Laura van ‘t Veer and Emiel Rutgers win European Cancer Organisation (ECCO) Clinical Research Award

Intro text: 

08 February 2017


The Breast International Group (BIG) would like to congratulate Professor Laura van ‘t Veer, a world renowned Molecular Biologist, Professor at the University of California San Francisco and Chief Research Officer at Agendia, and Dr. Emiel Rutgers, Professor at the University of Amsterdam and Surgical Oncologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, on winning the European Cancer Organisation’s (ECCO) Clinical Research Award for innovation in breast cancer diagnosis, and the development of diagnostics for implementation in daily clinical practice, including treatment guidelines, regulatory policies and reimbursement. 

The ECCO Clinical Research Award is presented biannually, during the ECCO European Cancer Congress, in recognition of the contribution to the integration of scientific research and clinical practice in the field of cancer. Professor Laura van 't Veer received the award jointly with Dr. Emiel Rutgers, MD, Ph.D., breast surgeon at the Netherlands Cancer Institute at a ceremony on Sunday 29 January at the opening of the third day of the ECCO2017 Congress in Amsterdam.

Dr. Laura van 't Veer is one of the inventors of MammaPrint® 70-Gene Breast Cancer Risk-of-Recurrence Assay, which assesses the likelihood of metastatic recurrence. By identifying women who are at low genomic risk of disease recurrence, and who will likely derive little or no benefit from chemotherapy, the assay assists physicians and their patients around the world in choosing the most appropriate treatment regimen, and sparing many from suffering unnecessary side effects.

Evidence of MammaPrint's potential to transform international clinical practice was recently published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine* following the positive outcome of the MINDACT trial, a phase 3, prospective, randomised trial including 6,693 breast cancer patients from 112 hospitals across nine European countries.

Sponsored by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) as part of an extensive and complex academically-driven international partnership in collaboration with the Breast International Group (BIG), Europa Donna – the European Breast Cancer Coalition, Agendia (the company behind MammaPrint®, the 70-gene test), as well as many other academic and commercial partners, MINDACT is the first prospective translational research study of this magnitude in breast cancer to report the results of its primary objective. It is thus a great example of the power of academic-industry partnerships supported in part by funding from the European Commission, and numerous other research grants.

The co-principal investigators of the MINDACT trial were Dr. Fatima Cardoso, MD Director of the Breast Unit of the Champalimaud Clinical Centre in Lisbon (Portugal), Dr. Emiel Rutgers, MD, Ph.D., Surgical Oncologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, and Dr. Martine Piccart, MD, Ph.D., co-founder and chair of the Breast International Group (BIG), head of the Medicine Department at the Jules Bordet Institute Brussels (Belgium). Dr Piccart is also a previous winner of the ECCO Clinical Research Award in 2009.

Dr. Laura van 't Veer

co-founder and Chief Research Officer of Agendia, and Professor at the University of California, San Francisco said: 'I am very proud to accept this joint award with Emiel Rutgers. We have seen the initial research in this field grow from an idea, to a market-leading gene-expression test, the clinical benefit of which is supported by the highest level of evidence. As a result, women of all ages with early-stage breast cancer are now able to make informed decisions about their treatment based on whether or not they will benefit from chemotherapy. We still have work to do, but for me, that is the real reward.'

Dr. Emiel Rutgers, MD, PH.D.

Surgical Oncologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, added: “The MINDACT trial can be qualified as a landmark study. It has proved that, by evaluating the expression of 70 key genes, MammaPrint® provides an accurate, definitive assessment of the risk of breast cancer recurrence, empowering physicians to make confident, informed treatment decisions with their patients. MammaPrint® is already enabling thousands of patients with early stage breast cancer to safely forego the rigours of chemotherapy across the world. Not only has the MINDACT trial the potential to change the way doctors treat patients with breast cancer, it has also created a huge resource for future research, because research using the participants’ tumour samples, blood samples, and clinical outcomes data could allow us to gain a substantially better understanding of the biology of breast cancer.”

In addition to the ECCO Clinical Research Award, Dr. Laura van 't Veer was awarded the coveted European Inventor Award in the Small and Medium Enterprises Category from the European Patent Office in 2015 for MammaPrint, the European Union Women Innovator Award second prize in 2014, and the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Lifetime Achievement Award for Translational Research in Breast Cancer in 2007.


*THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE (ISSN 0028-4793) Vol. 375:717-729 (August 25, 2016) 
  THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE (ISSN 0028-4793) Vol. 375:790-791 (August 25, 2016)