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ASH 2021: Máxima research into childhood blood cancers

The most important global conference for blood disease experts, the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting, kicks off this weekend. At the conference, researchers and doctors are coming together – online and again in person, in Atlanta, USA – to share the latest scientific insights. Leukemia and lymphoma researchers from Máxima are well-represented.

At the ASH Annual Meeting, experts share the latest insights about blood in the broadest sense. Both about healthy blood and various blood diseases, in adults and children, and from fundamental biological research to clinical studies. Máxima researchers are involved with 20 presentations this year.


Pediatric oncologist dr. Inge van der Sluis is presenting results of a clinical trial looking at the immunotherapy blinatumomab in babies with a high-risk form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The study was designed to investigate the feasibility, safety and effect of blinatumomab added to standard treatment. Because the results of the study in this early phase were remarkably promising, blinatumomab will be included in the treatment protocol for babies with this form of ALL. Van der Sluis' study was voted as the winning abstract in the 'Best of ASH' session.

New treatment strategy

PhD students Trisha Tee and Valeria Ceolin were also recognized for their work: they received an ASH Abstract Achievement Award, intended for hematologists in training. Trisha Tee, PhD student in the Van Leeuwen group, is presenting lab research into a possible new treatment strategy for high-risk ALL. This form of leukemia occurs mainly in babies and appears to be highly dependent on the nutrient, methionine. Reducing methionine levels through dietary restriction or a drug, in combination with existing medicines, could in future be a new possible treatment strategy for these children.

Targeted drug

Valeria Ceolin, PhD student in the Zwaan group, is presenting results from a retrospective study of a new targeted drug, inotuzumab ozogamicin (InO). Her research on the interaction of this drug with CAR-T immunotherapy showed that there was no negative effect of the combination. Further studies will be needed to confirm these results.

The other Máxima presentations cover a variety of topics, from hypersensitivity to an important leukemia drug to the risk of bone fragility in children with ALL, and hereditary predisposition to a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In the field of basic research, research results range from unravelling a genetic process that leads to a more aggressive form of leukemia, to the effects of chemotherapy on the DNA of blood stem cells.

The ASH Annual Meeting will take place from December 11 to December 14. The sessions can be followed online for registered conference participants.