17 January 2022

Oncode collaboration: mobilizing innate leukocytes to attack tumors

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.

In 2021, Oncode Institute organized brainstorm sessions to come up with ideas for cross-disciplinary synergies between Oncode researchers to tackle difficult challenges in cancer research. A group of Oncode Investigators from different institutes* came up with an exciting new idea requiring their collaboration to become successful. This launched a new Oncode Accelerator Project.

Cancer immunotherapy is a game-changing treatment that stimulates the T-cells of our immune system to kill cancer cells. Its success revealed the major obstacle that faces cancer immunotherapy today: the resistance of tumors to this T-cell mediated therapy. The group of Oncode Investigators are joining forces to face this problem. In this Oncode Accelerator Project, they call in the help of other immune cells, so called “innate leukocytes”. These cells are present in large quantities in tumors, can be rapidly recruited from the blood stream and when steered the right way can effectively fight cancer, independent of T-cells.

The researchers want to understand which and when different types of innate leukocytes can help fight tumors. They also want to analyze how these different cells communicate which each other and with other cells, in order to discover how these cells can be manipulated to fight cancer. Finally, they want to predict the response of patients to therapies, with the ultimate aim to test them in the clinic.

Project lead Sjoerd van der Burg (Leiden University Medical Center) says: “This is the first and truly unique approach fully focused on the capitalization of the tumor-controlling role of innate leukocytes for treating tumors that are resistant to T-cell therapy. Success would revolutionize current cancer care. Within Oncode we have assembled an excellent multidisciplinary team with a high level of integrated expert knowledge. Since there are many different institutes involved, we also have access to unique toolboxes, mouse models, patient cohorts, regulatory molecule identification pipelines, facilities, drug repurposing libraries, and an antibody production platform - which will now be combined to serve this one goal in the most optimal possible way.”

*The Oncode Investigators working on this project are main applicants Sjoerd van der Burg (Leiden University Medical Center), Karin de Visser, Leila Akkari (Netherlands Cancer Institute) and Linde Meyaard (University Medical Center Utrecht). They work together with Oncode Investigators Sjaak Neefjes (Leiden University Medical Center), Tineke Lenstra, Jacco van Rheenen (Netherlands Cancer Institute), Jeroen de Ridder (University Medical Center Utrecht), Miao-Ping Chien (Erasmus MC), Sarah Derks (Amsterdam UMC, Cancer Center Amsterdam) and Carl Figdor (Radboudumc).

This project is funded by KWF Kankerbestrijding (Dutch Cancer Society) for 3.4 million euros.

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