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Four new studies thanks to KiKa

Scientists in the Princess Máxima Center will be able to start new research projects. They will develop immunotherapy for neuroblastoma, aim to unravel a soft tissue tumor to better understand its origin, and will look at the role of microproteins in a bone tumor.

Origin of synovial sarcoma

Scientists in the Drost group will look at the development of the soft tissue tumor, synovial sarcoma. Children with this tumor have a poor outcome, especially those whose disease comes back after treatment. Dr. Michael Meister, physician-scientist and joint applicant on the grant explains: ‘While this tumor is made up of many different cell types, we only see few DNA changes. Using so-called single cell analyses and organoids, we aim to find out where these differences within the tumor come from. By understanding this better, we hope to find leads for a possible new treatment in the future. We are very happy and grateful that we can continue this research thanks to the support of KiKa.’

Micro-proteins in osteosarcoma

The Van Heesch group is starting research into the bone tumor osteosarcoma. The focus of this project is microproteins, a group of proteins that have only recently been discovered. Dr. Ana Pinheiro, postdoctoral scientist in the Van Heesch group, says: ‘Almost nothing is known yet about such micro-proteins, so we are very curious about how they exactly work. We realized that some of them play a role in regulating our immune system. As with many tumors, osteosarcoma can suppress the immune system. So we’re going to look at the role of microproteins in the immune-suppressive environment of osteosarcoma. We hope that we will find a way to improve the treatment for this bone tumor in the future.’

Cell therapy for neuroblastoma

A particular form of immunotherapy, TIL cell therapy, has greatly improved the treatment of the skin cancer melanoma in adults. In a new KiKa project in collaboration with dr. Monika Wolkers at Sanquin, Dr. Judith Wienke, postdoctoral researcher in the Molenaar group, aims to translate this therapy to childhood cancer.

Wienke: ‘In previous KiKa-funded research, we saw that so-called gamma delta TILs, a type of immune cell, attack neuroblastoma cells. Over the next four years in this follow-up project, we aim to develop these cells into a new treatment for children with cancer. We will start with neuroblastoma, but we will also look at other forms of childhood cancer, including sarcomas. This kind of research, in which we bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and patients, is important. I hope that our TIL therapy will reach children with cancer in the not too distant future and can contribute to a better chance of recovery.’

Hearing loss

KiKa has funded a fourth project led by researchers from Erasmus MC and Radboud MC, in collaboration with prof. dr. Marry van den Heuvel-Eibrink and dr. Meta Diekstra at the Princess Máxima Center. In this project, the researchers will look at the genetic predisposition to hearing loss caused by treatment with platinum chemotherapy.

KiKa has awarded a total of €2.3 million for the four projects. KiKa is an important partner of the Princess Máxima Center. KiKa supports research into childhood cancer in Máxima Center through core funding and has already made numerous research projects possible.