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Grant for dosing chemotherapy in babies

ZonMW recently announced a grant of €560,000 for research into the precision dosage of chemotherapy in babies with leukemia. Dr. Meta Diekstra, hospital pharmacist and clinical pharmacologist in the Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology: 'With the results of this study, we expect to be able to treat babies with leukemia more successfully.'

Every year in The Netherlands 3 to 4 babies are diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL) in the first year of life. These children are treated with chemotherapy. However, the disease often returns during treatment, these children have a minimal chance of recovery. Research into new treatment options is therefore badly needed.

Tailored dosage

Dr. Meta Diekstra, postdoc researcher in Professor Alwin Huitema's group, explains her research plans: 'Unlike babies, we have seen that older children respond well to chemotherapy. A baby's body is developing rapidly and processing and secretion of medication is changing. However, we do not yet know the optimal dosage of different types of chemotherapy for babies. Funding from ZonMW will make it possible to measure the amount of drug in the blood and find out whether that amount changes as the child grows. By measuring this in different babies at different times, we are able to carefully visualize the processing of chemotherapy in the body. We will calculate for each type of therapy what the most appropriate dose is, at each stage of development. With the results of this study, we expect to be able to dose chemotherapy more accurately, increasing the chances of successfully treating babies with leukemia.'


This project is part of the larger Interfant-21 project. The objective of this project is to describe the pharmacokinetics, or physical processes that chemotherapy encounters after administration, of the most commonly used forms of chemotherapy in the treatment of infants with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). These include: dexamethasone, daunorubicin, vincristine, methotrexate .

In this project, researchers with different backgrounds and specializations work closely together. Besides the researchers of the Huitema group, Dr. Lidwien Hanff, head of the hospital pharmacy, and pediatric oncologist Dr. Inge van der Sluis are involved. From the Máxima Trial and Data Center, Dr. Harm vanTinteren, Steven Vanhoutvin and Peggy Scholte-van Houtem are involved.

The grant is part of the Good Use of Medicines program of ZonMW.