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Prestigious Vici grant for Ruben van Boxtel

Dr. Ruben van Boxtel, research group leader at the Princess Máxima Center and Oncode Investigator, has been awarded an NWO Vici grant. With the prestigious grant, Van Boxtel can further expand his research line into the late effects of childhood cancer and how these are reflected at a molecular cell level. Van Boxtel: ‘This award is wonderful recognition for the work we have achieved in our research group.’

Curing every child with cancer, with optimal quality of life. That’s the mission of the Máxima Center. Many children are cured thanks in part to chemotherapy. But afterwards, they can develop late effects of the treatment. Van Boxtel aims to reduce the risk of late effects for children treated with chemotherapy.

Van Boxtel: ‘In earlier research, we found signs that chemotherapy speeds up DNA aging in healthy cells of children, which can lead to late effects. Together with my group, I aim to better understand which chemotherapies can inflict DNA damage on healthy tissue in which groups of children. If we understand this better, we can better determine for each child which chemotherapy offers the best chance of a cure, and reduce the risk of late effects.’

Research at cell level

The researchers from the Van Boxtel group will use various technologies to answer their research questions. Together with the specialists of the Single Cell Genomics facility of the Máxima Center, they will investigate cancer cells at an individual level. Van Boxtel: ‘By mapping the DNA and RNA of single cells and looking at how the blood system develops, we aim to better understand how late effects can arise. For example, we can look at whether there is a link between a particular kind of chemotherapy and cell damage that we see in children. In future, we could then replace such damaging chemo with an alternative that is less harmful but as effective.’

The researchers will also use CRISPR-CAS9 gene editing technology to change the DNA in cells. For example, they plan to make cells with different genetic profiles and then test the effect of chemotherapy. ‘We hope to learn which genetic profiles are more sensitive to DNA damage. In the future, this could underpin adjustments in the treatment plan for children whose cancer cells show a more sensitive profile.’


The prestigious Vici grant is intended for advanced researchers who have shown that they can develop their own line of research. The award was granted to 7 researchers in the healthcare and medical sciences domain, by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) today. Each of them is awarded with €1.5 million for the development of an innovative line of research and to further expand their own research group. Van Boxtel: ‘Receiving a Vici is a huge honor. I really see this as a recognition for the work we have achieved with the entire group in the past year. That's why I am extra proud!’

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