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Dirk van Bekkum

In Memoriam: Dirk van Bekkum

(12/01/1954 - 02/23/2015)Member since 1979

Dirk Willem van Bekkum, MD, a founder and former president of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), died July 17, 2015, at the age of 89. He was an emeritus member of the AACR, having first joined in 1979.

Van Bekkum, who was professor emeritus at Leiden University and Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, was a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation and stem cell research; he and his colleagues were among the first to perform bone marrow transplants in the late 1960s.

Born July 30, 1925, in Indonesia, van Bekkum received his medical degree from Leiden University and spent a year with professor Rudolf Peters in the Department of Biochemistry at Oxford in the United Kingdom. Following a sabbatical at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, he introduced the comprehensive cancer center concept in the Netherlands. He founded the first “Comprehensive Cancer Center” in the country in 1977 at Rotterdam, of which he served as executive director.

Van Bekkum had also served as head of the Radiobiological Institute of the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, cofounded the biotechnology firm Crucell, and began the nonprofit organization Cinderella Therapeutics Foundation, which develops stepchild drugs and therapies at affordable prices.

Throughout his career, van Bekkum received numerous honors: He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of the Netherlands, named a Knight of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands, and received the Wolfert van Borsele Medal from the city of Rotterdam.