26 November 2018

Oncode Institute expands by recruiting seven talented female junior investigators

Tale Sliedrecht

We are pleased to announce that we are expanding. Seven talented female scientists have been selected to join Oncode as junior investigators. They were selected out of 56 applicants, based on their track record, research focus and potential to contribute to the mission of Oncode. “We have the ambition to come up with transformative ways to treat and diagnose cancer based on breakthrough discoveries in the lab”, says Geert Kops, Scientific Director of Oncode Institute. “Since our launch earlier this year, we have been working on expanding our community in terms of scientific and technological expertise, as well as diversity.” The seven laureates will join Oncode Institute per 1 January 2019.

With this expansion Oncode also welcomes Leiden University and Amsterdam UMC - location VUMC as new partner institutes. This brings the total number of partner institutes to 11 Dutch universities and research institutes.

The Female Junior Investigator programme

Dedicated funds have been reserved within our budget to support young female scientific talents at an early stage in their careers. “We strongly believe that we need to actively support young female scientists in building their career. The Oncode Female Junior Investigator programme gives us the means to do so. Next to embedding these talents into the thriving Oncode community, we will support them with a tailored mentoring programme”, says Monique den Boer, chair of the selection committee.

The candidates and their research

G-protein coupled Receptors in cancer

Dr. Laura Heitman - Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR), Leiden University

Although it is clear that G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) have a role in cancer, little is known about the mechanisms they are involved in. Dr. Laura Heitman aims to identify and understand the role of GPCRs in modulating the tumour microenvironment and in intrinsic tumour signalling. This may eventually allow the identification of druggable targets. Well embedded in the LACDR, Dr. Laura Heitman brings her expertise in molecular pharmacology and medicinal chemistry into the Oncode research community.

Macrophage dynamics in cancer treatment

Dr. Leila Akkari – Division Tumor Biology & Immunology, Netherlands Cancer Institute

Cancers evolve within complex tissue microenvironments that can influence multiple stages of the disease. The focus of the research of Dr. Leila Akkari is centered around how microenvironment components, such as tumor-associated macrophages and their molecular mediates, fuel cancer progression and impact on cancer recurrence after treatment. The Selection Committee highly valued the translational outlook of Dr. Leila Akkari’s research, which bridges fundamental research with the clinic.

Single cell technology for cancer diagnosis and treatment

Dr. Miao-Ping Chien – Department of Molecular Genetics, Erasmus MC

The identification and isolation of cancer stem-like cells is of major importance because of their central role in tumor metastasis and treatment resistance. It is Dr. Miao-Ping Chien’s goal to investigate underlying mechanisms of formation of cancer stem-like cells using cutting edge optical, biochemical and computational techniques. “Oncode will provide me with resources in every aspect of my research, ranging from access to tumor samples and immense bioinformatic resources to early input on needs in clinical practice and valorization support”, according to Dr. Miao-Ping Chien.

Understanding transcription dynamics in single cells

Dr. Tineke Lenstra - Division gene regulation, Netherlands Cancer Institute

It is known that heterogeneity in transcriptional responses is increased in tumor cells, however the mechanisms remain elusive. Dr. Tineke Lenstra will use state of the art single-cell imaging approaches to understand the mechanisms of gene expression regulation in tumor cells. By studying transcription dynamics in single cells, we aim to understand how the molecular mechanisms of transcription regulation affect cell fate decisions and contributes to cancer progression.

Bridging fundamental BRCA1 research & the clinic

Dr. Sylvie Noordermeer - Department of Human Genetics, LUMC

BRCA1 is known to maintain genomic stability and BRCA1 mutations are directly linked to familial cases of breast and ovarian cancer as well as sporadic cancers of various origin. Despite decades of research, the mechanistic role of BRCA1 in maintaining genomic stability remains poorly understood. Dr. Sylvie Noordermeer works towards understanding BRCA1 function to improve treatment of BRCA1-mutated tumours. The selection committee highly valued Dr. Noordermeer's clear research focus in which she combines fundamental research with a translational twist.

Visualizing the unexpected!

Dr. Anne Rios – Pediatric Oncology, Princess Maxima Center

Dr. Anne Rios focuses on investigating the cellular dynamics which govern pediatric cancer progression. Using cutting edge imaging technologies, Dr. Rios can visualize intact organs and tumours in 3D as well as biological samples on sub-cellular resolution. Her group is using these techniques to decipher the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in pediatric cancer initiation and progression. “Becoming part of Oncode will enable us to obtain maximum scientific and financial support which is essential to build and fully support a team of experts in order to achieve greater science” says Dr. Rios.

Finding better therapies to improve life of patients with gastro-esophageal cancer

Sarah Derks MD PhD – Amsterdam UMC- location VUmc

Gastroesophageal cancer is a devastating disease with poor outcome and minimal treatment options. While incidence rates are on the rise, the biological foundation of the disease is relatively understudied. Within her research Dr. Sarah Derks aims to identify drivers of the disease in a metastatic setting and the mechanism behind exclusion of the immune system in these tumours. In her unique position as a physician-scientist, Dr. Derks is determined to bridge the gap between clinic and laboratory and build strong collaborations within Oncode Institute.

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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.