28 October 2019


Inaugural lecture Karin de Visser

Friday 15 November 2019

Vesna de Jong

On Friday, 15 November 2019, Oncode Investigator Karin de Visser (NKI) will give her inaugural lecture (in Dutch) on the topic of Tumor Biology and Immunology with the title: 'The immune system: a double-edged sword that needs direction'. This event will take place at 16.00 at the University of Leiden, (Academiegebouw, Rapenburg 73, 2311 GJ Leiden) and will be followed by a reception. The Oncode community is invited to be present at this ceremony.

You can register for this inaugural lecture here.

We asked Karin a couple of questions about her research.

Can you briefly explain what your inaugural lecture is about?
My inaugural lecture is on the immune system and how it functions as a double-edged sword in cancer. These are very exciting times in the immuno-oncology field. Many years of fundamental research have resulted in the recent breakthrough of cancer immunotherapy, through which the power of the immune system can be unleashed to fight cancer. Yet, at the same time, the immune system can contribute to tumour growth and metastasis formation. In my lecture, this duality of the immune system in cancer will be discussed, with a focus on metastatic breast cancer. I will talk about opportunities to exploit this dual role of the immune system for the design of novel immunomodulatory strategies. In addition, I will discuss how recently obtained fundamental insights into how the genetic make-up of cancer shapes the immune landscape set the stage for more personalized immune intervention strategies.

If you look back at your career so far, what are you most proud of?
I am very proud of my research team. It is a privilege to work with these talented and enthusiastic PhD students, postdocs and technicians. My team focuses on how the immune system influences breast cancer metastasis and response to conventional anti-cancer therapies. By bridging the tumour immunology and tumour biology fields, we discovered that mammary tumours induce systemic changes in the immune system to facilitate metastasis formation. And more recently by connecting with the cancer genetics field, we have contributed to the concept that the DNA-code of primary tumours dictates the intratumoral and systemic immune landscape, laying the basis for personalized immunotherapy. It is very inspiring to perform research at the crossroad of multiple disciplines. Collaborations with other research teams and clinicians within the NKI/AVL and Oncode Institute are key to move the immune-oncology field forward, and to change clinical practice.

What do you hope to achieve with your research in the future?
Currently, there is no cure for breast cancer patients with advanced metastatic disease. I hope that by providing mechanistic insights into the complex crosstalk between cancer and the immune system, my team can contribute to the design of novel immunomodulatory strategies for patients with metastatic breast cancer. The immune system is very powerful. I am optimistic that we can make a difference for women with advanced breast cancer.

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