René Bernards is a professor of molecular carcinogenesis at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. He studied medical biology at the University of Amsterdam, obtained his PhD in 1984 from Leiden University in molecular oncology. After this, he became a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge and joined Massachusetts General Hospital as an assistant professor in 1988. In 1992 he moved to his current position at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. His laboratory identified the FDA-approved 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, which has helped over 150,000 women in optimizing their treatment decision.
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 a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the AACR Academy.

Research Interests

Rene Bernards' laboratory uses functional genomic approaches to find vulnerabilities of cancers that can be exploited therapeutically. His laboratory uses the power of genetics to identify highly effective drug combinations for the treatment of cancer and to find vulnerabilities of cancer cells of a defined genotype. A more recent research interest is the identification of acquired vulnerabilities of drug resistant cancer cells. This offers the possibility to find novel effective therapies when standard of care therapy has failed. His current research focusses on exploiting senescence for the treatment of cancer. A particularly attractive therapeutic approach that emerges from the concept of pro-senescence therapies for cancer is the ?one-two punch? sequential treatment regimen. In this approach the first therapy consists of the induction of senescence in the cancer cells, which is followed by a second therapy that aims to kill the senescent cancer cells. His laboratory has recently provided the first proof of concept that such a treatment regimen can be effective.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 41: Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology