Simon Bekker-Jensen receives the Danish Cancer Society’s Junior Researcher Award – University of Copenhagen

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31 May 2016

Simon Bekker-Jensen receives the Danish Cancer Society’s Junior Researcher Award


Simon Bekker-Jensen studies cells’ reactions to different types of stress, including what happens when a cancer cell is exposed to cancer treatments. Increased knowledge on these processes may lead to improved cancer treatments. At the weekend, as one of two talented young SUND cancer researchers, Simon Bekker-Jensen received the Danish Cancer Society’s Junior Researcher Award.

All future treatments are based on basic research. And it is within this field 36-year-old Simon Bekker-Jensen works. Simon Bekker-Jensen is Associate Professor at Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research and the Centre for Healthy Ageing. More precisely, he studies how cells repair their DNA, knowledge that may lead to more effective treatments as well as fewer side effects when using chemo and radiation therapy.

Both treatments work by way of damaging the cancer cells’ DNA, i.e. killing them. However, as the cancer cells are also capable of repairing part of the damage, some cancer cells survive treatments. This could bring the cancer back and lead to increased doses of radiation and chemo in order to kill as many cancer cells as possible – which then leads to patients suffering side effects.

Simon Bekker-Jensen is one of two young cancer researchers who have just received the Danish Cancer Society’s Award of DKK 75,000 for his promising cancer research. His studies on how cancer cells repair damage to their DNA has led to a number of ground-breaking results, including the answer to how cancer cells discover damages to their DNA in the first place.

Simon Bekker-Jensen’s research enables the development of drugs to prevent cancer cells locating the areas with damaged DNA, and if the damages are not repaired, the chemo and radiation therapies will prove more effective even at lower dosages. Today, only few drugs have that ability, however, thanks to the knowledge contributed by Simon Bekker-Jensen, it will hopefully be possible to develop new and more effective drugs to treat more types of cancer.

Good advice led to a career in cancer research

Simon Bekker-Jensen always wanted to be a researcher. His first choice was actually AIDS research, however, advice from his supervisor of ten years ago led the young and ambitious engineering student to apply for a position with the Danish Cancer Society.

“He advised med to aim for the field with the very best researchers and the leading laboratory. And in Denmark, it was the cancer laboratory at the Danish Cancer Society, headed by Jiri Bartek and Jiri Lukas. They employed me and very quickly I was completely absorbed in trying to find the answer to what makes cancer cells different from other cells,” says Simon Bekker-Jensen.

And the young researcher will continue to focus on the DNA repair system in the future. He has just been appointed group leader at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Healthy Ageing. His group will examine how cells generally react when stressed, e.g. by cancer treatments. It may improve our knowledge on how cells defend themselves against various diseases, especially as we get older – including cancer.

Read about this year’s other Junior Researcher Award winner, Janine Erler.

About the Junior Researcher Award

Each year, the Danish Cancer Society awards two Junior Researcher Awards to young, promising researchers who have performed exceptionally well in Danish cancer research. The award amounts to DKK 75,000.