About René Bernards | keynote address 4 May 2023

René Bernards studied Medical Biology at the University of Amsterdam. After obtaining his PhD at the University of Leiden and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Whitehead Institute (Cambridge, MA, USA), he joined the Netherlands Cancer Institute in 1992. Ever since, Bernards has gained worldwide fame as an innovative and leading scientist in cancer research. His team applies functional genetic screens to investigate the biological mechanisms of therapeutic resistance and to expose weaknesses of cancer cells; such vulnerabilities are then exploited with the help of phased combination therapy using existing and novel drugs. He has successfully introduced such rationally designed, personalized treatment to the clinic.

René Bernards was appointed member of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Academy in 2018 and was elected as a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019 and of the National Academy of Science (2020). View his profile on the NKI website

René Bernards

New approaches to cancer therapy: if you do what you did, you get what you got 

Single-agent cancer therapeutics can initially be highly effective, but resistance remains a major challenge. Combining drugs can help avoid resistance, but the number of possible drug combinations vastly exceeds what can be tested clinically, both financially and in terms of patient availability. Rational drug combinations based on a deep understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms associated with therapy resistance are potentially powerful in the treatment of cancer.

In my lecture I will discuss several innovative ways to combine drugs to produce longer-lasting responses in patients. Examples will include synthetic lethal drug combinations, sequential treatment regimen and our very recent approaches to hyperactivate oncogenic signalling in cancer cells as a therapeutic strategy.

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