4 November 2019

A platform to fully exploit available clinical CRC studies

A new project for Oncode's Equipment & Infrastructure Program

Elize Brolsma

Elize Brolsma

Elize is part of Oncode’s communication team. She has over 10 years of experience in the com-munication industry, both for commercial and non-profit organisations. After obtaining her bache-lor and master degree in communication at Utrecht University, Elize worked as a communication professional at a research institute, PR agency, law firm and internet company. She has a strong focus on external communications and Public Relations. At Oncode - together with her colleagues - Elize produces the monthly newsletters for Oncode Investigators & Researchers and the Oncode digital magazine. She publishes content for the Oncode website and is responsible for all social media channels. She enjoys discussing science with researchers and support them in their outreach.

Oncode is organizing a series of interactive workshops throughout the year, where clinicians and fundamental researchers discuss the current clinical practice, unmet medical needs and research. Though Oncode Investigator Louis Vermeulen (Amsterdam UMC) and clinician Miriam Koopman (UMC Utrecht) already knew each other, their meeting at Oncode’s first clinical workshop about colorectal cancer turned out to be a special one.

It was during this specific workshop that Miriam and Louis decided they wanted to work together to improve prospects for colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. Oncode’s Equipment & Infrastructure call turned out to be the perfect way to bring their ideas to practice. In order to stimulate world class oncology research, Oncode funds state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure across the Oncode labs via the Equipment & Infrastructure Program. This program has a collaborative set-up to make equipment available throughout the community.

Miriam is a medical oncologist, who focuses on colorectal cancer. She says: ‘It is clear that the combination of fundamental and clinical research is crucial in progressing from basic discoveries to clinical translation. During the CRC workshop we realized the translation and validation of pre-clinical is often delayed due to unfamiliarity of basic researchers with trial cohorts providing valuable patient material. Although researchers from both fields recognize the need to work together, we need something to connect the two fields and allow sharing of clinical samples to exploit available data to its full potential. That’s why we thought it would be important to create a platform containing a comprehensive overview of available biomaterials and omics data within clinical studies for CRC.’

At the recent Oncode CRC workshop it was recognized that translation and validation of pre-clinical findings is often ham-pered and delayed due to unfamiliarity of basic researchers with trial cohorts providing valuable patient material.In this project, we propose to set up an online platform containing a comprehensive overview of available clinical studies for CRC. This will connect fundamental and clinical research and accel-erate access to clinical samples (tissue, blood, rest materials) for proof-of-concept studies and validation studies.Miriam and Louis submitted a call proposal within the Oncode Equipment & Infrastructure program and received a positive response. The goal of their platform is to create a database with all CRC samples that is accessible for both clinicians and fundamental researchers. The core of the platform will be the Dutch Prospective Colorectal Cancer Cohort (PLCRC), an existing infrastructure that facilitates clinical and translational research in CRC.

Once it’s live, the platform will be available to all researchers within the Oncode community. Miriam, Louis and their colleagues can also help researchers to make the right connections to get access to the samples. At the same time, the clinicians who gather the samples will also benefit from this platform. Since researchers who want to use their samples can get in touch more easily, chances are bigger that clinicians can be part of any follow-up research.

Louis: ‘Apart from the funds that Oncode is making available for this platform, I’m very pleased with Oncode’s focus on bridging the gap between clinicians and researchers. In the end, we all want to improve patients’ lives, but it’s not that common for us to meet and discuss urgent needs. We are creating this platform in first instance for colorectal cancer. If this works, we also plan to widen the scope towards other tumour types. I really hope this platform will grow and strengthen collaborations within Oncode.’

About the Equipment & Infrastructure Program
For the second Equipment & Infrastructure call, nine proposals were submitted and five proposals have been approved. Apart from the project mentioned in this interview, the following proposals have been approved:

- Van Oudenaarden/Kops: Oncode single-cell (epi)genome sequencing facility

- Perrakis/Franke/Den Ridder:
GPU infrastructure to enable Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning applications

- Burgering:
Single cell proteomics facility

- Lenstra: 3D orbital tracking microscope

More information about these projects will follow on our website.

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