times.
The department of medical oncology at the UMC Utrecht has several preclinical and translational research lines including mitotic checkpoints, chemoresistance and genetic analyses of tumors in relation to treatment outcome. The program also includes a large phase I unit with a devoted team of nurses, scientists, data managers and clinicians. The preclinical research program and the early clinical trial program are mutually supportive and have a strong interaction.
Voest will serve as one of the team leaders in the Stand Up To Cancer International Translational Research Grant “Prospective Use of DNA-guided Personalized Cancer Treatment.”
René Bernards, Ph.D., is head of the division of molecular carcinogenesis at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam and professor of molecular carcinogenesis at Utrecht University. He also serves as chief scientific officer at Agendia Inc., a molecular diagnostics company he co-founded in 2003. His laboratory focuses on the identification of biomarkers that can help identify patients that are most likely to benefit from specific cancer therapies. To enable this, his laboratory developed the first shRNA libraries to carry out genome-wide functional genetic screens. These tools have made major new lines of research possible for cancer researchers across the world. His own laboratory has used this technology to find novel cancer-relevant genes in major signaling pathways. Examples include the identification of the cylindromatosis tumor suppressor gene as a regulator of NF-kB signaling and the finding that the NF1 tumor suppressor acts in retinoic acid signaling. In addition, these biomarkers can suggest combination therapies to combat drug resistance. A very recent example is their finding that BRAF inhibition in BRAF mutant colon cancer is only effective when combined with inhibition of the EGFR. The “MammaPrint” 70 gene prognosis profile for breast cancer is an example of a multi-gene biomarker co-developed by his laboratory. This gene profile is currently used worldwide by clinicians to help assess the risk of recurrence in early stage breast cancer through the company co-founded by Bernards.
Bernards has co-authored some 175 manuscripts that together have been cited over 20,000 times. He received several awards for his research, including the Pezcoller Foundation-FECS Recognition for Contribution to Oncology, the Ernst W. Bertner Award for Cancer Research from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award in Translational Research in Breast Cancer and the Spinoza award from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. He is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Bernards is a molecular biologist. He received his doctorate in 1984 from the University of Leiden. He joined the laboratory of Robert A. Weinberg, Ph.D., at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge for his postdoctoral training. Here, he studied the function of both oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. He continued this work when he joined the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center as an assistant professor in 1988. In 1992, he was appointed senior staff scientist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. In 1994, he was appointed part-time professor of molecular carcinogenesis at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.
Bernards will serve as one of the team leaders in the Stand Up To Cancer International Translational Research Grant “Prospective Use of DNA-guided Personalized Cancer Treatment.”