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Erik Danen appointed as Professor of Cancer drug target discovery

As of April 1, 2018, Erik Danen has been appointed as Professor of Cancer drug target discovery at the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR). His discipline is cell biology of cancer, in which he focuses on the mechanisms underlying metastasis and therapy resistance.

From America to Leiden

After his PhD in Nijmegen in 1996 and a three-year postdoc position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in America, Danen worked as postdoc and research associate at the Dutch Cancer Institute in Amsterdam until 2005. In 2006, he started as assistant professor, tenure track at the LACDR. He obtained his tenure as associate professor in 2012.

International reputation

Danen counts as a scientist with an international reputation, built on his research on the underlying mechanisms of the interaction of cells with their micro-environment. He is known for the high productivity and impact of his research, which has provided key fundamental insights and translation towards new possibilities for cancer therapy.

Nice acknowledgement

‘This means a nice acknowledgement for my group’s work’, Danen says about his appointment. ‘I will continue the fundamental research into the contacts of cells with their environment. How do healthy cells succeed in delicately coordinating signals from their complex environment and how does this become disrupted in cancer cells? Unravelling these mechanisms gives us starting points for further preclinical research into cancer and other fields of attention, such as fibrosis formation.’ 


‘I want to gain knowledge about the complex interactions in tissues and organs, and reveal how these interactions become disrupted in diseases such as cancer’, he says about his future goals. ‘I want to contribute to the translation of these insights into clinical applications. In that context, I also want to further intensify the interaction with pharma and biotech companies, where we use our models for innovative drugs research.’

Collaboration within the University

Danen builds 3D tissue models and studies these with ‘omics’ technologies and advanced microscopy. Much of his research takes place at the Leiden Cell Observatory. In collaboration with the Institute of Biology (IBL) a pipeline for automated whole animal bio-imaging of cancer growth and dissemination has been established using zebrafish models. Furthermore, together with the Leiden Institute of Physics (LION) he has developed a methodology to study the biophysical aspects of cell adhesion and cell migration. Finally, he is working on the combination of microscopy and computational modelling in collaborations within the LACDR and together with the Mathematical Institute (MI).    

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