Exterior of City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital in Duarte, CA.

Meet Dr. Marcel van den Brink, M.D., Ph.D.

City of Hope Los Angeles President Marcel van den Brink, M.D., Ph.D.
Marcel van den Brink, M.D., Ph.D.

In October 2023, Marcel van den Brink, M.D., Ph.D., became president of City of Hope Los Angeles and City of Hope National Medical Center, chief physician executive and the Deana and Steve Campbell Chief Physician Executive Distinguished Chair. He is a globally recognized leader in the science of bone marrow transplantation, the microbiome and cancer immunotherapy. 

Dr. Van den Brink spoke recently with Chief Philanthropy Officer Kristin Bertell about why he chose to join City of Hope and the opportunities ahead to improve care and treatment.  


Bertell: Dr. Van den Brink, we are thrilled you’re here. What attracted you to City of Hope? 

Van den Brink: Thank you, Kristin, it’s great to be here. Just to go back a bit, I grew up in Holland, and when I finished my medical studies in Holland, I came to the U.S. because here, better than in any other country, you can be both a physician and a scientist. I spent 24 years in New York City working at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and I had been watching from the East Coast, with admiration, the growth of City of Hope. What I specifically valued was the unique culture. Through all the connections I had with City of Hope colleagues, I saw what they had in common was that they were respectful, compassionate, fantastic collaborators. City of Hope truly brings the best in cancer care to as many people as possible, using academic principles but with its own special sauce, which is that culture of compassion and respect.   


Bertell: Yes, I agree, our culture is unique, and we see the values of compassion and respect in our thousands of donors and volunteers every day. While you’ve only been here a few months, we are grateful that you have already met many in our philanthropic community. What are your early impressions? 

Van den Brink: I’ve truly enjoyed meeting several of our donors and volunteers who are committed to our mission. In fact, in my first few weeks I had the privilege of joining you and other City of Hope leaders at the Music, Film and Entertainment Industry Spirit of Life® gala to honor hip-hop legend Lyor Cohen. The energy was incredible — not only for honoring such an accomplished music executive – but the passion and generosity for City of Hope. What I saw was a steadfast belief that cancer does not wait, it does not discriminate, but with the partnership of our donors and volunteers, City of Hope will win the battle with cancer. I left that evening feeling motivated and inspired. 

MFEI Spirit of Life honoree Lyor Cohen with City of Hope leaders, including Robert Stone, Dr. van den Brink and Kristin Bertell
Pictured left to right: Steven Rosen, M.D.; Harlan Levine, M.D.; Robert Stone; Kristin Bertell; Marcel van den Brink, M.D., Ph.D.; John Carpten, Ph.D.; Joseph Alvarnas, M.D.; MFEI Spirit of Life honoree Lyor Cohen

Bertell: We know how busy you are and are thankful that you can join us to meet our extraordinary donors and volunteers. How do you see philanthropy impacting your work and accelerating the lifesaving research at City of Hope?  

Van den Brink: As a researcher, philanthropy gives us important resources to test new ideas. Private funding gives us the flexibility to think big, try new concepts, and to innovate. We can pursue multiple paths at the same time. We can move faster. When we are fortunate to see an early breakthrough, we can then attract more resources. But — this can only occur with the dedication of our philanthropic partners. 

For example, 15 years ago I began my microbiome research — a new and exciting field of which was incredibly relevant for a lot of aspects of health and disease, and cancer specifically. You have as many microbes inside your body (mostly in your gut) as you have cells in your body. These microbes and your cells are constantly talking with each other. Now, we are trying to uncover which of these bacteria are really relevant so we can come up with therapies that can target the microbiome, not so much the cancer cells or your own cells. Some of that work was going on at City of Hope already (which is one reason I was so happy to come here), and I look forward to collaborating with the clinicians, scientists, and donors to bring this new aspect to our patients. 

City of Hope’s research has also had an impact on me, personally. Its researchers developed the technology that led to the first human synthetic insulin to treat diabetes. As the father of a son with type 1 diabetes, it’s pretty special to work at an organization that created the technology that led to the development of the drug that keeps my son alive every day. 


Bertell: What are you most excited about at City of Hope in 2024 and beyond? 

Van den Brink: City of Hope's recent expansion across the country, as well as our growth plans in California, are on track to make significant progress in 2024. We are now a national cancer care system and are committed to advancing treatments and extending access to these innovations quickly, bringing hope and compassionate care to more patients. Specifically, we'll keep integrating our cancer centers in Atlanta, Chicago and Phoenix through technology, research and caregivers. And as health care advances, more of our cancer care — even complex, innovative care like CAR T cell therapy — can be done in an outpatient setting. It’s an important time. 

I am also very excited to meet with more of our committed donors and volunteers. We, as researchers and physicians, cannot fight cancer and diabetes alone. It is only with the support and dedication of our philanthropic partners that we can make life-changing advances in treatment and care to benefit patients here at City of Hope and around the world. I came here knowing that this partnership and the shared values of compassion and respect have been the cornerstone of City of Hope for more than 100 years. I am honored to be part of it – thank you for your warm welcome to this community.