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SU2C Scientific Research Teams

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René Bernards, Ph.D.

Scientific Research Team:
René Bernards, Ph.D.

René Bernards, Ph.D.

Sta Op Tegen Kanker International Translational Cancer Research Team: 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.”