Each year high-risk neuroblastoma, a so-called solid tumor, is diagnosed in about 15 children in the Netherlands. After five years, less than half of them are still alive, despite a tough treatment program. New treatment options are therefore desperately needed. Immunotherapy is a promising new treatment for cancer that makes use of the body's own immune system.
Complex interplay of processes
Dr. Tytgat talks about her research plans: ‘With my research, I want to improve and accelerate the development of new immunotherapies for children with high-risk neuroblastoma. At the moment, we cannot properly investigate how the immune system, the basis of immunotherapy, responds to this type of cancer. We don't know what happens inside the tumor and what the effect on metabolism is. In short, we are missing an important piece in our puzzle.'
Researching a new therapy is complex. In the entire body and in and around the tumor, all kinds of complicated processes, such as accelerating or inhibiting tumor growth, take place. In order to research a new type of treatment, you have to look at this entire interplay. For this we use cancer cells and organoids, miniature tumors grown from tumor cells. However, in researching this type of childhood cancer, it has become clear that the results of this type of research often do not accurately predict what will ultimately work in the body.'
Thanks to this funding, we can start doing research with mice that will make it possible to look at the complete interplay between the immune system and tumor cells. We expect to make a big leap forward in finding new therapies and investigating the effect of the existing therapy Anti-GD2. This will bring us another step closer toward finding an immunotherapy for the children who are currently not cured of high-risk neuroblastoma.'
In addition to Dr. Tytgat, Dr. Derk Amsen is closely involved in this research from Sanquin Research. Dr. Judith Wienke, postdoc within Prof. Dr. Jan Molenaar's research group at Máxima, is also involved.