Amsterdam's leading cancer research

Amsterdam has been a globally recognised hub of cancer expertise for more than a century, and in the process has devised impressive ways of translating knowledge from the lab into real solutions for patients as quickly as possible. Many established oncological research institutes call Amsterdam home, such as the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), the VUmc Cancer Center Amsterdam and the Oncologic Research Centre AMC. Together they employ nearly 9,000 people and produce around 4,000 scientific articles every year. These institutions have recently united to create the Oncology Graduate School Amsterdam, training the new experts working on tomorrow’s cures and treatments. 

In this way, Amsterdam is bringing these researchers closer together, fostering a true sense of community with shared goals. This is the strength of this city, and why two science parks were created: the Amsterdam Science Park and the Medical Business Park. Together they promote the integration of the oncological research emerging from Amsterdam’s research institutions into the work of the companies that can best use it. Each park offers companies space to work alongside the various scientific institutes and faculties, removing geographical obstacles to effective collaboration. The Innovation Exchange Amsterdam is another organisation that brings the accumulated knowledge of these institutes together, helping them bring their scientific discoveries to the greater public.

One vivid example of the benefits of this integrated approach is the newly established Hartwig Medical Foundation, a database of tumour DNA that will promote new cancer treatments and refine current methods. Another recent success story is thromboDx, a molecular diagnostics company established in 2012 to utilise Dr. Tom Würdinger’s ground-breaking research in neuro-oncology at the VUmc CCA. Dr Ton Schumacher and his colleagues at NKI have also been developing tailor-made treatments to help the body fight cancer. Finally, the T-Cell Factory was established in 2014 (and later acquired by Kite Pharma) to manage the relevant patents and intellectual property.

Collaborating on neuroscience

Amsterdam Neuroscience is a new research organisation that brings together the city’s top hospitals and universities. Focusing on Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, it will be one of the largest neuroscience research communities in Europe. The group is also forging business relationships with external stakeholders, from public-private partnerships to research alliances – a shining example of Amsterdam’s collaboration mission.

Ending child obesity

Professors Jaap Seidell and Arnoud Verhoeff are the brains behind the new, cross-disciplinary initiative known as Sarphati Amsterdam. This institute makes local children the focus of cutting-edge research on lifestyle-related diseases, especially obesity. Sarphati Amsterdam, to be launched this year, will pool together the best minds in scientific research, government strategy and the private sector to contribute to the health of Amsterdam’s youth. Its dynamic ‘living lab’ of patients includes about 150,000 children and young adults, which enables the group’s 30 researchers – from ethnographers and paediatricians to anthropologists and microbiologists – to uncover new understanding in preventing obesity.


First published in AMS magazine. Author: Douglas Heingartner