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Principal Investigator

J. (Jeroen) Essers, PhD

Principal Investigator

Associate Professor

  • Department
  • In vivo molecular imaging of Cancer and Cardiovascular disease
  • Focus area
  • In vivo molecular imaging of Cancer and Cardiovascular disease



Jeroen Essers is associate professor at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and group leader molecular imaging. His research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms and biological function of complex genetic interactions by using a multi-disciplinary approach and exploit the gained knowledge to pioneer new diagnostic tools to visualize biological processes in vivo. Therefore, his group aims to identify target processes for the two most common diseases in modern society (cardiovascular disease and cancer) using genetically modified mouse models and live cell imaging and visualize these target processes in vivo. Major results and breakthroughs include the identification of the importance of homologous recombination for genome stability in mammals, published in Cell. His cardiovascular research originates from mouse models that he developed displaying both mild and severe forms of aneurysm and cardiac abnormalities (published in Circulation Research). He is the author of 90 peer reviewed A1 publications, 4 book chapters (H-factor by WoS 41)and laureate of 2 national and 2 international awards. Furthermore, he is one of the initiators of the Applied Molecular Imaging Erasmus MC (AMIE) facility, which provides a platform for scientists to work with state-of-the-art imaging technology, including PET, SPECT, CT, MRI, ultrasound, optical and opto-acoustic imaging.  

Field(s) of expertise

Cancer research

During my PhD research I used the power of reverse genetics to reveal how the significance of a DNA repair system (homologous recombination) makes an important contribution to genome stability in mammals. This insight was published in ‘Cell’  (Essers et al., Cell 1997, 89, 195-204) because it did change the dogma in the field at that time which stated that homologous recombination was important only for lower eukaryotes, such as yeast. These findings opened up the way to new research, both fundamental as well as clinical improvement of radiotherapy. Drugs based on exploiting the homologous recombination defect inherent to hereditary cases of breast cancer associated with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, like poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 inhibitors, have subsequently found their application in clinical trials (Bryant et al Nature 2005 434, 913-917, Farmer et al, Nature 2005, 434, 917-921). I continued doing a postdoc on a cell biological subject within the Erasmus MC, as the infrastructure required for this research was thriving there at the time and has currently improved to be among the absolute worldwide state-of-the art. Within the field of fundamental cancer research I have always been paying special attention how basic science can be linked to applied research. In 2011 our lab showed how mild hyperthermia inhibits homologous recombination and thereby sensitizes cancers cells to poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase1 inhibition (Krawczyk et al., PNAS 2011 108 9851-6) We’re currently implementing these findings in translational and clinical cancer research.

Cardiovascular research 

Cardiovascular diseases, including aortic aneurysms and dissection, are the major cause of death in the majority of the developed countries. Until now, these patients can only be identified using imaging modalities such as echocardiography and magnetic resonance scanning once the aneurysm is formed. I aim to develop procedures for both earlier and easier recognition of these patients, as well as to improve (early) treatment options. My research originates from mouse models that I developed displaying both mild and severe forms of aneurysm and cardiac abnormalities (Hanada et al., Circulation Research 2007 120 2731-40). I am using these mouse models to identify biomarkers and develop imaging procedures to be able to detect patients susceptible for aneurysm formation and cardiac failure. This insight will facilitate design of rationalized interventions to prevent or cure aneurysms and test medical therapy for aortic dilatation. Furthermore, using candidate genes we are screening patients to identify the genetic component responsible for specific forms of cardiovascular abnormalities. 

Preclinical imaging  Erasmus MC

Erasmus MC has a strong record in clinical and experimental knowledge in the area of in vivo imaging and in addition in research in functional genomics and proteomics of genetically modified animal models, which has led and will lead to the identification of many candidate markers involved in disease. The next step is to get insight in the role of these markers in biological processes, highlighting the role of molecular imaging for the coming years. The applied Molecular Imaging Erasmus MC (AMIE) initiative provides a platform for scientists who share an interest in state-of-the-art imaging technology and molecular imaging assays for studying biological systems (www.erasmusmc.nl/amie). AMIE’s unique strength lies in the fusion of superb expertise in imaging modes, availability of exclusive mouse models, and its strong links between basic, translational and patient-bound research bringing together all molecular imaging techniques currently available for small animals, including MRI, CT, SPECT/PET/CT and ultrasound. For 2D optical animal imaging the versatile IVIS Spectrum system (Caliper) is available and the 3D ultrasensitive FMT imager, in close proximity both to the animal housing, in order to facilitate and stimulate combination of multiple imaging types. We recently acquired a Multispectral Optoacoustic Tomography system and a photoacoustic imaging system. J. Essers is Head innovation of the AMIE Core Facility and intimately involved in the development of disease specific mouse models, effective usage of the different imaging modalities and the organization of courses given by AMIE.


Education and career

Education and career

Jeroen Essers received his Master’s in Biology from Utrecht University and his PhD degree in molecular biology and genetics at the Erasmus MC, department of Genetics. At present, he is a staff member of the department of Molecular Genetics, Vascular Surgery and Radiation Oncology of the Erasmus MC. His research group specializes on molecular imaging of cancer and cardiovascular disease models, with special attention for aneurysmal disease. 




Cancer research

Mild hyperthermia inhibits homologous recombination, induces BRCA2 degradation, and sensitizes cancer cells to poly (ADPribose) polymerase-1 inhibition. (2011) Krawczyk*, P.M., Eppink*, B., Essers*, J., Stap*, J., Rodermond, H., Odijk, H., Zelensky, A., van Bree, C., Stalpers, L.J., Buist, M.R., et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 2011; 108, 9851–9856. *equal contribution

ATP-dependent and independent functions of Rad54 in genome maintenance. Agarwal S, van Cappellen WA, Guénolé A, Eppink B, Linsen SE, Meijering E, Houtsmuller A, Kanaar R, Essers J. J Cell Biol. 2011;192(5):735-50.
Imaging preclinical tumor models: improving translational power. de Jong M, Essers J, van Weerden WM. Nat Rev Cancer. 2014; 7:481-93. 

An MR-compatible antenna and application in a murine superficial hyperthermia applicator. Raaijmakers EAL, Mestrom RMC, Sumser K, Salim G, van Rhoon GC, Essers J, Paulides MM. Int J Hyperthermia. 2018;34(6):697-703

Cardiovascular research

Burger J, van Vliet N, van Heijningen P, Kumra H, Kremers GJ, Alves M, van Cappellen G, Yanagisawa H, Reinhardt DP, Kanaar R, van der Pluijm I, Essers J. Fibulin-4 deficiency differentially affects cytoskeleton structure and dynamics as well as TGFβ signaling. Cell Signal. 2019 Jun;58:65-78. 

Van der Pluijm I, Burger J, van Heijningen PM, IJpma A, van Vliet N, Milanese C, Schoonderwoerd K, Sluiter W, Ringuette LJ, Dekkers DHW, Que I, Kaijzel EL, Te Riet L, MacFarlane EG, Das D, van der Linden R, Vermeij M, Demmers JA, Mastroberardino PG, Davis EC, Yanagisawa H, Dietz HC, Kanaar R, Essers. Decreased mitochondrial respiration in aneurysmal aortas of Fibulin-4 mutant mice is linked to PGC1A regulation. J.Cardiovasc Res. 2018 Nov 1;114(13):1776-1793

van der Pluijm I, van Vliet N, von der Thusen JH, Robertus JL, Ridwan Y, van Heijningen PM, van Thiel BS, Vermeij M, Hoeks SE, Buijs-Offerman RMGB, Verhagen HJM, Kanaar R, Bertoli-Avella AM, Essers J. Defective Connective Tissue Remodeling in Smad3 Mice Leads to Accelerated Aneurysmal Growth Through Disturbed Downstream TGF-β Signaling. EBioMedicine. 2016 Oct;12:280-294.

Te Riet L, van Deel ED, van Thiel BS, Moltzer E, van Vliet N, Ridwan Y, van Veghel R, van Heijningen PM, Robertus JL, Garrelds IM, Vermeij M, van der Pluijm I, Danser AH, Essers, J. AT1-receptor blockade, but not renin inhibition, reduces aneurysm growth and cardiac failure in fibulin-4 mice. J Hypertens. 2016 Apr;34(4):654-65

Ramnath NW, Hawinkels LJ, van Heijningen PM, te Riet L, Paauwe M, Vermeij M, Danser AH, Kanaar R, ten Dijke P, Essers J. Fibulin-4 deficiency increases TGF-β signalling in aortic smooth muscle cells due to elevated TGF-β2 levels. Sci Rep. 2015 Nov 26;5:16872


Teaching activities

Opportunities Student projects and Internship

We have several research projects for students who are interested to study the molecular mechanism of DNA double strand break repair and molecular mechanisms of aneurysmal disease.

PhD program Molecular Genetics
Msc program Molecular Medicine
BSc, Msc Nanobiology

Other positions

Dr. J. Essers is currently a Head Innovation of the AMIE Core facility.