DNA damage as the molecular basis for aging and cancer

TEFAF Oncology Chair for molecular geneticist Jan Hoeijmakers

Today Prof Jan Hoeijmakers (Erasmus MC) accepted the TEFAF Oncology Chair, a special chair for scientists with an exceptional reputation in the field of cancer research. The professor of molecular genetics has made his name in the scientific world with research into the influence of DNA damage on aging and the development of cancer. The special chair at Maastricht UMC+/Maastricht University is sponsored by the board of the TEFAF art fair, which takes place from 10 through 19 March at MECC Maastricht.

DNA is the basis of the human genome and contains the blueprint for each individual. Although the genetic material is safely packed in the billions of cells in the body, it is inevitable that external and internal factors will harm the DNA. Damage can be caused by smoking, alcohol, UV radiation and chemicals, and even by our own respiration. Ultimately, this leads to aging and, in some cases, to cancer. Although the human body is equipped with its own repair mechanism, that system can and will fall short eventually.

DNA repair

Prof Hoeijmakers researches how DNA damage can be avoided at the molecular level to prevent the aging process and the development of cancer. For example, his research group discovered which repair mechanisms protect us from DNA damage. In doing so, he also investigated the effects of various nutrients on the molecular repair processes the body uses to repair DNA. On the whole, Hoeijmakers has focused a spotlight on DNA damage and recovery as an important process in aging and the development of cancer.


Along with the TEFAF art fair, the GROW research institute from Maastricht UMC+/Maastricht University, together with the Kankeronderzoeksfonds Limburg (Limburg Cancer Research Fund), established an annual special chair called the TEFAF Oncology Chair. The chair holder is associated with GROW as an endowed professor for one year, and gives regular master classes and lectures during that time.

Prof Jan Hoeijmakers is head of the Molecular Genetics department at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. He has won various awards and honours, such as the Spinoza Prize (1999), an ERC Advanced Grant (2008) and the Mendel Medal (2012). In addition, Hoeijmakers is a Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion, a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and a consultant to the Nobel Prize committee (2014-2015). Quite recently, he won the prestigious Olav Thon international research prize, worth more than €500,000, and was awarded a second ERC Advanced Grant.

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