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Maike Spoon

PhD student
Maike Spoon

CAR-T cell therapy and the role of the leukemic bone marrow microenvironment

Maike studied Biomedical Sciences & Science Based Business at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Leiden. During her studies, she conducted two research internships at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston, The United States. Her graduation internship was performed at Novartis Pharma, in the cell- and gene therapy business unit focusing on anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapy. Following her graduation, she joined the Princess Máxima Center in November 2020 as a PhD student in the groups of Dr. Stefan Nierkens en Prof. Dr. Monique den Boer.

This collaborative project focuses on CAR-T cell therapy, an innovative immunotherapy for the treatment of relapsed and refractory pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The expansion, function, and long-term persistence of CAR-T cells, associated with long-term disease-free survival, might be hampered by immunosuppressive characteristics within the leukemic bone marrow microenvironment (the leukemic niche). In this project, we will therefore study the effector function of CAR-T cells in relation to their cellular environment by modelling the dynamic interactions between CAR-T cells, leukemic blasts, and bone marrow components. This project aims to characterize factors that influence these interactions and the function of CAR-T cells using (3D) co-cultures and innovative imaging systems resembling an artificial bone marrow microenvironment. With these efforts, we hope to gain more insights in the mechanisms behind CAR-T cell therapy failure, to eventually reduce relapses and improve survival outcome of treated patients.