Stars of cancer research

Get up close and personal with star cancer researchers from around the world brought to you by QIAGEN. Read about their experiences, thoughts and visions.

1Elaine Mardis

Elaine Mardis

Co-Executive Director, Institute for Genomic Medicine, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Prof. Elaine Mardis is also Professor of Pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. Prof. Mardis was President of the AACR in 2019–20. She has research interests in the application of genomic technologies to improving our understanding of human disease, and toward improving the precision of medical diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. She devised methods and automation that contributed to the Human Genome Project and has since played key roles in the 1000 Genomes Project, The Cancer Genome Atlas, and the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project.

The person who inspired me most in my career was …

Each of our patients. I’m constantly inspired by cancer patients, especially our pediatric patients, and their families. Their inspiration makes me want to work even harder to find answers that will help them to win against this horrible disease.

The most important advancement in cancer research that must happen in the next five years …

I think we need to begin to implement blood-based early detection of cancer, and monitoring of treatment response by liquid biopsy in the next five years, for people with susceptibility to develop cancer based on genetics, family history or age. I also feel we need to achieve the same level of genomic profiling and use of targeted and immunotherapies in our pediatric cancer patients as has been achieved in adults.

Get as much experience in scientific research as you can. Read, read, read! And ask questions!

How societies should change over the next 10 years to help control and prevent cancer …

Ideally, we need to decrease the environmental contributors to cancer, such as air pollution, smoking, and sun exposure. And encourage healthy lifestyles by promoting exercise and decreased obesity. Prevention is key and there are a lot of cancers that can be prevented by adopting lifestyle changes that will have health benefits beyond cancer prevention. Finally, I hope we can find ways to broaden access for all patients. And to experience the dramatic progress we’ve made in the past few years in terms of diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Be inspired – Read the full profile here

2Klaus Pantel

Klaus Pantel

Director, Institute of Tumor Biology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

Klaus Pantel is a liquid biopsy pioneer and played a leading role in the international Cancer-ID consortium from 2015 to 2019. He is collaborating and researching on cancer micrometastasis, circulating tumor cells and circulating nucleic acids.

The most important research breakthrough is …

The development of the new diagnostic concept of “liquid biopsy” (i.e., detection and characterization of tumor cells and tumor cell products in blood or other body fluids).

“Each year almost 10 million people die of cancer worldwide and to contribute translational cancer research with the potential to reduce this number is my strongest motivation.”

The person who inspired me most in my career was …

My post-doc mentor Prof. Alexander Nakeff (Ph.D.) from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, USA.

The happiest moment in my scientific career was …

When I received my second ERC Advanced Investigator Grant (May 2019) and I was highlighted in the journal “Die Zeit” as “Mensch des Monats.”

Get motivated – Read the full profile here

3Susan Branford

Sue Branford

Centre for Cancer Biology, SA Pathology, Adelaide, Australia

Early in her career, Sue Branford was working in a pathology laboratory when her mentor encouraged her to start studying for a Ph.D. Now she is a National Health and Medical Research Council Research Fellow and leads the International Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia Genomics Alliance.

Cancer research is important to me because…

Cancer touches many people at some stage during their lifetime and being involved in cancer research is a privilege and is rewarding on many fronts. I have been fortunate that my research has translated into the clinic to directly benefit patients and influence management decisions. Individual patients have been monitored over the course of successful therapy for many years and we continue to work toward finding the reasons why some patients don’t have a successful outcome.

There are many happy moments and they mostly involve discovery. I enjoy nothing more than trawling through large datasets and finding potential new reasons for treatment failure.

The most important research breakthrough is …

I hope this is still to come but I was pleased to be involved in the discovery of the major mechanism of drug resistance for patients treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitor drugs. This is a mutation within the portion of the fusion gene where the drug binds. Characterization of the mutations is essential for patients with drug resistance and guides subsequent drug selection.

Find out more – Read the full profile here

4Pithi Chanvorate

Pithi Chanvorate

Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Prof. Pithi Chanvorachote is professor at the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. He is inspired by finding the best therapies to suit individuals and specific populations. And he has investigated herbal and marine organism extracts for use in cancer therapy and in “cosmeceuticals.” He is the recipient of the TRF-CHE-Scopus Young Researcher Award sponsored by Elsevier, The Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and The Office of Higher Education Commission, Thailand (OHEC).

The person who inspired me most in my career was…

One may think about the key experts or famous scientists. I would rather think of a huge number of cancer patients who are suffering from the disease as well as the traumatic idea that only limited hope could be expected.

Moreover, the incidence rate is increasing, and includes those who are close to us. That’s why, not only myself, but all cancer researchers I think, work harder.

The happiest moment in my scientific career was…

There have been many happy moments. But if I were to mention the top one, it would be that I have been working so hard and became so active that others gain trust in what I have provided to the scientific community to the level that numerous public and private sectors sponsored my work.

Discover more – Read the full profile here

5Seock-Ah Im

Seock-Ah Im

Cancer Research Institute, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Prof. Seock-Ah Im focuses on translation research of breast cancer. Unlike in western countries, in Korea the highest prevalence of breast cancer is in premenopausal women. Prof. Im is focusing on research and clinical trials on likely therapeutic candidates in this population and recently authored a paper in Nature presenting promising results.

Synergistic collaborative work between basic researchers and clinicians opens the door for so many insights with such a big impact for patient management. We are all fascinated by the outcome and there is still more to come.

If I were starting my career again …

I would put in more effort to learn effective English communication skills and English grammar to better describe my experimental work in English. My main motivation has always been the prolongation of my patients’ lives with more convenient targeted agents. I used targeted agents including HER-2 directed agents or DNA damage repair inhibitors including PARP inhibitors, in vitro and in vivo experiments, and subsequently designed clinical trials for breast or gastric cancer patients. To perform these “Bench to the clinic studies”, it is very important to communicate with a global research team and I feel that my English skills are not proficient enough to explain my ideas appropriately.

See how – Read the full profile here

6Sabine Kasimir-Bauer

Sabine Kasimir-Bauer

Head of Laboratory, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, University Hospital Essen, Germany

Prof. Kasimir-Bauer is researching into breast and ovarian cancer. Her team established workflows to study multianalytes in the ELIMA (Evaluation of multiple Liquid biopsy analytes In Metastatic breast cancer patients All from one blood sample) studies. She is also a long-term collaborator with QIAGEN R&D.

The happiest moment in my scientific career was …

What really makes me happy is to go to exciting scientific meetings like the AACR, the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium or the special meeting about tumor cells. I like the new inputs, the discussions and most importantly, I have built a wonderful scientific network and made friends with people from all over the world.

I think that we all have to be “more translational,” use the scientific resources we have, build up scientific networks, include clinicians and also pharmaceutical companies to move ideas forward more quickly.

I would recommend to young scientists …

Not to give up. If you are fond of science, stick to it. Of course, there are frustrating moments when your paper or grant has been rejected but believe in your ideas, be open and build up your network. Finally, you will be successful.

I want to be remembered …

As a deep hearted, honest scientist who is doing research to improve the prognosis of our breast and ovarian cancer patients and who is always inspiring and supporting young scientists.

Learn why – Read the full profile here

7Toh Han Chong

Toh Han Chong

Deputy Medical Director, National Cancer Centre Singapore

Toh Han Chong received the National Outstanding Clinician Scientist Award 2018 for developing and building a cancer immunotherapy program in Singapore. He is on the Cancer Immunotherapy faculty of the European Society of Medical Oncology. And he has published over 120 peer review papers including in the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology, Nature Genetics, Lancet Oncology, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Journal of Hepatology, Molecular Therapy, Clinical Cancer Research and Cancer Gene Therapy.

The most important publication in cancer research is …

Tough to choose as there are so many! And all these jigsaw pieces add up to create a clearer sharper picture! I would say that the most important publication not just in cancer research but in biomedical science would be the 1953 Nature paper by James Watson and Francis Crick describing for the first time the structure and biological significance of DNA.

I would say that the most important publication not just in cancer research but in biomedical science would be the 1953 Nature paper by James Watson and Francis Crick describing for the first time the structure and biological significance of DNA.

How societies should change over the next 10 years to help control and prevent cancer …

Much wider reaching simple interventions like dietary and lifestyle modifications, stronger national anti-smoking policies especially in countries challenged by a high smoking rate, and investments into exploring preventive drug interventions such as anti-inflammatory agents. In some developing countries, even routine screening such as cervical smear and mammography are lacking.

I would recommend to young scientists …

Don’t think of failure as a foe but as a friend. Learn from setbacks, come back stronger, love the journey of discovery and creating new knowledge, and always have a dream, vision and hope. Find a good and wise mentor who can guide you well. And know how and when to turn back from a blind alley to find a new road. Or even create your own road!


QIAGEN is the leading global provider of Sample to Insight solutions to transform biological materials into valuable molecular insights. QIAGEN’s mission is to make improvements in life possible by enabling customers to achieve outstanding success and breakthroughs. For cancer research solutions, visit the QIAGEN Cancer Research Community.