Professor Behrens completed his PhD in Austria and carried out his postdoctoral studies in Switzerland, before setting up a laboratory at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute (now part of the Francis Crick Institute) in 2001.
He is a well-known international expert in cancer stem cell biology, and in recent studies his group have identified a cancer stem cell (CSC) population of luminal breast cancers, and shed new light on mechanisms of tumour initiation and progression in pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC), and characterised a rare PDAC CSC population which is crucial for PDAC development.
Professor Behrens is also a pioneer in convergence science – which brings together scientists from different disciplines to tackle research questions in new ways – by forging partnerships between biologists and scientists in other fields, including engineering, physics and mathematical modelling. For example, working with physicists and computational scientists, Professor Behrens has pioneered 3D tumour imaging technology which provided fundamental new insights into how tumours develop.
In addition to being a team leader at the ICR, Professor Behrens is also the inaugural Director of the Cancer Research UK Convergence Science Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research and Imperial College London. The Convergence Science Centre will provide a paradigm shift in cancer research by bringing together traditionally separate and distinct disciplines – such as biological, computational, physical, and engineering sciences – into collaborative, integrated research teams, to shed light on unresolved problems in cancer biology and bring innovative treatments to cancer patients faster.
Professor Behrens' achievements have been recognised by membership of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the Academia Europaea, and by honorary professorships from King’s College London (UK) and Sun-Yat-Sen University (China).