The 54th edition of the global International Society of Pediatric Oncology (SIOP) conference is taking place this week. More than three thousand delegates from around the world have come together to share knowledge and make new connections with colleagues in pediatric oncology.
In his keynote speech on Saturday, prof. dr. Max van Noesel, clinical director solid tumors, will discuss theranostics. In this combination of therapy and diagnostics, a radioactive substance is used to both attack the cancer and to make a scan. ‘The best example is MIBG therapy, which we use in children with neuroblastoma,’ says Max van Noesel. ‘At SIOP I will talk about the types of radioactive particles and new imaging techniques, and how we can use them for better treatment for children with cancer.’
On the opening day, group leader prof. dr. Martha Grootenhuis will once again lead the annual education day on psycho-oncology. After 16 years, she is stepping down as leader of the pediatric psycho-oncology network within SIOP, SIOP-PPO, and is passing the baton to the next generation of researchers. In addition, Grootenhuis will contribute to a symposium on minimizing distress. She says: ‘For children with cancer and survivors, lack of energy is one of the most impactful late effects of treatment. In Barcelona I will talk about the ways in healthcare professionals can keep a close eye on fatigue: children and survivors benefit from systematic attention to this problem.’
Care and research
A number of studies presented this week embody the integration of care and research in the Máxima Center. Physician scientist Bernadette Jeremiasse from the Rios and Wijnen groups is scheduled three times to talk about research into using fluorescence to improve operations. ‘At SIOP I will show the first evidence that this approach really works in children – this is now standard care in Máxima for osteosarcoma that has spread to the lungs, and cancer that has spread to lymph nodes. I will also present research in which we use organoids, mini-organs in the lab, to see which fluorescent substances can best be used to light up tumors in all children during surgery. As a physician scientist I really enjoy bringing findings from the lab to the patient, and that is really at the core of this research.’
Bernadette Jeremiasse's organoid research has been nominated for the so-called ‘Best of IPSO’ prize, awarded by the surgery network of SIOP. Lieke van Zogchel, PhD candidate in the Tytgat group, has also been recognized for her research. She has received the SIOP Young Investigator Award for research into a more sensitive test for residual disease in neuroblastoma. She explains: ‘Using a molecular test, we detected residual neuroblastoma disease in the bone marrow in children who we used to think were completely cancer-free after treatment. We saw that the more traces of neuroblastoma we found in the bone marrow at diagnosis and during therapy, the greater the chance that the disease would come back after treatment. The SIOP Young Investigator Award is a huge honor for me, but also for everyone who participated in the investigation. It’s also a very nice piece of appreciation for the hard work that everyone has done for this study for all these years.’
Sharing and gaining knowledge
In addition to sharing the developments at Máxima, the researchers also traveled to gain new insights themselves. Myrthe Buser, medical technologist and researcher in the Wijnen group, says: ‘My own research mainly focuses on kidney tumors, so I hope to gain a broader overview of childhood cancer research,’ says Buser. ‘I’m presenting the results of our study to more accurately estimate the size of a kidney tumor using artificial intelligence (AI). By learning more about other forms of childhood cancer, I hope to find leads for wider application of our AI research.’
The worldwide conference for pediatric oncology also offers the International Office of the Princess Máxima Center an important opportunity to put itself on the map among colleagues. Since the start of this year, the Máxima Center offers a number of treatments for which it has particular expertise to children from outside the Netherlands. Children who do not have access to treatments including 131I-MIBG therapy for neuroblastoma, complex operations and early clinical studies in their home country can travel to Utrecht thanks to the International Office. As a result, more children can access the best treatments, and scientists in the Máxima can more quickly acquire more knowledge.
These are just some of the contributions to the conference from the Máxima Center. From nursing policy to survival of Wilms tumors over time and results of the Outreach program – the full spectrum of care and research is represented. After four days of SIOP in Barcelona, the participants will soon return to Utrecht with new insights and inspiration to work on better treatments for children with cancer.