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Maarten van Lohuizen gained his PhD
at the NKI in 1992 studying oncogenes with Anton Berns. After a
postdoc at the University of California, San Francisco, he returned
to the NKI in 1995 and heads the Division of Molecular Genetics. He
works on the master switches that control cell and tissue
development, and how these go wrong in cancer. His group is working
on one set of these switches, known as the Polycomb group proteins,
which control cell fate and identity both during embryonic
development and throughout adult life. These proteins are known to
be involved in tumor formation, and the group has been working out
how, which could lead to the development of more effective
combinations of drugs for treating cancer.
Anton Berns served as director of
the NKI from 1999-2011 whilst retaining a research group, and now
continues as a full-time group leader. His aim is to quicken the
pace of basic cancer research in order to get the associated
benefits to patients sooner. His group uses mouse models,
particularly for lung cancer and mesothelioma, which are two of the
deadliest cancers, to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms
of cancer progression with the hope of developing methods to cure
it. Looking ahead, he hopes that once they can cure a cancer in
mice, a similar intervention can be applied in humans.