PhD M.F. Bijlsma

PhD Candidate, Associate Professor, Research Associate
Main activities
The biology of upper GI cancers
Focus of research

My lab studies the biology that underlies the growth and therapy resistance of pancreatic and esophageael cancer. Models in my lab range from cell culture systems, mouse experiments, biobanking and the analysis of predictive and prognostic markers and profiles in large cohorts. Most of these have been generated through our live biobanking. 

One of the most typical features of upper GI cancers is the abundance of non-cancerous cells and material – the stroma. The stroma exerts both tumor-promoting as well as -limiting properties. We aim to identify which signals mediate critical tumor-stroma crosstalk, and whether we can use this to target tumor growth and drug resistance. In addition, we develop blood-borne markers to stratify patients for stroma-targeting treatments.

Many events that shape the developing embryo are regulated by the Hedgehog proteins. In the adult body, activity of these proteins is limited, but reactivation of the pathway is thought to contribute to pancreatic cancer. Several lines of research in my lab deal with the production and transport, but also the reception and interpretation of this ligand.

To construct the relevant experimental models needed to study cancer, I have founded the AMC biobank pancreatic carcinoma – BioPAN and co-coordinate the esophageal BiOES biobank. For these biobanks we accrue and store blood samples, tissue, and clinical data. Analyses on these materials include expression profiling and measurements of serum markers. BioPAN closely collaborates with the nation-wide PancreasParel biobank of which I am the coordinator, and the AMC-VUmc Liquid Biopsy Center that I co-head. Our expression profiling efforts have enabled us to identify subgroups of patients that differ in their clinical outcome and other clinically important parameters. 

The lethality of pancreatic cancer relies on the presence of so called cancer stem cells. Current tools to identify these cells have serious shortcomings. We have adapted tracing methods to trace the offspring of a single cell in tumors grown from these cells. These allow us to study the population of cancer stem cells that are thought to contribute to pancreatic cancer growth.

Key publications
  • Bijlsma Maarten F., Spek C. Arnold, Zivkovic Danica, van de Water Sandra, Rezaee Farhad, Peppelenbosch Maikel P. Repression of smoothened by patched-dependent (pro-)vitamin D3 secretion PLoS biology 2006;4 (8):e232-1410 [PubMed]
  • Ebbing Eva A., van der Zalm Amber P., Steins Anne, Creemers Aafke, Hermsen Simone, Rentenaar Rosa, Klein Michelle, Waasdorp Cynthia, Hooijer Gerrit K. J., Meijer Sybren L., Krishnadath Kausilia K., Punt Cornelis J. A., van Berge Henegouwen Mark I., Gisbertz Suzanne S., van Delden Otto M., Hulshof Maarten C. C. M., Medema Jan Paul, van Laarhoven Hanneke W. M., Bijlsma Maarten F. Stromal-derived interleukin 6 drives epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and therapy resistance in esophageal adenocarcinoma Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2019;116 (6):2237-2242 [PubMed]
  • Bijlsma Maarten F., Sadanandam Anguraj, Tan Patrick, Vermeulen Louis Molecular subtypes in cancers of the gastrointestinal tract Nature reviews. Gastroenterology & hepatology 2017;14 (6):333-342 [PubMed]
  • Ebbing Eva A., Steins Anne, Fessler Evelyn, Stathi Phylicia, Lesterhuis Willem Joost, Krishnadath Kausilia K., Vermeulen Louis, Medema Jan Paul, Bijlsma Maarten F., van Laarhoven Hanneke W. M. Esophageal Adenocarcinoma Cells and Xenograft Tumors Exposed to Erb-b2 Receptor Tyrosine Kinase 2 and 3 Inhibitors Activate Transforming Growth Factor Beta Signaling, Which Induces Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition Gastroenterology 2017;153 (1):63-76.e14 [PubMed]
  • Lenos Kristiaan J., Miedema Daniël M., Lodestijn Sophie C., Nijman Lisanne E., van den Bosch Tom, Romero Ros Xavier, Lourenço Filipe C., Lecca Maria C., van der Heijden Maartje, van Neerven Sanne M., van Oort Anita, Leveille Nicolas, Adam Ronja S., de Sousa e Melo Felipe, Otten Joy, Veerman Patrick, Hypolite Guillaume, Koens Lianne, Lyons Scott K., Stassi Giorgio, Winton Douglas J., Medema Jan Paul, Morrissey Edward, Bijlsma Maarten F., Vermeulen Louis Stem cell functionality is microenvironmentally defined during tumour expansion and therapy response in colon cancer Nature cell biology 2018;20 (10):1193-1202 [PubMed]
All Publications
Curriculum Vitae


2003 – 2008    PhD, thesis title: “Novel Mechanisms and Functions for Hedgehog Signaling in Development and Disease” Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, NL.
Supervisors; C.A. Spek and M.P. Peppelenbosch.
1998 – 2002    Molecular Biology masters/undergraduate studies, Faculty of Biology, University of Amsterdam, NL


2016 – present      Tenured Principal Investigator, Academic Medical Center
2013 – 2016    Staff scientist, Laboratory for Experimental Oncology and Radiobiology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, NL
2010 – 2012    Post-doctoral researcher at Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, NL
2009 – 2010    Post-doctoral researcher Roelink lab, UC Berkeley, United States of America
2006                Visiting scientist, Roelink lab, University of Washington, United States of America
2005                Visiting scientist, Zivkovic Lab, Hubrecht Institute, NL
2003 – 2008    PhD candidate (see Education)


ONGOING (see also Appendix)
2020 – 2023    Oncode Clinical Proof of Concept (BASALT; applicant) 
2019 – 2022    H2020-MSCA-ITN (PRECODE; Beneficiary)
2019 – 2023    ZonMW GGG (80-84800-98-91029 co-PI)
2018 – 2022    KWF Dutch Cancer Society project grant (11174 co-PI)
2018 – 2022    KWF Dutch Cancer Society project grant (10992 lead PI)
2017 – 2020    Alliantie CCA - Liquid Biopsy platform support (lead PI)
2016 – 2020    KWF Dutch Cancer Society project grant  (10529 co-PI) 
2016 – 2020   KWF Dutch Cancer Society project grant  (10212 co-PI) 
2010 – present      AMC Foundation continuous support (lead PI) 
2016                Celgene research funding (lead PI) 
2014 – 2018    AMC-VUmc ‘Alliantie AiO’(lead PI) 
2012 – 2017    KWF Dutch Cancer Society project grant (2012-5607 lead PI)
2012 – 2017    KWF Dutch Cancer Society project grant  (2012-5584 co-PI)
2010 – 2012    AMC Support Funding  
2008 – 2012    KWF Dutch Cancer Society Fellowship 



I currently supervise several PhD candidates in my group, a technician, a CRA, and one postdoctoral researcher. The team is highly international, and includes medical doctors, biomedical MScs, and a bioinformatician. Three PhD candidates from my team have graduated. Numerous MSc students have been supervised either by myself or members of my lab. 


2018 – present   CCA Seminar series
2018                Certified University Teacher certificate (BKO)
2017                CCA Biomarker Symposium and grand opening of the Amsterdam Liquid Biopsy Center
2012 – present    Lecturer and co-coordinator “Molecular Genetics” course for Faculty of Biology undergraduates. University of Amsterdam, NL
2011 – present    Co-coordinator – “Translational research in practice”, practical science course for medical school undergraduates, Faculty of Medicine, University of Amsterdam, NL
2002 – present      PhD candidate and undergraduate supervision (see above)
2000 – 2002    Student supervision in practical courses as an undergraduate (student assistant)


2019 – present      Associate Editor with Oncogenesis
2019 – present    Coordinator of the PancreasParel nation-wide pancreatic biobank
2018 – present    Associate Editor with the Journal of Pancreatic Cancer
2017                Doctorate thesis committee member – Maria Hölzl, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
2017 – present    Head of the Liquid Biopsy Center, AUMC location AMC
2016 – 2019    Program Leader – AMC/VUmc Cancer Center Alliance Imaging/Biomarkers Program.
2015                Doctorate thesis committee member – Kun Shi, University of Amsterdam, NL
2015 – present    Expert board member for funding agencies: Institut National du Cancer (F), FWO (Research  Foundation – Flanders/BE), CCA Foundation
2014 present  Member, Research Network “PANDoRA”, DKFZ at Heidelberg, Germany
2014 – present    Editorial board member Journal of Clinical and Translational Research 
2014                Doctorate thesis committee member – Cecilia Rocha, University of Montpellier 1, France
2011               Doctorate thesis committee member – Willemijn van Dop, University of Amsterdam, NL
2012 – present   Co-founder of BioOES, the AMC esophageal carcinoma biobank.
2011 – present Founder and coordinator of BioPAN, the AMC pancreatic cancer biobank.                 

PEER REVIEW (selected)

JOURNALS – Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Clinical Cancer Research, EMBO Molecular Medicine, Oncogenesis, Lancet Oncology, Cell Death and Differentiation, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, Journal of Cell Science, Cancer Letters, PLoS Medicine, Nature Communications
FUNDING AGENCIES– AICR, ZonMw Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, Kom op tegen Kanker, Skolkovo Foundation, The Wellcome trust, KWF Dutch Cancer Society, FWO Research Foundation – Flanders, INCa French National Cancer Institute, INSERM Plan Cancer


2017                Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre Department meeting, University of Glasgow, UK
2016                TÜM Department meeting, Munich, DE
2014                Pancreatic Cancer Meeting Novel Diagnostic and Therapeutic Approaches, Ravello, IT
2013                HEALING International Meeting, HH-GLI International Meeting, Arolla, CH
2013                Pancreatic Cancer meeting, Salerno, IT
2010                EMBO Workshop, Hedgehog signaling Nice, F
2009                UC Berkeley, Genetics, Genomics and Development retreat, Asilomar, USA 
2007                Humangenetisch-Immungenetisches Kolloquium, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen, DE


2008 – 2012    KWF Dutch Cancer Society – Fellowship for fundamental cancer research
2008                NWO Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research - Rubicon fellowship, declined
2006                AMC Graduate School for Medical Sciences; Young Scientist Publication Award, 1st prize
2006                KNAW Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences – Ter Meulen Fund grant
Research programmes

PhD M.F. Bijlsma (The biology of upper GI cancer)

See Focus of research section. 

Prof. PhD J.P. Medema (Cell death induction and resistance in tumor cells)

Current research funding
  • AMC
  • Europese Unie
  • KWF Kankerbestrijding