About 80% of their match is due to personal reasons, they admit. Bergman: "You need someone who can give you strength, who is a good fit. Wilbert focus was exclusively on estrogen, the female sex hormone that causes breast cancer to spread. As an oncologist, I work with prostate cancer, which is determined by the male sex hormone, testosterone. During our first conversation we wondered how we could tie fundamental, molecular research into this connection between testosterone and prostate cancer, to patient research. A month later I called Wilbert to ask him if we could set up a project together. We immediately wrote a proposal."
Nowadays, the two 'buddies' often work in the same room: Zwart's main office. Bergman spends two days a week at the H-building and three days at the hospital. "We often discuss our work in the evenings. André loves Korean food, and I've grown to like it too. When we go out to eat, we gain pages full of ideas about new potential collaborations, projects, and clinical studies. We have more ideas than time," Zwart admits.
The collaboration between lab and clinic has taken prostate cancer research to new levels. Bergman: "We feel an urgency to make fast progress in cancer research. Personal collaborations are essential for this kind of progress, as they lead to better research and quicker applications." Zwart: "Doctors and researchers have been distinguishing between many different types of breast cancer for decennia, but no one ever described the different types of prostate cancer. We are now able to predict whether a particular tumour will return by looking at nine specific genes in our patients' DNA. We also know which patients will benefit from additional treatment. This knowledge is still highly scientific, but we focus on ways of implementing these tests in the clinic in our research."