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Wouter Karthaus

Memorial Sloan Kettering

Wouter Karthaus has always been wildly excited about science, whether it’s biology or quantum mechanics. But over the years his focus has narrowed to research with the potential to directly improve lives. Now, he concentrates on understanding where standard treatment for prostate cancer falls short. Androgen deprivation therapy, a mainstay for this type of cancer, successfully attacks 90% of cancer cells. 

Karthaus zeroes in on the 10% that escape. Using mouse models and organoids, Karthaus has teased out which cells are important in cases where cancer cells survive even without the androgen that drives their growth. 

“Eventually, we hope we can either prolong somebody’s life or cure them completely,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal.” 

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the work of bench lab scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where Karthaus is a postdoctoral researcher. But in the spring it also drove Karthaus back to basics, forcing him to reexamine the scientific questions he was asking and the methods he was using to answer them.

Outside the lab, he loves to paint and draw — “creating something from art and color is inspiring” — and race on his bicycle. Those rides are solo time trials for now, but enjoyable nonetheless.

“Eventually, we hope we can either prolong somebody’s life or cure them completely. That’s the ultimate goal.”

He hopes someday to lead a great team of scientists in his own lab, like those he’s worked in, but for now, “in the pandemic, I might have to be patient.”

— Elizabeth Cooney