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[TECHtalk] Thinking Differently about Cancer Drug Therapy

René Bernards
Netherlands Cancer Institute, The Netherlands


Conventional cancer therapy consists of using drugs at a maximum tolerated dose, which in advanced disease almost invariably leads to resistance. In this lecture, I will discuss four strategies to either delay onset of resistance or even take advantage of resistance development for therapeutic benefit. As one example, I will discuss how we can use sequential drug treatment to deliver a lethal “one-two punch” to cancer cells. In this scenario, we use the first drug to expose a major new vulnerability of the cancer cells that is subsequently targeted by the second drug. This has the advantage that the drugs do not have to be given at the same time, which allows combination of a much broader range of cancer drugs, as co-administration of drugs may be limited by toxicities. Examples of effective sequential drug treatments based on the induction of senescence in cancer followed by selective killing of senescent cells will be presented.


René Bernards is a professor of molecular carcinogenesis at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. His laboratory uses functional genomic approaches to find vulnerabilities of cancers that can be exploited therapeutically. His laboratory identified the combination of a BRAF inhibitor and an EGFR inhibitor as effective for the treatment of BRAF mutant colon cancer. He also developed the first clinically used gene expression test for early breast cancer prognosis: MammaPrint.

Amongst his honors are the Pezcoller Foundation Award, the Ernst Bertner Award for Cancer Research from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the AACR Academy.



Host: Alberto Villanueva