Sjaak Neefjes

Democracy in topic selection; the immune system, bacteria and cancer or anti-cancer drugs


The Neefjes lab has employed various techniques to visualize the chemical and cell biology of various processes. More recently, the lab used these techniques to study the cell biology of one of the most used anti-cancer drugs, doxorubicin. This has resulted in modifications on doxorubicin that effectively removed the toxic side effects.

Given the number of topics in the Neefjes lab, we decided to perform an experiment and allow the participants of Chains to select from three lines of research on the spot. The most favored one will be presented.

These are:

  1. The mechanisms used by MHC molecules to present peptides from viruses and tumors to the immune system. You can expect nice microscopy images, the process of movement of lysosomes, and data on peptide half-live, protein degradation and transfer into the ER.
  2. How bacteria like Salmonella contribute to cancer. This work was based on the studies under 1. You can expect epidemiology, organoids, mice and human data that show how Salmonella induces cancer. This is an entirely novel mechanism of cancer induction with unknown consequences.
  3. The study of an old but effective anti-cancer drug, doxorubicin. Also this work was based on microscopy analyses (of ubiquitin moving in the nucleus). You can expect microscopy data on the effects of this drug on chromatin and further analyses on the chromosomal sites of action, chemical modifications of doxorubicin to remove the old effect while maintaining a new activity, the consequences on cardiotoxicity and second tumors as shown in mice and cardiomyocyte microcultures and further steps to prepare the modified compound for clinical studies.

The topic selected by the Chains participants as most interesting, will be presented.

It is your party!



Sjaak Neefjes has been awarded the Spinoza Prize 2020. Sjaak Neefjes is a professor and head of the department of Cell and Chemical Biology. He is a member of the Raad voor Aard- en Levenswetenschappen of KNAW (RAL-KNAW), the Scientific advisory Board of the IMBC in Porto (Portugal), EMBO, the Faculty of 1000, the Award commitee Tom Voute prize, Review of the Board of the Swedish Academy, the Scientific Council Children Oncology (KiKa), and he is Chairman Mid-term reviews and meeting of KiKa grants. He is also ad hoc advisor for decision for tenured positions at Harvard Medical School, reviewing at ANR (France) and other international scientific bodies, and Ombudsman for Sanquin Amsterdam.


Leiden University

Professor and head of the department Cell and  Chemical Biology