10 October 2016

Inaugural lecture Jacco van Rheenen

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Last week Jacco van Rheenen, group leader at the Hubrecht Institute, gave his inaugural lecture at the University Hall. The title of his lecture wasCancer caught in the actin which Van Rheenen not only spoke about the development of his research but also made a public statement about the importance of diversity in society and science.

Cancer is caused by a collection of errors in our DNA. The differences among cancer cells within a tumour, heterogeneity, is the Achilles’ heel of the disease according to Van Rheenen. These are the differences to need be studied and addressed, and the focus should not only be on the “average” cancer cell. By filming and tracking tumour cells in living tissue over time, the (differences between) individual cells can be studied and thereby also cells that are resists against therapy, and cells that are able to metastasize. This way we can catch the ‘bad guys’ in action.


Van Rheenen also spoke about the importance of diversity within the research community and in politics. Moreover, Van Rheenen thinks diversity is the best way to fight cancer. “Cancer is inextricably linked to creating and maintaining a healthy body. Carcinogenesis we can unfortunately never avert. All we can do is fight. A diverse approach may in the future also lead to a moment where we realize that the deadly nature of cancer is a thing of the past. ”