An internationally revered scientist, Dr. Berns has transformed cancer research by elucidating the molecular genetic underpinnings of cancer. He demonstrated that retroviruses are capable of inducing murine lymphoma in vivo, an observation that led him to continue to utilize viruses and mouse models to analyze the genetic drivers of cancer. Through these studies, he established the use of proviral insertional mutagenesis to identify and characterize oncogenes responsible for inducing cancer. Drugs against several of these are currently being tested in clinical trials.
By utilizing retroviruses, Dr. Berns, in collaboration with Dr. Maarten van Lohuizen, has identified close to 600 candidate oncogenes and tumor suppressors in tumor-prone mice. This research has been essential in understanding the primary genetic insults that contribute to cancer onset and has stimulated research in laboratories worldwide. He has optimized transgenic mouse models to allow for the characterization of cancer-specific signal transduction cascades as well as to elucidate the interplay between oncogenes and tumor suppressors throughout the carcinogenic process. Dr. Berns demonstrated the importance of isogenic DNA for targeting in embryonic stem cells, altering the established “targeting” strategy in the field. He also shown that tumor heterogeneity in small cell lung cancer has a functional role via paracrine signaling between tumor subclones, thereby augmenting metastasis, and that the cells of origin in lung cancer directly influence tumor phenotypes.
Dr. Berns is a strong proponent of team science and international collaborations. He is the leading Principal Investigator of a prestigious European Research Council Synergy grant, COMBATCANCER, in which several group leaders of The Netherlands Cancer Institute collaborate closely with colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom to develop more effective combination therapies against various cancers.
2016 Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences
2014-2016 President-Elect, European Association for Cancer Research
2011 Josephine Nefkens Prize for Cancer Research
2010-2012 Secretary General, European Molecular Biology Organization
2010 Elected Member, European Academy of Cancer Sciences
2008 Queen Wilhelmina Research Prize, Dutch Cancer Society
2006 Massachusetts General Hospital Award in Cancer Research
2002 AKZO Nobel Science Award
1999-2011 Chairman, Board of Directors, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital
1999 Elected Member, Academia Europaea
1997 Elected Member, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam
1993 Prix Antoine de Lacassagne, France Cancer Society
1990 Elected Member, European Molecular Biology Organization
1973 Gold Medal, Royal Dutch Chemical Society
1972 PhD, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands