After Gerjon Ikink's graduation in Wageningen in Biology (specialisation: Molecular and Cell Biology) a world of opportunities lay ahead of him. "Will I continue in research or turn to consultancy, or both combined? And will that be at a corporation, government, a university, an NGO or an institute? And then abroad again as during my internship, or staying in the Netherlands for a change?"
In the end, I decided to choose for research in a major problem of society, at one of the finest institutes worldwide: The Dutch Cancer Institute. I frequently meet people from Wageningen here, too. Even my group supervisor, who has studied Molecular Life Sciences in Wageningen.
It was a long quest for that single gene causing the disease of cancer, as many other diseases have. Soon it became clear that not a single, but multiple genes were responsible. Nowadays we know that every type of cancer, and even subtype, is the result of a whole unique and complex network of genes. These networks normally keep your cells and body fit, though are abused by cancer for unregulated growth and metastasis.
I work on one of the most fundamental sides of cancer research: the discovery of new genes and genetic networks involved in breast cancer. The challenge therein lies at being occupied with matters no one has ever done before and discovering things no one has ever seen. Through a combination of many different molecular, genetic and cell biological techniques we can make for an ever more complete picture of the complex networks finally causing breast cancer. And if part thereof is complete, we can try to direct a protein or gene such that it will reset the whole genetic network back to a healthy cell again. This way, cancer cells can safely be destructed in a clinic, without causing damage to healthy cells as with chemotherapy and radiation.