Group Leader, Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research, Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology
University Professor and Oncode Investigator, Utrecht University
For his pioneering research that uncovered the mechanisms by which Wnt signaling controls gene expression in colon cancer and the self-renewing gut epithelium, which subsequently led to the identification of adult stem cells in healthy tissue and in tumors; and for his groundbreaking research involving the indefinite expansion of stem cells to form organoids in vitro, and for facilitating the adoption of organoids as an essential model system for the study of various cancers and treatment modalities.
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, 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. To learn more, please visit the press release.