Renske Steenbergen

PROF.DR., (Principal Investigator)

  • Phone020-4442331
1990 …2024

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

HPV-induced carcinogenesis

Research Background

Infections with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are causative events for cervical cancer, and subgroups of other anogenital cancers. In the course of various projects, we are studying the impact of this finding at the level of cancer prevention, diagnostics, risk stratification, test of cure, and prophylactic vaccination.

Our research has further incorporated an important translational pipeline involving the discovery of (epi)genetic, molecular mechanisms driving carcinogenesis, and clinical validation of disease biomarkers that result therefrom.
Towards these goals we are analysing specimens of patients with anogenital (pre)malignant disease (e.g. cervix, vulva, penis and anus) using to genome-wide screens and candidate gene approaches to identify relevant cellular alterations. Using in vitro studies on HPV-transformed human keratinocytes we have demonstrated that progression of an hrHPV-infected cell to an immortal and subsequent invasive phenotype results from the accumulation of specific (epi)genetic alterations in the host cell genome. Functional data from these model systems are used to complement studies on clinical samples to select the most promising biomarkers for risk stratification of premalignant disease. The candidate markers that result from these studies are subsequently evaluated on clinical sample series in order to select the best classifier and test algorithm. Finally, candidates are clinically validated, amongst others for their value in primary cervical screening using both cervical scrapings and self-collected (cervico-)vaginal samples.


Aim of the research program

  • Improving effectiveness of cervical cancer screening (focus on gaining >sensitivity (via HPV testing or other biomarkers), >compliance (via self-sampling), and >specificity (molecular disease biomarkers used as triage test of HPV positive women or direct primary screening test)
  • Improving risk stratification by molecular biomarkers of patients with premalignant ano-genital disease (CIN, VIN, AIN) for tailored treatment.
  • Development of novel early detection biomarkers for ano-genital cancers detectable in cervico-vaginal, anal and urine samples


Identification and functional characterization of oncogenic events as a basis for the discovery of new candidate biomarkers:

  • Specimens representing sequence from premalignant to malignant disease (tissues, cervical scrapings, self-samples)
  • Longitudinal in vitro model systems of primary keratinocytes in which hrHPV types are introduced (functional characterization)

Verification and clinical validation of biomarkers:

  • Stored specimens in biobanks
  • Prospective clinical and screening trials


Novel non-invasive cancer detection methods

For a number of non-HPV-induced cancers, such as endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancer, molecular tests primarily based on DNA methylation are being developed to enable their (early) detection in urine. This line of research is conducted in close collaboration with the Depts of Gynaecology, Urology, Pulmonology and Surgery.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, High-risk human papillomavirus-mediated carcinogenesis¬: an in vivo and in vitro analysis, VU University

1 May 199320 Jun 1997

Award Date: 20 Jun 1997

Master, Biomedical Sciences, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands

30 Sept 000119 Nov 1991

Award Date: 19 Nov 1991

External positions

Scientific advisor & shareholder, Self-screen B.V, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

1 May 200831 Dec 3999


  • RB Pathology
  • HPV, Oncology, biomarkers

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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    Renske Steenbergen (Participant)

    11 Apr 2022

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganising a conference, workshop, ...Academic