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M.J.M. (Ron) Smits, PhD

Assistant Professor

  • Department
  • Gastroenterology & Hepatology



Ron Smits studied Biomedical Sciences at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands (1985-1992), where he also performed his PhD study and Postdoctoral training at the Department of Human Genetics. His thesis entitled "APC and cancer: It takes two to tango" was successfully defended in 2002 (cum laude). Beginning of 2003, he joined Genentech Inc., South San Francisco, CA, as a research scientist. Here, he also developed the research line to investigate the cross-talk between receptor tyrosine kinases and β-catenin signaling in cancer for which he was awarded a Vidi (ZonMW) grant in 2004, which was initiated in the Department of Pathology of the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Since January 2008, he is a staff member at the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology of the Erasmus MC. Our current research focusses on molecular mechanisms contributing to intestinal and hepatocellular tumor formation and metastasis, with a special focus on the role played by Wnt/β-catenin signaling. 

Education and career

2008 to date Staff member/Assistant Professor, Dept. of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Erasmus MC 
2004-2007 Assistant Professor, Dept. of Pathology, Josephine Nefkens Institute, Erasmus MC 
2003-2004 Research Scientist, Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, CA.
1998-2002 Post-doc, Dept. of Human Genetics, University of Leiden, The Netherlands. 
1994-1998 PhD-student, Dept. of Human Genetics, University of Leiden, The Netherlands. Cum laude, January 24, 2002.


Teaching activities

Teacher for Bachelor of Clinical Technology (TU Delft/Erasmus MC/Leiden University

Supervised theses

  • Jul 2008-Oct 2012: Lalini Raghoebir; Balancing on Sox: Involvement of Sox2 in determination and maintenance of organ identity of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Jun 2008-Dec 2012: Elvira Bakker;  Novel Aspects of Wnt Signaling in intestinal development and cancer
  • Sept 2013-June 2018: Wenhui Wang; Targeting Wnt/β-catenin signaling in Liver Cancers
  • Sept 2015-June 2019: Pengyu Liu; The mutant components of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in liver cancer
  • Jan 2015-Aug 2020: Shan Li: Microbiome and Molecular Characterization of Neoplasms in Pancreas and Intestine

Scholarships, grants, and awards

NWO Dutch Research Council VIDI 2004-09: Cross-talk between receptor tyrosine kinases and ß-catenin signaling during tumor initiation and progression.

KWF Dutch Cancer Society 2005-2010: Cross-talk between receptor tyrosine kinases and β-catenin signaling in colorectal cancer. 

Erasmus MC PhD grant 2016-2020: Unraveling mechanisms controlling mucus production in colorectal cancer: A prominent role for ATOH1.

Erasmus MC PhD grant 2008-2012: The role of SOX2 in intestinal development and the formation of mucinous colorectal cancer. 

Erasmus MC pilot grant 2012-2014: Transcriptional read-through as mechanism to explain the CpG island methylator phenotype of colorectal cancer.