The aim of Peter de Keizer’s group is to unravel the molecular mechanisms that cause cells to become senescent and to identify how these cells drive aging and age-related diseases. The role of senescence in late-stage therapy-resistant cancer is a major component of this research. The research has a strong translational component and a spearpoint of the group is to develop methods to target the deleterious effects of senescent and senescent-like cancer cells, for instance by eliminating them altogether. In 2004, Peter obtained his MSc in Biomolecular Science form Utrecht University. The final part of his training was performed at Harvard Medical School / Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA. Here, he focused on therapy-resistant Glioblastoma, the most lethal form of brain cancer, something which is now on of the focus areas of the group. In 2009, Peter obtained his PhD from UMC Utrecht on the regulation of FOXO proteins under conditions of stress and their role in tumor suppression. During these years, he identified FOXOs as targets in oncogene and damage-induced senescence (e.g. PhD thesis 2009 and de Keizer et al., Cancer Research 2010). Being highly intrigued by cellular senescence, he joined the lab of a pioneer in the field, Prof. dr. Judith Campisi, at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, in Novato, CA, USA. As a fellow of the Dutch Cancer Society, he focused on the molecular regulation of senescence, identified senescence heterogeneity and generated the first and second generation of compounds to eliminate senescent and therapy-resistant cancer cells (e.g. patent US20130288981 A1; 2012).
In 2012, Peter joined the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, where he designed the third generation of anti-senescence drugs: the FOXO4-DRI peptide, aka Proxofim. This proved to be effective in counteracting signs of chemotoxicity and, excitingly, was able to restore certain healthspan features in models for fast and natural aging, e.g. fur density, behavior and renal function. (Baar et al., Cell, 2017). This research received worldwide media attention, including coverage in numerous TV and radio shows, newspapers and blogs.
In January 2018, Peter joined the University Medical Center Utrecht as assistant professor, where his group will be focused on identifying the molecular variation in individual senescence phenotypes and how senescence dictates (cancer) stemness, cancer metastases and therapy resistance. In parallel the group is highly dedicated to develop the next generation of anti-senescence drugs with an improved safety profile to allow for human translation.