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2017 - Hanneke Kluin-Nelemans

Researcher of the Year 2017 - Hanneke Kluin-Nelemans

Professor Johanna (Hanneke) Cornelia Kluin-Nelemans was born in 1950. Together with her future husband Philip, she received her medical training in Utrecht, which was followed by a specialization in internal medicine. Although in The Netherlands the sub-specialization hematology not yet existed, Hanneke was lucky to get training in that field. Next, she was awarded a 2-year fellowship in lymphoma and immunology by the Dutch Cancer Foundation. To this end, Hanneke spent time in the Rotterdam and Amsterdam Cancer Institutes and in the laboratory of George Janossy in the Royal Free Hospital in London. From 1984, Hanneke was staff member of the Department of Hematology of the Leiden University Medical Center. Together with her husband, Philip Kluin, a well-known hematopathologist, Hanneke started yearly bone marrow cytology and histology practical training courses, which became so popular that they were always (and still are) overbooked. In 1988 Hanneke defended her thesis on malignant B cell colony growth (promotor: Jon J van Rood). In 2000, the Dean of the University Medical Center Groningen, Sybrand Poppema invited Hanneke and Philip Kluin to Groningen to join as head of the Departments of Hematology (Hanneke) and Pathology (Philip Kluin). From 2001 until 2015, Professor Kluin Nelemans served as head of the Department of Hematology.

Due to the legal rules in The Netherlands, Hanneke retired at the age of 65 in May 2015, but remains still active in supervising clinical studies and PhD students. Her interest in systemic mastocytosis started in 1990 when she became responsible for a patient with symptomatic aggressive mastocytosis. Because of the popularity of interferon-alpha in those years in relation to the treatment of CML and other malignancies, she reasoned that this drug might be active in the myeloproliferative disorder mastocytosis. Although it took several months, the patient finally became transfusion-independent under interferon-alpha and the symptom burden decreased. These results were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The report was very well received and highlighted by an editorial prepared by Professor K. Frank Austen. As a result, more patients were referred and in the next few years, Hanneke became an expert in this disease. At that time, the clinical chemistry and internal medicine departments of Groningen had already established diagnostic tools for mastocytosis patients, and Hanneke´s move to Groningen was therefore very much welcomed. Whereas the majority of patients previously seen in Groningen suffered from indolent systemic mastocytosis, the advent of a hematologist and hematopathologist soon resulted in the referral of more patients with advanced systemic mastocytosis including mast cell leukemia. Finally, Hanneke and her colleagues at Groningen established a Center of Excellence in the European Competence Network on Mastocytosis (ECNM).

During the last 15 years Hanneke Kluin-Nelemans continued her work focusing on the treatment of patients with advanced mastocytosis. Together with Rob Fijnheer at Utrecht/Amersfoort, a clinical trial with cladribine was conducted. In this study, Hanneke demonstrated clinical efficacy of cladribine in patients with advanced systemic mastocytosis. In addition, Hanneke participated in the global midostaurin study (resulting in the approval of midostaurin for patients with advanced systemic mastocytosis by the FDA and EMA) and initiated a phase II study with midostaurin for patients with severely symptomatic indolent mastocytosis. Finally, Hanneke was essentially involved in the initiation and expansion of the ECNM registry, where the Groningen Center has been and is still in the leading position concerning recruitment numbers. In 2017, Professor Hanneke Kluin-Nelemans was selected as researcher of the year and gold medal winner of the ECNM. Hanneke was selected based on her seminal contributions in the development of interventional anti-neoplastic therapies in systemic mastocytosis. She received the gold medal at the Annual Meeting of the ECNM in Paris on October 12, 2017.