Prof. Thierry boon, honorary doctorate from vub


(Translated from UCLouvain news)

Prof. Thierry Boon, former director of de Duve Institute and a pioneer in cancer immunotherapy, has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

On November 17, 2021, at La Monnaie, Prof. Thierry Boon, former director of de Duve Institute of UCLouvain and of the Belgian branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, was awarded the title of honorary doctorate of the VUB which had been granted to him at the beginning of 2020. Alongside him, other personalities were honored: Pierre Kompany, Ann Druyan, William Kentridge and Antoni Ribas.
On this occasion, Thierry Boon participated in the Let's celebrate immunotherapy symposium with Prof. Antoni Ribas, also a specialist in immunotherapy (University of California, Los Angeles).

Find the interview of Thierry Boon and Antoni Ribas during the ceremony "A Night At The Opera":

Interview with Antoni Ribas & Thierry Boon Falleur | Doctor Honoris Causa | A Night At The Opera

Tumor antigens

Thierry Boon demonstrated, in the 1980s, what had been suspected: the immune system can detect and eliminate cancer cells. Through his research, he discovered so-called tumor antigens, specific antigens that are only found on the surface of cancer cells.

The principle of immunotherapy is based on the body's natural ability to recognize and fight cancer cells. The goal of this treatment is to mobilize the patient's immune system against cancer. Over the past decade, it has become a revolutionary therapeutic approach in oncology.

Fighting disease without damaging healthy cells

"The results of our initial studies in mice were promising. We found that these tumor antigens, which can be compared to molecular flags, mark diseased cells and thus target cancer cells. They are distinct from benign cells. This has led to a real scientific breakthrough and to the development of drugs that slow down these cancer cells so that the immune system can recognize, fight and eliminate the disease without damaging healthy cells. That's the basis of immunotherapy", explains Prof. Boon.

Without his discoveries, no immunotherapy

"In 2018, the Nobel Committee rewarded immunotherapy treatment. Prof. Boon would have had his place among the laureates. Without his discoveries, no immunotherapy treatment could have been envisaged", testifies Pierre van der Bruggen, professor at de Duve Institute. "Thierry Boon is a visionary, 100% dedicated to science, who has always pushed us to aim for the best".