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Collaboration for improved treatment of germ cell tumors

Collaboration between the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology and UMC Utrecht has led to the establishment and recognition of the center of expertise for germ cell tumors in young men. Prof. Dr. Leendert Looijenga: ‘Through this center we are giving a major impulse to laboratory and clinical research into improved personalized treatments and combating side effects later in life. In addition, we are coming earlier to the attention for international participation in studies on these tumors.'

Personalized treatment methods and quality of life

Germ cells ensure the development of egg cells in women and sperm cells in men. The precursors of these cells can develop into tumors, especially in boys and young men, both in the testicle and outside of it. In the Netherlands, approximately 40 children and 850 young men develop a germ cell tumor each year.

More than 90% of the patients can be treated well with current methods. However, at a later age side effects can occur varying from second tumors or cardiovascular problems, but also infertility. ‘Research into new or modified forms of treatment is of great value in minimizing these side effects and helping those who do not respond or respond insufficiently to the treatment,’ says Prof. Dr. Leendert Looijenga, group leader at the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology and a specialist in germ cell tumors.

The Princess Máxima Centre is already recognized as a center of expertise for rare childhood tumors. In addition, in 2021 the ‘Center of expertise testicular and mediastinal germ cell tumors Utrecht is recognized for a period of 5 years by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (VWS) and the Dutch Federation of University Medical Centers (NFU). The collaboration between UMC Utrecht, with oncological urologist Richard Meijer, oncologist Britt Suelmann and nurse specialist Daniëlle Zweers involved, and the group of Prof. Looijenga is specifically focused at young adult males over the age of 18. This has created a unique collaboration that gives scientific research and further development of optimal care a boost.

Together you can achieve faster improvements and breakthroughs

A center of expertise brings together the knowledge and skills of specialists within a particular disease area for both treatment and scientific research. This improves the treatment of patients, for example through the exchange of knowledge between specialists, including (medical) oncologists, urologists, radiologists, but also scientists. ‘From the center of expertise we are also connected to the European reference network in which healthcare providers from all over Europe work together (eUROGEN). Thanks to this collaboration, we as a center are more likely to be considered for participation in studies of new treatment methods, for example, and we can share knowledge with international colleagues.'

In addition, the center of expertise encourages research into the application of new developments to direct practice and deepens ongoing studies. 'We are also focusing on better understanding the origins of germ cell tumors and how to recognize them. With this information, we want to better match the type of treatment per patient in the future, so that the greatest chance of cure with the least side effects is achieved. Together you are stronger and can achieve improvements and breakthroughs faster. And that is what we want for the children and young adults in our centers, says Prof. Looijenga.

Dutch magazine Zaadbalkanker recently interviewed three members of the center of expertise. The interview can be read here (in Dutch).