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Monique den Boer appointed professor of Pathobiology of acute leukemia

Monique den Boer, research group leader at the Princess Máxima Center, has been appointed professor of Pathobiology of Acute Lymphatic Leukemia (ALL) at Utrecht University's Faculty of Medicine as of June 1. With her professorship, she aims to improve therapies for children with acute leukemia. 'If we better understand the behavior of leukemia cells in the bone marrow then we can also use this information to devise therapies that target the site of leukemia.'

Acute leukemia is the most common form of childhood cancer. Each year in the Netherlands, about 110 children are diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL) and about 25 with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The cure rate has continued to increase in recent years for both ALL and AML. But, not every child yet cures with optimal quality of life from these forms of blood cancer. Therefore, laboratory research is and will continue to be very important.

New perspectives

With her chair and research, Prof. Dr. Monique den Boer focuses on new angles to treat leukemia differently: 'In order to find new therapies for acute leukemia, we must first have a good understanding of what happens in the body during leukemia. In other words, we need to better understand the pathobiology of the disease. For example, I want to learn more about the role of the environment in which leukemia cells develop, the bone marrow niche. This is also where new immune cells are produced. Leukemia cells are narcissistic and think mainly of themselves. We must try to break this by subordinating them to healthy immune cells and simultaneously restoring the normal environment in the bone marrow.'

Den Boer is also investigating how the bone marrow niche responds to chemotherapy and immunotherapy. And how it interacts with healthy immune cells. She will then use this new knowledge as a starting point to improve therapies for children with acute leukemia.

Leveraging collaboration

Monique den Boer has been active in pediatric oncology research for 30 years. After her PhD at the Free University in Amsterdam, she worked as a scientific researcher at the Erasmus MC -Sophia Children's Hospital in Rotterdam. Here she was also appointed Professor of molecular pediatric hemato-oncology. With the opening of the Máxima, Den Boer moved her group from Rotterdam to Utrecht. And as of June 1, her professorship also moves.

Within the Chair of Pathobiology of Acute Lymphatic Leukemia, there is collaboration with various disciplines. 'Connection between research and the clinic is a 'must' to make progress. Learning to speak each other's language and investing in each other with knowledge and expertise. My strength is preclinical and translational research, where collaboration between biological and medical researchers, pediatric oncologists, adult hematologists, immunologists and many others leads to renewed insights into leukemia. The development and utilization of new technologies, something that the Máxima'Center is very good at, goes a long way toward this. Thus, from my chair I hope to arrive at new angles for more personalized treatments for children with acute leukemia.'

Prof. Dr. Monique den Boer has been appointed Professor of Pathobiology of Acute Lymphatic Leukemia at the Faculty of Medicine of Utrecht University as of June 1, 2024. Her research is a collaboration between the Princess Máxima Center and UMC Utrecht. Her oration will take place at a later date.