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Associate Professor Pieter Eichhorn

  • Cancer

Pieter’s travelled the world and dedicated his career to shutting down one of the most challenging diseases of our time – cancer. His research at CHIRI is specifically focused on identifying why some cancers are sensitive and others resistant to the targeted therapies currently offered to melanoma and breast cancer patients, including chemotherapy.

Through genetic screening, he is looking for adaptive responses to a number of drugs presently being used in the clinic to identify biomarkers in the form of molecules, genes, or characteristics linked to sensitivity. These biomarkers can then be used to identify patients who will benefit most from these treatments.

While targeted therapies have markedly improved outcomes for cancer patients, most responses remain unreliable due to either primary or acquired resistance and have adverse side-effects. According to Pieter, understanding the complexities of how the cells own functions change with cancer treatments can be used to find new ways to specifically treat the disease while maintaining overall body system balance.

Before joining CHIRI, Pieter was a Principal Investigator at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore. His impressive list of appointments also include a position as a Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in the United States, post-doctoral research in the lab of Jose Baselga at Spain’s Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology and Rene Bernards’ lab at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NCI). At the NCI, Pieter’s team worked on some of the world’s first short hairpin RNA knockdown screens in human cells – artificial molecules that can be used to ‘silence’ disease expression in targeted genes. This work lead to the identification of  signalling pathways responsible for resistance to a number of breast cancer therapies presently being used in patients.

What does Pieter love most about CHIRI? He sees the institute as the perfect link between basic, translational and clinical research that provides investigators with collaborative opportunities at all levels.

Research interests – PI3K; ubiquitination; adaptive response; breast cancer.

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