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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

van Leeuwen Delivers Division Seminar, Discusses Research with DCEG Investigators

Posted on March 29, 2019

Flora van Leeuwen with DCEG scientists who presented her with Rosalind Franklin Award

Left to right: Gabriella Andreotti, Montserrat Garcia-Closas, Flora van Leeuwen, Stephen Chanock, Lindsay Morton

In March 2019, Dr. Flora van Leeuwen, Head of the Division of Psychosocial Research and Epidemiology at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, received the 2019 Rosalind E. Franklin Award at the annual NCI Intramural Scientific Retreat. Her award lecture described her seminal research quantifying risks of new malignancies following radiotherapy and chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma and testicular cancer. The following morning, she gave a lecture to DCEG entitled, “Cancer risk in women treated with ovarian stimulation for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and their offspring: results from a large Dutch cohort study.” This visit was organized by Lindsay Morton, Ph.D., and her fellow Women Scientist Advisors.

In her DCEG seminar, Dr. van Leeuwen described the establishment of a cohort in 1995-1996 of women treated with ovarian stimulation as part of an IVF protocol. After sharing obstacles in that endeavor, as well as successes, she noted that the effort was finally beginning to reap results in amassing enough data for analysis. She and her team reported variable risk associated with IVF treatment and ovarian cancer. Interestingly, some data suggest that while a few cycles increased risk for ovarian cancer, women who underwent seven or more cycles experience decreased risk. There was no association with cancer risk in children born from IVF.

Flora van Leeuwen answers questions from audience at Rosalind Franklin lecture

Flora van Leeuwen responds to questions from the audience.

Following the lecture, Dr. van Leeuwen spent the day with DCEG investigators, including a brownbag lunch with women scientists and two roundtable discussions on survivorship and early life exposures and cancer risks. At the lunch, she generously shared her professional trajectory, noting significant mentors and key turns along the way. Fellows and investigators enjoyed the opportunity to have a warm and lively discussion on a range of topics from maintaining work-life balance to dedicating time to think deeply about the science while keeping up with the high volume of research. At the roundtable discussions, investigators described ongoing research and both the promise and challenges of pursuing future projects in these areas.

“In her lectures and individual interactions, Dr. van Leeuwen showcased the tremendous depth and breadth of her expertise. In unfolding the narrative of her career, we were fortunate to get a glimpse of the hard work and fortuitous moments that helped create a research program that has had tremendous impacts on scientific understanding and clinical practice, as well as creating opportunities for numerous junior scientists along the way,” said Dr. Morton  Long-term collaborators, friends and former mentees enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with Dr. van Leeuwen and brainstorm about new opportunities for collaboration.