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Hans Clevers, MD, PhD, FAACR, Recognized With 2021 Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research

PHILADELPHIA — The Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research will be presented to Hans Clevers, MD, PhD, FAACR, at the virtual AACR Annual Meeting 2021, to be held April 10-15 and May 17-21.

Clevers, widely considered one of the world’s leading experts on adult stem cell biology, is being honored for a series of breakthrough discoveries that led to the development of mini-organs, now called organoids. The ability to generate organoids from stem cells has been an essential first step toward the growth of the regenerative cancer medicine field. This unique cancer model system has also been instrumental in establishing new avenues of research involving the testing of novel anticancer therapeutics on tissues derived from tumors and cultured as organoids.

Early in his career, Clevers’ research group first studied the behavior of the intestine in normal physiological states. During these studies, his group cloned the transcription factor TCF1, which has since been proven to be a vital component in the Wnt signaling pathway. Next, Clevers demonstrated the link between Wnt signaling and adult stem cell biology by demonstrating that TCF4 gene disruption leads to the elimination of small intestine crypts, while the targeted knockout of the TCF1 gene severely disables the stem-cell compartment of the thymus. Together with Bert Vogelstein, MD, FAACR, he also showed that mutations in the Wnt signaling pathway are capable of contributing to colon cancer onset and progression. This finding has since propelled countless research efforts focused on the development of novel anticancer therapeutics that precisely target the Wnt signaling pathway.

“We are extremely proud to honor Dr. Clevers with this year’s Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His pioneering research in stem cell biology, which led to the establishment of organoids as an essential model system for cancer research, has deepened our understanding of cancer’s origins and revolutionized cancer drug development for the benefit of patients around the world.”

The Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research was established in 1997 to annually recognize a scientist who has made a major scientific discovery in basic or translational cancer research. The awardee must be active in cancer research, have a record of recent noteworthy publications, and be conducting ongoing work that holds promise for continued substantive contributions to progress in the field of cancer.

Clevers is the principal investigator at the Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research, and the principal investigator at the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology, Utrecht, the Netherlands. Additionally, Clevers is an investigator at the Oncode Institute in the Netherlands, and a professor of molecular genetics at the University Medical Center in Utrecht. He has been a member of the AACR since 2007 and was elected as a Fellow of the AACR Academy in 2014. He previously served as a member of the AACR Board of Directors from 2013-2016, and as a leader of the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C)–Dutch Cancer Society Tumor Organoids Dream Team formed in 2014. The AACR is the Scientific Partner of SU2C.

Clevers also served as president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences from 2012-2015. He was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012.

Clevers received the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in 2013 and has been honored with many other awards throughout his career, including the Keio Medical Science Prize (2019), Academia Europaea Erasmus Medal (2018), Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern (2017), Princess Takamatsu Award of Merit (2017), the Ilse & Helmut Wachter Award (2016), Swammerdam Medaille (2016), the Körber European Science Prize (2016), Kazemi Award for Research Excellence in Biomedicine (2016), The Academy Professor Prize of the Royal Netherlands Academy (2016), ISSCR McEwen Award for Innovation (2015), National Icon of the Netherlands (2014), Struyvenberg European Society for Clinical Investigation Medal (2014), Massachusetts General Hospital Award in Cancer Research (2014), the Heineken Prize for Medicine (2012), William Beaumont Prize of the American Gastroenterology Association (2012), Association pour la Recherche sur le Cancer Léopold Griffuel Prize (2012), Kolff Prize (2011), the Ernst Jung Medical Award (2011), the United European Gastroenterology Federation Research Prize (2010), the Queen Wilhelmina Dutch Cancer Society Award (2009), Meyenburg Cancer Research Award (2008), Josephine Nefkens Prize for Cancer Research (2008), Rabbi Shai Shacknai Memorial Prize for Immunology and Cancer Research (2006), Katharine Berkan Judd Award (2005), the Science and Society Prize (2005), Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine (2004), Spinoza Award of the Netherlands Research Council (2001), Award from the European Society of Clinical Investigation (2001), and the Catharijne Prize  (2000).

Clevers earned his medical degree and doctoral degree in biology at the University of Utrecht.