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SIOPE 2023: international childhood cancer congress in Valencia

Childhood cancer experts from around the world gathered in Spain last week for the fourth edition of SIOPE, the annual conference of the European Society for Paediatric Oncology. Dozens of researchers and healthcare professionals from the Princess Máxima Center were in Valencia, where they spent a week exchanging knowledge with international colleagues.

Doctors, scientists and nurses from the Máxima Center presented their progress on a wide range of topics within childhood cancer research at the SIOPE conference. There were around 60 Máxima presentations on the program.

Clinical studies

As the largest pediatric cancer center in Europe, and thanks to the Trial and Data Center, the Máxima Center is an important player in international clinical studies. Dr. Paco Bautista presented the latest developments in bosutinib and ponatinib, two promising targeted drugs. He also talked about the Hem-iSmart study, a clinical study in which children with leukemia receive a targeted drug that matches the specific DNA abnormalities in their tumor cells. Prof. dr. Michel Zwaan presented on progress in the study of another type of targeted treatment, the so-called menin inhibitors. And dr. Janine Stutterheim updated her international colleagues on the treatment strategies within Interfant-21, the most recent treatment protocol for babies with leukemia.


The Van Leeuwen group, among others, was well represented on the more fundamental side of research into childhood cancer. In the same week they visited the Childhood Leukemia and Lymphoma Symposium, also in Valencia. At SIOPE, the group presented about their research into the fundamental biological processes of childhood leukemia. Group leader dr. Frank van Leeuwen presented on DNA replication stress in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) with abnormalities in the important cancer gene TP53. The ‘addiction’ of tumor cells in a type of ALL to a certain amino acid was the subject of the presentation by PhD student Trisha Tee.

The opportunity to present at SIOPE and attend presentations was a good experience, Tee said. ‘Our group is normally focused on more fundamental research, with talks from fellow biologists. It was refreshing to see the clinical side at SIOPE. I learned a lot about how research into new drugs and clinical trial findings is incorporated and discussed. It was nice to see that the Máxima is well represented in the field of pediatric oncology, and the sunny weather also didn’t hurt!'


Annelienke van Hulst, PhD candidate in the Van den Heuvel-Eibrink group, presented her recently published research on dexamethasone. ‘My presentation on side effects of this drug and a promising intervention to reduce them was well received,’ she said. ‘My four PhD colleagues from our research group also gave wonderful presentations.’ Her colleagues talked about bone density in survivors of childhood cancer, acute kidney failure during therapy, fertility preservation, and limitations in movement during and after treatment of kidney tumors. Van Hulst enjoyed Valencia, she continues. ‘At the various networking events we met passionate international colleagues and ate delicious paella. As icing on the cake I participated in the 5km charity run. It was an inspiring and amazing week!’